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Let them not have cake!

We’ve merged with another department at work, and not since the Indians threw a party for the Pilgrims has there been this much food proffered as a greeting. At the meeting announcing the merger there were chocolate-iced donuts sitting in a pink box at the back of the room. At the new monthly departmental meeting there were cookies passed around the table, sweet chocolate wafting right past my nose as I passed them on. Last week there were bagels (a shitload of bagels, like bagel diarrhea) on the kitchenette table all day long to entice the departments to mingle. And yesterday, I got an email announcing the monthly pitch-in that is a tradition in the other department. God only knows how we’ll celebrate birthdays, but I’m assuming it will involve several sticks of butter and a defibrillator in the corner in case of emergency. The pitch-in announcement said something like, “Who doesn’t want an excuse for a pitch in?” PastaQueen raises her hand.

I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I am anti-cake in the workplace. No cake at work!

I am anti-cake in the workplace!

This is like being anti-puppy, but I don’t like eating lil’ doggies either. I have nothing against eating cake and cookies on special occasions, but celebrating a day that ends in a “y” is not a special occasion. I heard about a book called Yes Man where the author said “yes” to everything for a year. What if I took advantage of every free food fest? If I were to eat every cookie, cake, and bagel I were offered, I would weigh almost 400 pounds again.

Last Wednesday there was a chocolate fest at the mall. Yesterday Cold Stone Creamery had a free ice cream social. And every time I turn on the TV, I see the ads from Kashi offering a free cookie. Why must I live in a culture that stuffs fattening foods down my throat, yet mistreats people who are fat? While I take responsibility for what goes in my mouth, this is like trying to take responsibility for my driving while skidding down icy roads. It’s hard for the health-conscious to get any traction.

I respect and admire the people I work with, and I don’t mean to ruin everyone else’s fun, but the frequency of indulgences in the modern American workplace is disordered. It’s like going out drinking every other night and pretending you don’t have an alcohol problem, which admittedly, a lot of Americans also do. Of course, I also gave away free ice cream last month, so I’m as much to blame as anyone.

I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way, or if other people in the department also secretly hate all the carbohydrates that are tossed around but are too afraid to say anything? It’s so expected to bring in brownies. It might be a distorted mob mentality. I’ve heard stories of people being beaten or murdered within sight of dozens of people, yet no one does anything because everyone expects someone else to take responsibility. While no one is being murdered, I suspect the cake is the same way. Our asses are being kicked by carbohydrates and no one is willing to say anything, me included.

I did bring a fruit tray into work once in an effort to promote healthier habits, but it just sat in the fridge for three days and I ate half the fruit anyway. If you look at all the times I’ve turned down treats at work, I’m actually winning about 90% of the time. However, I’m forced to play so frequently that it doesn’t seem like much of a victory.

I don’t know what to do, really. If I bitch about it, I’m a bitch. If I don’t, I get fatter. If I bring in fruit, it rots. There’s no way to win. I can’t not have my cake and not eat it too.

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88 Comments

Benita • September 26, 2008 at 8:06 am

I used to work at a place like that! I wore a size six in those days and was working out an hour and a half every morning, and my ability to say “No!” was much stronger than today. When people asked me if I were going to eat something, I’d just smile aand say “Later.” And later never came. It was the only way I could have gotten through it.

Luckily, my current job celebrates nothing!

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Debbi • September 26, 2008 at 8:14 am

This statement:

“Why must I live in a culture that stuffs fattening foods down my throat, yet mistreats people who are fat?”

is worthy of a magazine article. Let me know when it’s published.

You’ve been so matter-of-fact about your weight, your weight loss and your exercise that I’ve no doubt the office food-fest will be just another blip on the radar for you. Maybe your quiet example will encourage people to take a look at their own relationship with food.

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MizFit • September 26, 2008 at 8:24 am

we always joke about that here at casa miz.

the elaine line from seinfeld:

there are 200 people who work in this office. Every day is somebody’s special day

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Jeanne • September 26, 2008 at 8:27 am

I hear you. Lately I’ve been tallying up all the places that give out candy to the kids on a regular basis. The bank, the pharmacy, dry cleaners, ballet class, Sunday school, school, and worst of all THE PEDIATRICIAN!!! I’m not sure how to win this battle.

For your workplace, bring in your own healthy treats, don’t worry about sharing. For every fattening unhealthy “treat” you pass up, treat yourself to something nice. A bubble bath, manicure, a nice walk or bikeride.

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Susan • September 26, 2008 at 8:28 am

Hi PastaQueen,

Sounds insane. Maybe there’s a way to join with other people in your office who want to stay healthy, too. I just had an idea…

What if you talked to the new people from the other department and found some fellow runners. Then together you could sign up for a charity 5k or something, and publicly announce it at the office. Raise donations, have a big thermometer that shows how much progress you’re making towards your goal…kind of like this blog, now that I think about it.

Anyway, if people understand that you guys (plural) are going for a goal, and if they’re supporting it financially, they might be more open to the idea of seeing healthy snacks next to the brownies. Maybe they could even get involved too. 5k = short!

I think it’s worth a shot. If nothing else, it will make you feel like you have a voice and it’s being heard. Right now the Brownie People are hogging the mike! :) Weight loss is freaking hard. I’ve been maintaining for a while, but just this week I recommitted to weight loss…holy cow it’s a project. You deserve all the support you can get. Go PastaQueen!

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Oliveira • September 26, 2008 at 8:28 am

It is reading posts like this that makes me realise how lucky I am for not liking sugar. The reasons why I was fat were, mostly, pizza and beer, and none of those appears at my office on a regular basis. My boss loves chocolate and pastries, and those I can resist very easily, because I just don’t like them much.

I wish I had some kind of advice to share here, but I don’t, I’m afraid. Just Say No, I guess. (I like Benita’s “Later!” thing.)

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The Dieting Ninja • September 26, 2008 at 8:31 am

Oh man, you could be talking about my company. We have vendors that frequently “woo” us with donuts, muffins, and bagels. We celebrate every birthday with a cake. Every holiday is an excuse for everyone to bring in all their favorite holiday desserts. After holidays, it’s time to unload all the uneaten holiday treats that were bought. Every new hire is a cause for bagels, every time someone quits, there’s a party with a cake and pies and cookies, every month we celebrate monthly anniversaries with cake, and every five-year employment increment celebrated with a SPECIAL cake. Oh, and the quarterly company meetings, with bagels and orange juice.

It’s exhausting, quite literally. If a week goes by without a cake in the break room, it’s a fluke.

I console myself with the fact that, for the most part, all those cakes and cookies don’t actually taste NEARLY as good as I want them to. A box cake is a box cake and always will be a box cake. They’re okay, but they don’t even rate a “good” on my “how much will I enjoy this” o-meter.

I choose my calories, my sugars, my carbs. If I’m going to be bad, I’m sure as hell not going to waste those on a box cake! No ma’am!

There’s one lady that brings in rum truffles around Christmas time. Hellooooo nurse. I will theif three of those and nurse them aaaall day long. That’s totally worth the sugar. Hard, homemade tooth-chippers…err…cookies? No thanks. Someone brings in peanut butter fudge swirl? Oh yeah, I’m taking a piece.

Lucky for me, nobody’s caught on to this yet, so I am only tempted by TRULY tempting things a few times a year. If I was weak to box cakes, I’d weigh double what I do now, easy.

If they start bringing in cookie dough, I’m sunk. (or floating due to extra bouyancy, depending on how you look at it).

If I told myself “nope, can’t have any never” I’d go crazy trying to avoid it. Not to mention I have to pass it every time I go to the bathroom. And I drink a lot of water. But if I ask myself “would you rather have that piece of dry cake or a lucious chocolate truffle?” I end up kinda not wanting the cake, and yet I never actually promised myself a truffle.

I pushed for a small workout room in the new office building being erected, and was voted down. I am not so naiive as to think that and the prevalence of sweets are unrelated.

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Jill • September 26, 2008 at 8:41 am

Get a job where you are the only female in an office of 6 men. Men never bring food to work – ever. Even when I’m PMSing like a mo-fo, they still don’t realize that their world would be much improved if they would only make chocolate offerings to the Queen of Hormonal Imbalance.

I would still bring in the fruit tray from time to time, and set it next to the cakes or bagels or whatever. I’ll take a fresh strawberry over a bagel anyday!!

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Susan • September 26, 2008 at 8:47 am

Amen!

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Loth • September 26, 2008 at 8:53 am

Yup, I could have written this post. I too tried the fruit plate idea on my birthday (office tradition is you bring in cakes for everyone on your birthday) and I also provided bowls of sticky badness – chocolate sauce, cream etc – to dip them in if you wanted. I didn’t dip but the people who wanted sugar could if they wanted to. That’s the nearest I have got to a solution. (And yes, I ate a fair proportion of the fruit!)

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earthmamma • September 26, 2008 at 9:05 am

i agree with dieting ninja…

its all about becoming a food snob. why waste your health on shit quality?? the few times someone goes through the trouble of making something really really special..and i mean SPECIAL..then for sure…enjoy the moment. but all those ‘occasions’ that are marked by crap quality donuts/box cakes or whatever else…just dont even go there.

maybe you can try my trick…at home when there is some sort of treat i take out the frozen berries that i stash away. that way i have something really special to indulge on…while not making my body any fatter. maybe you could stash something away like that at work…

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Flikflek • September 26, 2008 at 9:07 am

Well….Is eveyone else fat in your office? Are they all a bunch of tubbies- gobbling ho-ho’s and shoveling gobs of chocolate kisses?

I guess I ask because my work also is continually celebrating day’s ending in Y and whether or not it is raining and I have to say…I am the fattest one in the office and I’m not the one perusing the goody table (directly across from me I might add)

I don’t think anyone will see it as the problem you do unless it becomes a problem for them.

Love your site! Thanks for all the inspiration.

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nolafwug • September 26, 2008 at 9:30 am

I work in a co-op and at one point some members proposed we spend some of our potential profit on pizza for our regular meetings. I hated to be Ms. No Fun but I was against it. I like pizza as much as anyone, but committing to eating it on a regular basis seemed like an unhealthy move to me. Especially if I’m paying for it – that’s going to make me feel like I should eat it more than if it’s free.

I love the idea of countering such suggestions with healthy ones like Why don’t we all participate in a charity 5K? Or Why don’t we put the money towards yoga classes instead (there’s a hot yoga studio next door!).

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Jessica Nelson • September 26, 2008 at 9:37 am

It may be your company. I worked for a couple software companies that laid the sweets on super thick and I gained weight. Now I work for a large non-profit and everyone seems health conscious there. THere are ALWAYS healthier options and seeing other people eat healthier is definitely a motivator.

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adrienne • September 26, 2008 at 9:41 am

I’m throwing in a third vote for food snobbery (right along with the dieting ninja and earthmamma).

The office I used to work in observed lots of occasions, and we were regularly given sweet treats by students and instructors.

The kitchenette was a gauntlet of temptation until a friend said, “Bleck, *local grocery store chain* cake. I hate their cake.”

And the scales fell off my eyes. I didn’t like their cake either, nor did I actually get much enjoyment from MOST of the food brought in. It wasn’t that the food was really that appealing; it was just available.

I started walking through the kitchen less and only eating food that would be worth remembering a few weeks later (Joanne’s homemade caramels and the thick slice of warm pumpkin bread my favorite co-worker would drop on my desk a few fall mornings).

With higher standards, it was easy to walk past the rest of it.

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Kris • September 26, 2008 at 9:42 am

@The Dieting Ninja – omg! you are SO right!!! I never saw it from that perspective. Indulge on the things that are worthy, but otherwise….why waste the calories? Genius, man, genius.

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Alexia • September 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

I hear ya. My office used to be like that. Free soda fountain, free m&ms, popcorn, etc., all day long. Special days with bagels and cake.

“Why must I live in a culture that stuffs fattening foods down my throat, yet mistreats people who are fat?”

That’s the core issue. What is it about our culture that does this with food, debt, consumerism/clutter, etc.? Argh!

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still reading • September 26, 2008 at 9:52 am

Yikes, this is so hard. Maybe look at this stuff and say to yourself “I wonder if the person preparing this food washed their hands after using the bathroom?” If you tell yourself that ANY food you didn’t prepare yourself might be contaminated, maybe it won’t be so appealing…? Sometimes this works for me, sometimes not. Sigh.

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Sarah • September 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

I was discussing this same thing with my coworker yesterday morning. It seems that we, as a society, have grown to have this overinflated feeling of entitlement somehow – to treat ourselves for whatever occasion we deem worthy, even if it’s nothing special. A batch of coworkers all dining out at lunch together were discussing how everyone who comes to work for this company mysteriously packs on 15+ lbs, much akin to the Freshman 15. They sounded honestly confused about how it happens, too.

Looking at the situation as someone who lost 120 lbs over the past year and a half, I can’t help but see exactly the cause in all of the free bagels and pastries and donuts provided on Friday mornings for the company social breakfasts, the monthly birthday celebration gatherings with cake and ice cream and cookies, the “healthy” afternoon pick me ups of Chexmix and pretzels, the crackers laid out at department meetings.

But people don’t get it. They look at me funnily for passing up on these “treats”, but I know what would happen if I had them, so I don’t. It’s a sadly carb-saturated world we’re living in…

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soozie q • September 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

All you need to say is “no.” If you’re feeling polite, “no, thank you.”

As soon as I learned this – and it works in ALL situations, including Christmas and Thanksgiving — I lost thirty pounds.

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butterfly • September 26, 2008 at 9:58 am

In general, people will jump on any opportunity to indulge. The more people doing it, the less guilt there is associated with it. It seems all social gatherings revolve around food as it is, and there is a reason for it: People long for excuses to give in to temptation. It’s always a special occassion, a celebratory moment, someones birthday etc etc etc.. People seize these opportunities to dive in to the cake & donuts as an excuse. Guilt wants company! If everyone is digging in, then it must be ok!

People don’t want to sit around munching on carrot sticks & radishes. We want to celebrate with sugar & starch!

Hopefully there will be a shift towards healthier treats. We shouldn’t be punishing our bodies with junk- it is no cause to celebrate

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AlaskaJoey • September 26, 2008 at 9:59 am

I’m very picky about what sweets I eat, too. Both quality and flavors. I’m not a fruit tart fan, so it’s easy to pass up that, along with coffeecakes, red velvet cake, and anything vanilla or caramel flavored. I can’t turn down anything chocolate, however. Luckily, we don’t have that many birthdays throughout the year at work- maybe 30.

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galnoir • September 26, 2008 at 10:00 am

@The Dieting Ninja -

That sounds very similar to my approach — have small servings of the things that actually appeal to me, ignore the rest. As I’ve lost weight and refined my eating habits, I’ve gotten WAY picker, and a lot of stuff just doesn’t taste good to me anymore. I can also be satisfied with smaller servings of stuff I do like. (Recently I split a cupcake with a coworker, and I was fine with that. The old me wouldn’t have dreamed of splitting a single cupcake!)

That said … even though I don’t eat any of it myself anymore, I’m plenty guilty of foisting high-cal goodies on my coworkers. I do enjoy baking, and not to brag, but my coworkers love my baked goods. Still, if someone chooses to not take any of what I bring in, I’m certainly not going to be offended.

Seriously — I’ve actually gotten the hang of baking something fattening and not eating a single bite, not even tasting the dough (and I love me some cookie dough).

I’m also lucky that in the sea of sugary, fatty treats, someone will usually bring in a fruit plate. And I’m not the only one who eats from it, either.

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Deanna • September 26, 2008 at 10:05 am

You are like Elene on Seinfeld!! NO CAKE in the OFFICE! LOVE IT!! And sooo agree, it’s way too much, if you are going to reward me, do it with time-off, a pat on the back, a bonus perhaps not bagels, cookies, donuts etc…

I wouldn’t say a thing and just do your best…

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Sarah • September 26, 2008 at 10:11 am

This is one thing I don’t miss from my days of working in corporate America. My office was the closest to the kitchen where all the leftovers would end up. I would wait for the email to go out, the vultures would descend and then I would wander by to see what was left. Often it was so unappetizing!

As for meetings that actually had food I often showed up late (or right on time) for things that involved food so that I wouldn’t be tempted to fill up a plate before I sat down.

Lastly I just said no. Just because everyone else was stuffing their faces didn’t mean I had too.

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April • September 26, 2008 at 10:12 am

Like Jill, I work in an office with all men, so it’s not too much of a problem around here with cakes and cookies…however, they regularly order in pizza or bring in BBQ for lunch. I love that I have a generous boss who will happily spring for lunch for every one on a semi-regular basis but it does create an obstacle. If I’m good and bring my lunch, then I’m ok, I can resist that pizza sitting right under my nose even though it smells so good but if I forgot it that day, I usually rationalize that it’s better to eat a piece than to go hungry and have my metabolism drop.

It’s always going to be a battle but don’t worry about offending any one with your no thanks, if you have the willpower to resist the temptation, it is of no concern to anyone else why you choose to pass. Just smile and say no thank you and if they ask why just punch them for being nosy. :)

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debby • September 26, 2008 at 10:33 am

I hear ya, sister! Here’s my two pet peeves. I’m a nurse, work at a hospital, we all obviously know the truth about health and fitness and being overweight, but we ‘need’ junk food for our stress. And the truth is, if I am stressed, on my weak days, I go looking for it too. And excuse me, we work in ICU–is there any such thing as a non-stress moment here??? But on my best days, I just stay out of the breakroom and take a walk on my lunch break.

My other pet peeve is ‘coffee hour’ at church. Of course the coffee has to be accompanied ONLY by sweets, the higher fat content, the better. My church is not bad, but occasionally, being overweight is mentioned as a sin problem, lack of discipline, etc. But we aren’t really willing to get rid of the ‘sin temptations.’ Come on, people. Even if you weigh 100 pounds, that stuff is not good for your health.

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Helen • September 26, 2008 at 10:35 am

I grew up in a family where birthdays were bigger than Christmas so my birthday has always been almost exactly like a holiday. But, I want to celebrate it with my family and the people who really love me. I realize that I spend an extraordinary amount of time with my co-workers and there are a couple who I do socialize with (who are usually invited to my private celebration) but still, I am anti-cake at work. In fact, last year I specifically requested NO CAKE for my birthday and they did it anyway. I do okay not eating other people’s cakes but how do I not at least take a bite of my own cake? It’s such a conundrum.

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Kqteaze • September 26, 2008 at 10:38 am

@Jill – Amen! This is so true. I am the only woman in an office with about 14 men. In the 10 years I’ve been here I could count on one hand the number of times anyone ever brought baked goods to work. Always something their wives made and only around the holidays.

Every blue moon the boss springs for pizza for everyone but that is really, really rare.

My niece works in a medical office with a lot of women; apparently the drug companies are big on wooing them with free goodies and she says yes, there’s always a “special occasion” for someone that requires a cake, cookies or doughnuts. I would weigh 400 lbs if I had to deal with that. I really admire people who can handle that kind of deluge of food and resist the temptation.

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Liz Remus • September 26, 2008 at 10:57 am

I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a second.

In a study of word associations, American’s associated cake with “guilt”.

The French associated cake with “celebration”.

That’s just a little something to think about.

I read about this from Michael Pollen who recently wrote “In Defense of Food”. He calls it the “American Paradox” as opposed to the “French Paradox’.

So far I have read all of his books. He is a fantastic writer and researcher and has changed the way I view food.

I throughly enjoyed this particular blog because it brings up an issue that we need to think about and how we can change it. I think bringing in the tray of fruit is absolutely wonderful of you!!

Even though most of it rotted, you are still making positive changes for you life and affecting the way people view food even if they didn’t partake in fruit this time around.

It can be frustrating but hang in there!

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Merry • September 26, 2008 at 11:04 am

If I recall correctly, the YES man did end the book with rather a lot of credit card debt. (Kept saying ‘yes’ to those preapproved credit card offers he got in the mail.)

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Elizabeth • September 26, 2008 at 11:16 am

The food at work thing touches on so many interesting issues – mostly how food is such a social thing. We always had tons of junk sitting around at work and after awhile it got emotionally exhausting saying no to it all the time. I ended up putting a giant NO sign (like the one over your cake, but real) on the office candy jar – I was throwing a few peanut m and m’s in my mouth every time I walked by, and that helped me a lot,but everyone else thought I was a freak.

I had some success with bringing in those crates of Clementines, people were into it. And I always forced them to order trays of fruit for meetings, instead of just cookies, and then I ate all the fruit.

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asithi • September 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

@Jill – I notice the same thing in my last office, all men no goodies. For a while, I think the men were hoping that I will start planning birthday celebrations and bring in goodies. Ha! As if I am a brownie baking kind of girl!

Now I work with a mix of 50/50 men and women and it seems like the women are always bringing in goodies.

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kilax • September 26, 2008 at 11:35 am

I don’t think you can bitch about it… because people are so emotional about it. You just have to say no. Over and over and over again… that is what I’ve been doing, every week for the past three months, and man oh man, it’s hard. I just try to stay out of the lunch room.

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meowmix • September 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I don’t remember where I read it, but I recently saw some great advice for this very problem. If people are giving you a hard time about saying no when something is offered, take a piece, take a bite even, and then mingle around until you can get somewhere to throw it away. It’s way more likely that everyone notices that you always say no rather than that you throw it away. And yes, it’s wasteful but no one needs to be eating that crap anyway!

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Amy • September 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm

We don’t seem to have that problem (I’m only about 5 months into my job). My department is so huge, so that even though there is a cake party for people leaving, no one will even notice if you don’t show up. HOWEVER, there is a candy bowl outside the big boss’s office – and her admin is responsible for keeping it filled. And even though it’s crap candy, there are days when I hit it…and not just one, oh no – I know a serving size is 5 pieces, so that’s what I take. The big boss? Not fat – and probably never has any candy.

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Diana • September 26, 2008 at 12:37 pm

As a society we are constantly bombarded from an early age with images meant to entice us. When we were children Saturday morning cartoons had commercials for toys, breakfast cereals and junk food. As we matured they bombard us with images of food, alcohol, sex and material goods. Some of us are just highly tuned to certain images. For us its food. We just have to find a way to turn down the volume internally.

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kara • September 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm

My office is horrible too…food is everywhere all the time. Our atrium is basically a dumping spot for everyone’s left overs – kid’s birthday cakes, cookie baking sprees, Halloween candy…you name it, they bring it. Not to mention the weekly beer and wings!

I’ve gotten to the point where it really doesn’t bother me. I just never partake. As a former overweight gal myself, my “maintain” diet plan it to stick to my rules M-F, have a true cheat day on Saturday and then just somewhat lax on Sun. It works for me. Kind of the carrot in front of the horse to work towards. Due to the rules, the sugar dumps aren’t an option so I stay away.

The interesting thing is that most of that stuff disappears even before lunch time! Ew gross! The idea of having sugar for breakfast just disgusts me (I must admit, I’ve never really understood the draw of donuts). A lot of it has to do with the ratio of men to women….it’s about 3/1. Somehow, those boys can eat just about whatever they want. Seriously not fair.

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Atho • September 26, 2008 at 1:06 pm

I work in HR (99% women of course). We have to celebrate all birthdays (I don’t know why). There is even one admin who keeps a list of everyone’s favorite dessert so it can make an appearance on his or her birthday. We get all the leftover food from new employee orientation and we keep a candy bowl filled for any visitors who stop by. Ironically, we’re also the department who is supposed to being worried about the health of our employees and our rising medical premiums. I can resist the grocery store cake (my mother always made a moue of distaste when store bought icing was presented, so I am trained to think it’s disgusting), but when the good humor bars made an appearance, I was done for.

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Lyrehca • September 26, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Lot of interesting comments here. My office used to be this way but now I work from home.

It’s true–most of the food that comes in isn’t all that great (store bought cakes, etc.) and second, as someone else said, why celebrate (=eat) with people who are not your closest friends anyway? I read something like this as it pertained to business travel, but it applies to regular office work too. When I’ve had office jobs, the people I worked with were nice, but they weren’t my closest friends. So I didn’t feel bad about skipping out on office parties, or just coming by at the end or beginning, showing my face, then heading back to my desk (without taking anything) so I could get my work done, get out of work on time, and head home to see my family and/or my friends, who I’d much rather eat with than coworkers.

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Cari • September 26, 2008 at 1:42 pm

There is cake in the library today. Must resist.

I saw that book about the “Yes” man, and I must admit, that’s the last thing I would need is a project like that. I’m the kind of person who has to learn how to stick up for herself, and I’ve said yes to way too many things I shouldn’t have. Including cake.

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Kari • September 26, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Next time you’re asked to bring in food at work, if you don’t want to bring in the failed fruit tray again, make a batch of No Pudge Brownies. They’re easy to make and fat free, and very tasty. No one has to know they are fat free and only 100 cal apiece. ;)

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Kelda • September 26, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Okay, I need to ask. What is a pitch-in? Is it a potluck? I thought I understood midwestern.

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Pinky • September 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm

OMG! That was so my workplace this week. It was my bosses b-day on Sat. so we had cherry cheesecake on Monday for him. Tuesday we had a staff mtg with all of our school psychs and they brought him a cake & cookies were also brought, it was also the lady who sits across from me b-day, they had her cake in the a.m. Wednesday we had left over cookies from Tue mtg. Thursday, it was yet anothers b-day on our floor. I just went to sing and send wishes. Ahhh! Just wait until the holidays roll around & there will continue to be excuses to have potlucks, cakes, cookies, you name it. Good luck! I

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Meg • September 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I’m with you on this. Total ban on cake in the workplace. Especially as a once a month “treat”. I’m having a similar issue at my job, I’m dealing with a “food pusher” who is unknowingly playing off my social anxiety to make me eat large amounts of fattening foods.

I say we start a petition and lobby congress.

-Meg

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Amy • September 26, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Are they hiring at your office?

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Kalyn • September 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I agree about the cake ban. Try working at an elementary school, in Utah (where they worship sugar as if it was a gift from God.)

It’s annoying. And I agree, if you complain people act like you’re a bitch.

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VerseFameBeauty • September 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

When we bring things to work, everyone always brings sugary, fattening, very unhealthy food. Then no one eats [hardly] any of it, because everyone in my office is really pretty healthy. I bring healthy food, and it always gets scarfed down, and yet everyone else continues to bring unhealthy food. How does this make sense??

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Jen @ The Short Years • September 26, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Before I had kids and transitioned to being a work-from-home mom, I used to think it would be SO EASY to lose weight if I just didn’t have to go to the office and face the donuts and cookies all the time. Then once I wasn’t in the office anymore I learned that if I wanted to overeat, I could certainly do so in the privacy of my own home too–it’s all too easy to find SOMETHING to splurge on, even when there is no one bringing donuts in.

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AlaskaJoey • September 26, 2008 at 5:17 pm

I have to post again because…we had a surpise cake today at work. LOL! Turns out it was one girl’s last day. The cake was vanilla, with peach and caramel filling – very easy for me to turn down.

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KK • September 26, 2008 at 7:26 pm

You really need to read Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest To Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or Why Pie is Not The Answer by Jen Lancaster and laugh over the cake at work references!!! I wrote a blog post on the book (and mentioned your book!)

http://icanbearunner.blogspot.com/2008/09/such-pretty-fat.html

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Beth • September 26, 2008 at 7:45 pm

PastaQueen, this happens in my office, too.

The holidays (oh, dear, they’re almost here) are the worst … not only do my co-workers bring stuff in (usually that their wives created), but our VENDORS send stuff in, too.

I must say, though, that when the healthy snacks do appear, they disappear almost as quickly as the unhealthy snacks … there is no food-discrimination at my office.

Finally, there are a couple of people in my office who, when they find out that a person hasn’t had one of whatever has been brought in, they tease that person unmercifully.

I do like your idea, though … if it is still there at the end of the day, I might take one on my way out so that I can avoid the mindless carb-stuffing that occurs if I have one earlier.

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Vanessa • September 26, 2008 at 7:48 pm

I too have become Elaine at the office – I am so sick of cake! I started this job last October. By December, I’d already baked two batches of brownies, one of cupcakes and cookies. I thought it was just the holiday season but noooo – it’s still like that. My team has a chocolate stash they regularly dip into (a good one too – no cheap chocolate for us).

By June I had gained 10 pounds I really didn’t need and finally said no. Thanks to Jeannette’s example, I finally started South Beach after carrying the book around for years. I feel so much better and it’s so easy to say no since I feel so much better. But damn, it’s still hard somedays.

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Theresa • September 26, 2008 at 9:25 pm

I worked in an office in Hawaii where we infrequently had lunches or food. The food people brought in for the most part was healthy. I remember I once brought in a store cake and no one ate it. I felt embarrassed and hoped no one knew I had brought it in. It was mostly women in the building.

I now work in a hospital and the ward I work on used to be really bad. We had breakfast for the medical students every six weeks and there was so much food and goodies around on Christmas it was disgusting and overwhelming. The biggest proponent of the feast was the attending psychiatrist a man. He also had a candy dish in his office which he always kept filled. I finally (along with a few others) protested the breakfast for the med students as it created a lot of mess and dirty dishes and no one ever cleaned up. It created a stir but now one even remembers the past breakfasts. We had one employee who brought in cake his wife’s department always had left over. A few people protested and said we don’t need the cake and it stopped.

So there is hope. I will say at potlucks always have some healthy food along with bad food and because it is a hospital people come and go and no one notices what someone puts on their plate. I have used the strategy of putting some food on my plate and casually throw it away, No one ever noticed.

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PastaQueen • September 26, 2008 at 9:44 pm

@Jill – Funny fact: My department *was* overwhelmingly male and the food wasn’t much of a problem. Now we’ve merged with an overwhelmingly female department and suddenly I feel like the cookie police. The guys I work with occasionally would buy bagels for everyone for breakfast. Otherwise they’d sometimes bring in cookies from their wives and that was it. There is definitely something to the male/female thing.

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RG • September 26, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I’m lucky because I don’t like sweet foods other than chocolate. Since candy dishes are omnipresent, I just factor them in: I’m allowed to have one/two after a workout. I think there’s room for cake in a diet, even a daily one, but I say that as someone who can easily eat a slice, leaving half the frosting on the side. Cake tastes better with some fruity topping, frozen berries or peaches e.g. which helps slow things down.

I did see someone purposely take a small slice, cover it with a napkin, and declare she was going to have it with coffee in a few hours.

My downfall is potato chips. A serving size is one bag, no matter what size. I can eat 1 oz bag or a 7 oz bag. Fortunately, these don’t show up in the office kitchen.

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apexantapex • September 26, 2008 at 10:54 pm

@PastaQueen -

I buy beer, a bag of pretzel logs and canned cheese — a vaguely nauseating department tradition — for my all-male staff on birthdays. Anything beyond that, well, that’s their tough luck. They can go ask their mothers for cookies. :D

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lg • September 27, 2008 at 1:37 am

I sometimes partake of the treats brought in and appreciate the thought behind them. I was touched when the nurses I work with remembered my birthday and made cake and treats. I think its presumptuous for anyone to judge, choose, protest food choices for others. I have control issues like most people but I don’t expect or want others to police food for me. If the food is there and you don’t want it, walk away and allow those who do want it to enjoy it. Excercise personal responsibility instead of blaming others.

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Lisa • September 27, 2008 at 1:49 am

@Jill – This must be more of a cultural thing than a man/woman thing. My hubby works for an international company in Europe and the men there are so food-oriented they got together at the beginning of becoming a team and planned who would bring what and when.

They planned their drinks, food, nibbles, who buys, buys what, how much they spend, and keep a big bowl of snacks and candy on the desk at all times. Lunchtime isn’t something you have to grab or pass out from low blood sugar it’s an ‘event’ they discuss each day before going.

Strangely with all that emphasis on food only a couple of them are overweight, and they balance it with exercise, taking walks on alternate days on the trails beside the office.

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jae • September 27, 2008 at 1:56 am

Unfortunately I don’t think there is anything you can do about it. It has to be a group effort and there are too many people who want to stuff themselves sick with junk because It’s There! and It’s Free! and who cares that its making us feel sluggish and bloated Everyone’s Doing It so I Should Too!!

Hopefully your example will shine through and people will turn around. Hopefully. ~j

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Lydia • September 27, 2008 at 2:39 am

@Kelda – Yes, “pitch-in” means “pot luck” — the terms are interchangeable. I recently moved to Indiana and am trying to start using “pitch-in” — I think it’s cute.

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Lydia • September 27, 2008 at 2:50 am

The elementary school where my daughter used to go had banned candy and cake, etc., from the lunchroom and from any parties that took place. Basically no sugar and treat-type stuff was allowed on campus during regular school hours. I think a lot of schools are going to this approach out of concern over childhood obesity issues.

Why do we adults try to draw the line with what our children are eating in school, yet we go crazy with the bad eating choices when we’re away from our kids, at work? It’s so hypocritical. Do what I say and not what I do, right?

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MizFit • September 27, 2008 at 7:00 am

hey busy PQ

Id love your thoughts on a post I just did..the concept woke me up and, for some reason, in a way reminded me of you (I say in a way because its in a GREAT WAY….wouldnt want you to misunderstand :))

youre such a warrior role model.

Id love your thoughts if youre online this weekend.

M.

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gknee • September 27, 2008 at 8:11 am

@Lydia – I think you hit this one dead on!

I am very sick of the food/diet nazi parents imposing their food phobias on their kids (and mine)

I don’t like people telling me what I can and can’t pack in my kids lunch. That being said– I realize there are idiots out there who let kids drink soft drinks in the morning along with cheetos- but its a free country! Jeez!

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gknee • September 27, 2008 at 8:21 am

I work in health care as well and that scene was the worst for the appearance of random food. High stress environment + overabundance of carbs and sugar is a lethal combo for me.

but guess what? When I cut my hours and was home more– I got in trouble with the food too.

The problem was ME. I can compulsively overeat in any and all situations if I forget WHO I AM. I don’t control it well (or I over control it and then make up for lost time) Actual Meals were never the issue– it is all that grazing between meals.

My current mantra is that it is just “NOT MY FOOD”. I plan my food for the day and that other stuff– no matter how tempting — need not cross over my lips. Am I always successful? No. But way,way,way more often than not.

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Penelope • September 27, 2008 at 11:07 am

“Yes Man” is now a movie starring Jim Carrey. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1068680/

I’ve seen the preview a couple of times and didn’t realize it came from a book. The previous starts with him saying NO to everything, so you might have to write your own book about how that works for you. 8-)

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kqteaze • September 27, 2008 at 2:37 pm

@asithi – Hee! I wondered that too, when I first started working in my office: Am I suppose to be supplier of cookies, brownies and cakes? Ha! Fat chance!

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Jaime • September 27, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Awesome point! I used to secretly hope for special occasions, only to go home feeling horrible. Good for you for pointing it out! There are tons of ways to mingle in the workplace sans food. With the economy now, a lot of people are going to meet and greets and have group activities. Good luck!

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BC • September 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Everyone likes feeling generous and I think they feel that way when they bring “treats” to work. When I was younger I would always help myself but not now. What changed? I was exposed to some really fantastic food that highlighted some of the junk that was offered and my daughter cannot eat wheat products anymore. It showed me how much of the stuff offered was sugar and wheat.

Try cutting out sugar or wheat completely for a week or too. Not as a diet but just to be more conscious of all the times you put it in your mouth unthinkingly. It’s astounding really.

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ani b • September 28, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I agree with Debbi that this should be a magazine article, and definitely should be on your best entries list.

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PastaQueen • September 28, 2008 at 5:14 pm

@soozie q – The book “Mindless Eating” offers proof that it’s actually not that easy. The bagels and cookies are left in the same room with me all day, so it becomes more likely that I’ll indulge as time passes due to inherent human behavior.

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Maris • September 28, 2008 at 9:44 pm

I think it’s nice that your new department likes to celebrate special occasions.

Everyone has a different metabolism, and in our culture food is a means of socializing and bringing people together. It’s up to each individual to decide if and to what extent they want to participate.

I have done the trick that RG mentioned in her comment above: bring a piece of cake on a plate back to your desk for “later.” Sometimes it goes straight in the garbage!

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Amy • September 29, 2008 at 12:32 am

Our office suffers from the same issues, but we do have healthy picks occasionally. When it’s a true pitch-in, it’s easy for me to skip all the crap because I’m the only vegetarian and I can’t exactly eat the fried chicken!

We occasionally have cook offs and I make a point of bringing something healthy (my veggie chili is pretty dang good). We even had a building-wide healthy cooking contest, which was a great idea, and had good ($$) prizes sponsored by the wellness committee. They also sponsor Maintain Not Gain over the holidays, where we join coworkers in groups of four for a weigh in before Thanksgiving and the goal is to NOT gain weight by the new year. And there are prizes for the best teams!

Our company provides onsite fitness facilities with instructors, too, AND gives us free memberships to most gyms in town, so they are putting their money on the line with the health insurance stuff. For the most part the occasional donuts at our desks are something I indulge now and then and try to balance the rest of the day.

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Jean • September 29, 2008 at 2:10 am

I’m with you…when I started the job I’m in now, I became “responsible” for the celebratory events…at first, I observed. For each person’s birthday or anniversary, the “sunshine” committee would bake a cake. Any company celebration involved pizza or lunch catered in…As I observed, people would say things like, “If we keep having cake every week, I’m going to get fat.” I had stopped eating sugar at that time due to a surgery, so I asked them why they didn’t just sing the birthday song and then go on their merry way – “don’t eat it”…they looked at me like I was insane.

After a few months, the other supervisors and I decided to try a radical new approach – 1 cake per month and then celebrate birthdays with a gift card or a non-food treat. We thought this would solve the problem and change things up a bit. Everyone just got mad at us for not making THEIR cake. I tried to talk them into buying my “food should not be used as a reward” theory, but it was a no-go for most of the people – even the ones who complained about gaining weight.

I just pretend the food is someone else’s and they might miss it if I had some…or I try to think about all the other people who have probably touched that food and how much I don’t want to put it in my mouth after that. Mostly, it works. Sometimes not.

You are right. There is no way to win.

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Rochelle • September 29, 2008 at 9:13 am

@Kelda -

I thought the same thing too – I got it from context, but I still had to know!

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SQ • September 29, 2008 at 9:28 am

@PastaQueen – If pushoverism is “inherent human behavior,” your statement makes me feel like you think I am not human. Not fair. I think you’re copping out. The problem isn’t food. It’s assertiveness. If you can’t maintain your boundaries for a whole day in the same room as a bag of donuts, how will you maintain your boundaries in the face of relentless television pressure to be thin, blonde, botoxed ….

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Jean • September 29, 2008 at 10:56 am

Jean here again-

Ick…I was in the shower and I could see the last sentence I wrote…like an echo…what a terrible way to end a comment…

What I meant was thatyou are right: there is no way to have your cake and not eat it, too. No way to make everyone happy. So, I hope you opt for making yourself happy in whatever way that you can – bring healthy stuff when you want, nibble a goodie sometimes, but not every time. This is definitely a downside to going to an office every day.

Good luck with this..Thanks for sharing.

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PastaQueen • September 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

@SQ – Hey, SQ. I wasn’t making any comment specifically about you. There was an actual study done with scientists and published in a fancy science journal about this topic. It involved candy dishes and you can read the abstract here.

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susan • September 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

I work with mostly women and we have a constant barrage of candy, cookies, brownies, cake, pretzels, chips…I could go on and on.

Someone asked if the majority of the people in your office were overweight. The majority in mine are, but the skinniest are those who eat several helpings of cake. So unfair.

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Mme.G • September 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm

You should do what I do – I bring in fattening things that are sitting in my house (like the tin of Royal Dansk cookies my well-meaning aunt gives me every Christmas) and leave them in the kitchen at work. I’ve done this with pretty much any type of baked goods…it makes it look like I’m participating in the carb glut but I’m not, really. I’m just expanding other people’s waistlines instead of my own!

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Wilma • September 30, 2008 at 10:29 am

@PastaQueen – I, too, find it hard to “just say no” when the food is sitting RIGHT THERE all freaking day long. It’s so much easier when the food simply is not there. It’s like, if the food is in front of me I will want to eat it, but on the other hand, if it’s not around, I don’t really miss it. Odd, but true.

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DT • September 30, 2008 at 11:04 am

Hi,

When I working in an office, I adopted something I called the “homemade rule.” I love sweets, carbs, etc. as much as everyone else but I was tired of all the stuff at work that people brought in (most of it store-bought). I decided I would only eat what someone made from scratch at home. That way, I enjoyed something now and then and was able to appreciate my co-workers efforts. Sorry but store-bought cookies are not the same and don’t deserve accolades like homemade ones do! A couple of others in the office starting using my “rule” too. I was lucky of course that not that many people tend to bake. If they did, I would have blown up!

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Kim • September 30, 2008 at 3:04 pm

@PastaQueen – I read the book and I 100% agree. Talk about eye opening. It really is like the candy dish, the pizza whatever it is that is sitting out NEAR us, is against us.

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Alexia • October 1, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Saw this post today and thought of your post!

http://doesthisblogmakeuslookfat.com/?p=232

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Quix • October 1, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I have a majority of men in my office but a good smattering of women too. Oddly enough it’s about equal if not more the guys bringing stuff in. To go above and beyond the temptation of occasional treats and such – when we work long hours we get catered dinners. Ordered from a different restaurant each night. Whatever we want. Believe it or not, it actually got pretty easy to resist ordering the junk food when I realized that nothing tasted good after being cooked, sitting under a heat lamp for 20 minutes, and then being delivered, sorted, and taken to my desk. If I was going to splurge on a meal, it was going to be fresh and hot from the oven, served to me at a table – not scarfed in front of my keyboard. What else helped was I was religiously counting calories, and once I got to a certain number, I was done for the day.

For occasional treats – I totally agree with the homemade rule – if it’s storebought and doesn’t fit in my plan for the day, I won’t touch it. Sheet cake is not worth it. If I have a particularly weak day, I’ll eat just the frosting because that’s the part I like anyway. If it’s something in the breakroom that I really want, I take a little taste. If it’s something that is offered to me at my desk, I’ll take it, take a bite if I actually want it, and then throw the rest away. Donuts invariably make me sick (too sugary) so I’m not even tempted, and luckily, no one has the sense to like bagels here (or I’d be in trouble).

I mean, I get the signficance that food is the easiest and cheapest way to raise morale and help employees bond/unwind, I’ve used it myself… but damned if we couldn’t find a healthier way to do it.

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Quick Free Recipes • October 17, 2008 at 3:02 am

I just come across your blog this morning, and it made me roar laughing! I like the way you describe ever detail in this particular post. Keep it up, good reading.

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Calidaho • October 27, 2008 at 11:24 pm

I don’t understand how there are donuts at every Tuesday morning staff meeting and I am the only fat person on the staff! I don’t even partake! Okay, one guy is kinda heavy but he is also 6’7″ and he can’t help looking big.

Luckily, my sattelite office is occupied by three other health concious people. Our part time front desk gal does keep hard candy at her desk for guests but I find that if I don’t even touch it I do okay. Other than that, we hardly ever bring food to work unless we all decide to share a veggie pizza on a very rare occasion.

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Carole • June 23, 2009 at 11:25 am

I am curious why no one ate the fruit you brought. My wife and a friend of mine are both losing weight successfully, and both have successfully brought many fruit items into their respective offices. (Both are also computer geeks who probably work in similar office environments.)

My wife’s office is rife with the usual cookies, donuts, cupcakes, pizza, etc. However, whenever she brings in strawberries and plums and kiwis, people do eat them — especially when she showed people how easy it was to quarter the kiwi fruit with a plastic knife and then eat the fruit out of the skin.

My friend D’s office mate brought in a bunch of boring red apples and no one ate them. So D. went three doors down to the Safeway and got a bunch of cheerful colored fruit to augment the apples — nectarines, plums, granny smith apples, etc. He added these to the boring red apples and by the end of the day, the whole bowl of fruit was gone. His experiment showed that people craved colorful variety.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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