THE BLOG
11/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Five Easy Ways to Eat More Mindfully at Work

Do you mindlessly snack on M&M's at your desk? Perhaps you munch nervously on chocolate before an important meeting with your boss. Or, maybe you have a habit of typing on your computer and snacking at the same time.

People who eat a pretty healthy diet at home sometimes find it a bit more of a challenge at work. Temptation comes in all sizes, such as candy or soft drinks in vending machines, takeout or convenient fast food, snacks in desk drawers. In fact, you may also be unconsciously following bad habits of co-workers.

If you have have a stressful job (as many of us do!), you are more likely to engage in emotional mindless eating. When you are stressed out, your cortisol levels, or the hormones in your body related to stress, are elevated. So, you begin to crave food (sugar, fat, and salt). You can naturally bring those cortisol levels into balance through calorie-free relaxation techniques.

Given that we spend the majority of our time at our jobs, it's worth taking a closer look at your eating habits at work. Here are some tips to help you curb mindless eating:

Five Tips for Eating Mindfully at Work (for more, see www.eatingmindfully.com):

1. Avoid Multitasking. When you eat, just eat. It's tempting to eat while you work, talk on the phone or answer an e-mail. But according to research, this can actually interfere with mindful eating, or eating enough to satisfy your hunger without going overboard. A 2001 study by French researchers France Bellisle and Anne-Marie Dalix found that women who were distracted by a task versus those who just focused on their meal ate 15 percent more (72 additional calories) and enjoyed their food less. Pay close attention to your food.

2. Keep Food Out of Sight. If you can see it, you are more likely to want to eat it, even if you aren't hungry. In a 2006 study, researchers from Cornell University examined how many pieces of candy office workers ate when a candy dish was nearby. They found that people ate more candies when they were visible and easily accessible. The opposite is true as well. You are more likely to eat healthy foods if they are placed in a convenient location.

3. Sit Down. It sounds simple enough but too often we eat standing over a desk or while walking. You will pay much more attention to how much food you eat when you focus on it. Commit to eating only while you are sitting.

4. Leave Evidence. Leave a food trail. Keep the candy bar wrapper on your desk. Don't throw away the baggie once you are finished with the bag of pretzels. Keeping physical evidence or reminders helps you to be more mindful of what you eat.

5. Like It, Love It Principle. When people begin to be more mindful of what they eat, they cut out the foods they don't really like. An example of eating mediocre food -- taking a bite of a store bought muffin at a morning meeting or eating a cookie that you don't really like at an office party. Mindful eaters begin to distinguish between foods they really love and enjoy and the food that is mediocre. They may eat dessert, but they are choosy about what they feel is worth their time to eat.

By the author of Eating Mindfully and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.

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