11/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Obese Office: 39.3 Million Workdays Lost

Is your behind wider than a Costco cart? Is your stomach softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy's? Has the circumference of your thighs doubled?

As "mistress of ceremonies" for the Kick in the Tush Club*, I intermittently receive an impassioned plea from a member desperate to find an answer to the office food phenomenon.

From co-workers foisting food upon them to the ubiquitous parties - it's just too much. And now that we are about to enter the holiday season, there is a rumbling of fear out there that the control and commitment that we have exhibited in these past months is about to go to hell in a hand-basket!

Sticky Fingers writes:

Dear Janice,

Office food is doing me in. I just don't know what to do about the birthdays, going away parties, promotion celebrations, not to mention the leftovers from the in-house meetings and luncheons, as well as the bowls and bags of candies (add Halloween to the mix), cookies and chips at every turn of the cubicle. This week promises to be loaded with the inevitable fattening foods - ranging from greasy pizza to chocolate seven-layer cake and/or champagne - where I feel obligated to be polite and partake.

And, the culture is such that everyone comes in early, goes home late and eats most of their meals at their desk. I haven't seen sunlight in two months. My hands are sticky with M&Ms.(I thought that they don't melt in your hands?) Please HELP!

What to do?

There are ways for us to fight the office food demons - both food and people a.k.a. saboteurs (listed below) - but there is abigger problem at play here. It's thecorporate food culture, and it needs to be acknowledged, explored and changed.

Our mission is to establish new policy - to enlist the heads of our companies - the Presidents, the CEOs, the Directors of Human Resources. Our goal is to transform the office into a healthy, happy and supportive workplace environment.

Education and communication are our tools. For some it may be easy, as their Big Boss is into jogging and smoothies, but for others, Big Boss may be a bacon cheeseburger and donut junkie. Nevertheless, we must prevail.

Let's start with "The Office Manifesto" - a document that you can clip, paste, print, sign and sweetly hand (minus the M&M fingerprints) to your boss or post on a bulletin board!


We, employees of _____________________ declare that the state of office eating is heretofore declared out of control. We hereby instate the following policy:

Henceforth, healthy options are to be made available at in-house meetings and parties.

Henceforth, the refrigerator that the company so graciously and generously stocks with soda (both diet and regular) shall also house natural fruit juices and bottled water(s).

Henceforth, the vending machine shall make available small packages of fat-free pretzels and baked potato chips.

Henceforth, the 'Take-A-20-Minute Break' policy will be enforced. All employees, who have missed lunch and not seen the light of day are hereby required to take a 20-minute break. It's not healthy to work without a break or to stay inside all day long.

Henceforth, there will be a designated meditation/rest space(s) for employees to take refuge in during their 20-minute break (in case of inclement weather).

Henceforth, there will be a designated walking track (route) throughout the office. It's not healthy not to move all day long.

Henceforth, no 'pushers' allowed. If someone says, "No, thank you" the 'pushers' shall refrain from saying, "Oh, just one piece."

Henceforth, the employer acknowledges that all employees are valued and said employer is thrilled to know that productivity and morale will soar if said employee is healthfully fed, gets air and rest.

Signed and Dated

Here are some productivity facts for Big Boss that are sure to make 'em think!

58 million Americans are overweight;
40 million obese;
3 million morbidly obese.

Those who indulge in poor eating and exercise habits account for over $33 billion in medical costs, of which $9 billion in lost productivity due to heart disease, cancer, stroke and Diabetes.

Workdays lost related to obesity: 39.3 million
Physician office visits related to obesity: 62.7 million
Restricted activity days related to obesity: 239.0 million
Bed-days related to obesity: 89.5 million.

In the meantime, here are a couple of tips on how to survive the office eating culture. Once again, it takes commitment and planning - AND YOU ARE worth it.

Have a Sliver - If it's impossible to say "no, thank you" each and every time, you may want to plan to have a small piece, as in a sliver. However, if there are multiple parties per week, you may want to limit your one sliver to one party.

Bring Your Own - Stock the office freezer with diet treats. From ice cream to cake to 94% fat-free popcorn. All pre-portioned.

Get Up and Move - What kind of craziness is this? Eating at your desk or not eating at all is unhealthy and contributes to fatigue, lack of concentration. Productivity drops. If you can't get out of the office, get up and walk around a couple of times. Take the long way, the stairs, copy one piece of paper at a time.

Take a Brain Break- Working without a break is unhealthy, as well. Your brain goes on autopilot. Once again, productivity drops. Meditate. If you have to (I did), go to the ladies' room and close your eyes for five minutes. Do some deep breathing exercises.

Drink More Water - Drinking really helps. We often think we are hungry, when we are in fact thirsty. Try flavoring a 1.5 liter bottle of water with a little Crystal Light. (All that water provides an opportunity to go to the bathroom and meditate!)

Find a Buddy - Support and company is always a good thing. Find someone to join you and you can buck the system together.

A Food Gift - When someone gives you a box of chocolate or a spaghetti pie, and they know you are losing weight, refrain from hurting them. Simply smile and say as you push the spaghetti pie back in their direction, "Oh thanks so much, but you know, spaghetti pies aren't a part of my food plan. I appreciate the thought and would really love some fresh fruit. Why not bring it tomorrow?"

*KICK in the TUSH Club is for light-hearted, low-cal loving, nutritional friendly folks who crave mammoth portions of food-facts, recipes, art and inspiration.


Janice Taylor is a Life & Wellness Coach, Certified Hypnotist, Author of the Our Lady of Weight Loss books, Beliefnet blogger, Seminar Leader and 50-pound Big-Time-Loser. Write her for a Free Life Consult.

The Christmas Diet! Wake Up New Year's Day THINNER than You Are Now!

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.