Unhealthy Eating Habits: An Occupational Hazard?

18th March 2015

Posted In: WMB Living

You know how frustrating it is when after a weekend of over-indulging you promise yourself that you will start being ‘good’ on Monday. But by Tuesday you find yourself magnetically drawn to the biscuit tin in work or the plate of buns that you well-intentioned colleague baked over the weekend.

Words: Dr. Bernadette Rock www.heydayworld.com

A client recently remarked on the combination of glee and dread that she feels as she lays her eyes on plate of buns or her colleague’s birthday cake. Here are three ways you can end this battle and enjoy a healthy relationship with food:

1. “Ah go on, have a cake. I bought them for you!”

Refuse food when you’re not hungry: Often we can be concerned about saying ‘no’ when offered food by a colleague. We can be afraid of appearing rude by refusing their generosity or being the only one not eating. If you accept the offer, you’re giving yourself permission to continue being unhealthy. So ask yourself, is it more important that I eat to please the new colleague or that I start to look after myself?

You could gently reply “thanks very much, but I’m just not hungry. I might have it later”. It will not be as big a deal as you think it will be! Maybe it’s time to pause and ask yourself, “Is eating this food the best way to care for myself?” Bringing awareness to our habits is crucial to challenging them.


2. “The food calls out to me when I’m stressed. Those jaffa cakes have my name on them”.

Straighten Your Stress: Do you ponder anxiously about all the little tasks ahead of you – emails to send, phone calls to make, school runs…? I often find myself staring at my to-do list but not wanting to do anything on it, and my mind wanders to the contents of the biscuit tin. Often it’s more comfortable to soothe yourself with a handful of biscuits.

Can you start getting comfortable with difficult emotions? You don’t have to like them but can you start to understand and tolerate them. It can help to remind yourself that “I am a competent adult and I can cope. I do have a choice”. Being mindful and aware means that you are putting yourself in charge, instead of mindlessly seeking refuge in the biscuit tin.

Track your stressors: Heyday clients keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how they can respond to them. Record your thoughts and feelings about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, and how you reacted. Did you feel overwhelmed? Get a snack from the vending machine? Take a few quiet minutes to breathe deeply? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and develop healthy responses to them.


3. “Eating is my way of switching off. I make a beeline for the fridge when I come in from work”

Reward yourself but not with food: Finding other ways to reward and soothe yourself besides food is absolutely essential. Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Definitely not! The things you come up with will help somewhat, but in order to truly give up emotional eating, you are also going to have to practice tolerating difficult feelings, such as boredom or anxiety.

Establish boundaries: In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24/7. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. This might mean making a rule not to check work emails in the evening, or not answer the phone during dinner. Creating boundaries between these work and personal life can reduce the potential for the stress and extra eating that goes with it.


Dr. Bernadette Rock delivers a supportive online programme, 1:1 meetings and workshops. Join Bernadette and Dietitian Paula Mee for a 1-day workshop on 23rd May ‘Secrets to Mindful Eating & Weight Loss’. For more details see www.heydayworld.com or email Bernadette at hello@heydayworld.com