How can I stop eating free chocolate?
October 21, 2014 9:37 AM   Subscribe

My workplace has free chocolate available 80% of the time (samples coming in from various parties that coworkers leave out for the department/floor to eat) and it will get even worse when the holiday season starts. How can I resist this temptation?

I know myself well enough to know that if there is junk food available, I will eat it. So I don't keep any at home. But at work it's just there, out on the kitchen counter (and other counters throughout the floor, that I must pass to go to the washroom), begging to be eaten. I can't ask people to stop leaving them out, so:

1) How can I stop eating these?

The problem is I can't eat them in moderation. I just... keep eating them. This, I think, is partly a fault of willpower (they're there, and free, and yummy), and partly due to being encouraged to eat more by various people (family, friends, coworkers) who tell me "You're too skinny" or "You're so thin, eat this" (note: I am not skinny. I fall in the lower end of the normal range of weight and proportions for my height, but look thinner due to small bones. No, really. Watches look ridiculous on my wrist.) Therefore, related question:

2) How can I stop letting these comments influence my eating behaviour?

Thanks for the help.
posted by rebooter to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same problem. There is a bottomless basket of chocolate between my desk and the bathroom at work.

The ONLY thing that has worked for me is going low-carb. After a couple days low-carbing, I just... don't want it anymore.

I sometimes am too loose with my low-carb restriction and I can always tell when I've gone over whatever my carb threshold must be because then I'll start getting into the chocolate again. Eating carbs makes me crave carbs/sugar. It's a vicious cycle.

Seriously. Go low-carb. Start on a Friday afternoon so you're through the worst of it while you're at home and away from the chocolate. By Monday you should notice you have more willpower.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you're not a moderation person, then the only way to do it is a hard-and-fast rule: "I will not eat chocolate at work."

If you're tempted, tell yourself that you will get some chocolate on the way home and enjoy the heck out of it. (Odds are, though, the temptation will be gone by then.)

If people pressure you to eat it by telling you that you are skinny, they are being rude, and I'd recommend giving them a hard look and saying, "Please do not comment on my weight." I suspect you won't have to say it very often, but if they persist, drop the "please."
posted by BrashTech at 9:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

Keep gum or mints in your desk? Or bring a tupperware of celery/carrots/etc to munch on when you just get the craving to eat something? Whenever I get comments about what I eat or my weight (I am like you, very small boned but at a healthy weight), or someone at work says, "Did you eat this?" or "Have you tried that?" I usually respond with something like, "It looks good!" or "Maybe later!" And of course, by the time later rolls around, it's all been eaten :)
posted by jabes at 9:45 AM on October 21, 2014

As for 1, could you chew mint gum during the day, or pop an altoid whenever you get up from your desk, or brush your teeth right after your meals? If I have a mint taste in my mouth, I am less likely to want to eat anything else.

As for 2, I'm also the same body type as you. Just repeating, "No thanks" and smiling. It's become a mantra, and they almost expect me to turn them down now. Hopefully the same can happen for you.
posted by umwhat at 9:46 AM on October 21, 2014

First off, any negative comments on my weight or physical appearance would be met with a stern reply of "I am not discussing that with you and do not appreciate your comments. Are we clear?" I'm pretty assertive, so phrase that however you want to get your point across.

I'm a sucker for sweets and have binge eating issues. The only thing that works for me is to cut sugar out of my diet and force myself not to eat it when it's around. Not a little piece or a big one. None. I find it actually gets easier as time passes and the cravings for sugar go away. I also cut it out of my coffee and never looked back. Eating sugar makes me want more sugar. That shit really is the cocaine of food products.

Keep some snacks around work. Nuts and seeds are a good choice. Chopped veggies are good too.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:47 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

nthing the gum, but also try brushing your teeth/keeping a little mouthwash at your desk. When you're tempted, go gargle for a bit. For the weight, just ignore the comments. People make those comments at work no matter what size you are. It's group thinky nonsense. People feel like you're judging them when you don't want to eat the candy, but they're eating the candy. Whatever.
posted by sweetkid at 9:51 AM on October 21, 2014

I combat it by having lots of (healthy) snacks of my own around the office, and eating those. But when my stock runs low, I very often fall prey to the donuts that magically show up at three hour morning release planning meetings, or to the various cakes and pies that a co-worker with a baking hobby seems to constantly bring in.
posted by tckma at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2014

Send a polite email to your manager or an office manager that junk food be put in a dedicated area that's not on a main thoroughfare, perhaps even in some kind of covered container. Yes, you'll probably be raining on someone's parade, but you're probably not the only one with this concern and you deserve to be able to go about your work day without undue anxiety about your work environment.

As for the comments, don't even play the game. Just walk away when the body talk comes up.
posted by theraflu at 9:55 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe you can't do moderation when it's an amorphous thing in your head, but what about a checklist/calendar something like that? if you can eat three little pieces of chocolate a day, give yourself three checkboxes a day. If you eat more for than your allotment for a certain day, find some way to signify that. Having those kind of metrics can be very helpful for some people. The suggestion to have your own healthy snacks is also good.
posted by raisindebt at 10:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you just want to cut back instead of completely stopping, you could try this:

  • Decide how many chocolates per day is a reasonable amount to have.
  • At the beginning of the day, take those chocolates and put them on your desk.
  • Tell yourself "These are my chocolates. The rest are not mine."
  • Then meter them out the rest of the day. Important: Make sure that when 4 PM rolls around you still have one left.
  • Every time you pass by the chocolates, remind yourself that you have some at your desk.
(edit window ninja: pretty much what raisindebt said)
posted by rouftop at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

The problem is I can't eat them in moderation. I just... keep eating them.

Yes you can. You just need to say "no" to the chocolates.
There are no magic bullets. There are no lifehacks. Your employer is not responsible. Find the will power, I'm afraid. You are the boss of you.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:02 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have issues with sugar and sometimes free food, too. One thing that works for me is asking myself, "Am I just wanting to eat this because it's here, or would I go out and buy this for myself to eat today?".

I also keep chocolates in my desk ALL THE TIME so I know that I have chocolate if I need some--I don't need to even think about other sweets at work.
posted by shortyJBot at 10:05 AM on October 21, 2014

Eh, They're crappy chocolates aren't they?

I'll suggest the solution of avoiding chocolate by eating chocolate.
Buy yourself some nice chocolate at home. I often have a small square of dark, rich chocolate after dinner. Knowing I have that at home keeps me from eating all the junk at work. And, often, once home, I skip it anyways.
posted by vacapinta at 10:05 AM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

In a way, the fact that they are always there can help you. Because this is not an amazing once-in-a-lifetime perfect fruit tart in Paris. It's just chocolate that is always there. So take it one day at a time. When you want some, think no! Nope! Not today! And tell yourself that tomorrow you can reconsider and maybe have one then.
posted by kate blank at 10:13 AM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have zero portion control so the only thing that works for me is completely swearing off X. Religiously. The way vegans swear off meat. You no longer eat chocolate, at all, ever.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:14 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing that worked for me - As a New Year's Resolution, I told myself that anything that I eat at work outside of meals has to be a fruit or a vegetable. So, in this case, I would have a piece of chocolate with lunch, but that's it. There is a lot of willpower involved, though...I'm not sure that there's a good way around it.
posted by Fig at 10:23 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm terrible at moderation, too. I don't get people who can eat half a pack of M&Ms. The only thing that works for me is to eat none at all.

Another thing you could try is to find out how many calories are in one of those things, and make tick marks and then add up at the end of an average day to find how much extra the chocolate is adding to your daily calorie intake. Seeing it in black and white would be a pretty big motivator for me to cool it.
posted by something something at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds silly, but when confronted with something I'm trying not to eat for whatever reason, I tell myself and others: "I don't eat that."

I find this works a lot better than "I shouldn't eat that" or "I'm trying not to eat that" and it seems to head off all the annoying "Oh! Just have one!" convos (both the ones I have in my head with myself and the ones others have with me). There's something about the finality of "I don't eat that" that just sort of ends the cycle.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find that flat out denying myself things like that do not work. I buy chocolate I love from Chocosphere and have it with me all the time. I allot myself a small portion for a day. Once finished, I chew Trident gum, which has become my "I'm done eating for a while" trigger.
posted by Silvertree at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2014

Echoing several others. What I used to call "lousy willpower" I've reframed as a sign of anxiety -- OMG there might never BE ANOTHER DOUGHNUT so I BETTER EAT THIS ONE -- which, when adequately treated, goes away. I'm not recommending medication to avoid chocolates, just to be clear! I've found that when my anxiety levels are low and my brain is relatively clear, I can just, in the words of the Commodores, SAAAAIL OOOOONNNN.

Going low-carb has also meant that I don't crave sweets the way I did -- and that they're not as powerful when I do have them. They don't soothe me. They're just yummy, then gone.

Finally, we have doughnut day at my job. I've been there about 6 months and was clear with my coworkers from the get-go: I will not be participating in Donut Friday because I Do Not Eat Donuts. (I like donuts, but if I eat one, it could become Five Donut Friday, which nobody wants.) I'm just not on the rotation for bringing donuts, and so I never got into the habit. Those donuts are Not for Me.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

I feel your pain. The thinnest/fittest women in my office have this...thing...about bringing in desserts. THEY don't eat them, of course! But have a twisted need to fatten the rest of us more.

It's something I rant about, inside my head, on a frequent basis.

Avoidance works best for me. Yes, I keep snacks that are more healthy at my desk, but also, I find another route that doesn't go past Free Food Table. But if this isn't possible, then I would try telling yourself you will stop at the store after work and get some really good chocolate, the expensive stuff, if you can make it through the day without eating the free stuff. Sometimes I do! I usually am fine by then though and skip it. Be snobby about your chocolate. I eat only dark chocolate, over 70%, of certain brands I like. That stuff is powerful and less sweet, but answers the chocolate craving well. And I don't need it very often.

Other things that help:

1. Remembering that I really don't feel good when I do give in and eat stuff just because it's thrust at me. My tongue is happy but the rest of me almost immediately feels worse/fatter/depressed.

2. Taking the stairs (mild exercise can take your mind off food for a bit)

3. Drinking water (anything that's not sweet)

4. Upping my protein at lunch so I feel more full

5. Thinking about what's in my mind; the craving is about fear of deprivation, or boredom, not really about hunger. Trying to get my brain off that track without sugar.
posted by emjaybee at 10:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to eat chocolate past the point of wanting it. I would eat it even though I didn't want to, just because it was there.

What cured me was "tomorrow". Or "in an hour". I could have the chocolate I wanted tomorrow. When tomorrow (or an hour's time) rolled round, I evaluated whether or not I wanted the chocolate. If I still wanted it, I could have it, and often did. But as time went on, I just got used to the craving going away, without having to fight myself and push it away.

Another trick I did once (because I am apparently extremely lazy) was to put the chocolate out of arms reach. I actually sat in a chair once, watching TV, and didn't eat any chocolate because I would have to lean over to get it. Not stand up - just lean slightly to one side.

Something else that sort of worked was putting the chocolate in a box, or covering it up in some fashion. If I didn't see it, I was less likely to start and not be able to stop.

Maybe try telling yourself if you wait an hour, you can have an extra piece?

Another thing I think is important is knowing that you can actually stop yourself eating chocolate. Splitting the task up into various points, at which you can pull yourself back might work. So, you're at work doesn't have to mean eating chocolate. You're at work and you're in the break room, but you don't have to eat it. You're at work, in the break room, you've had a piece, but you don't have to have a second - walk back to your desk and sit down to continue work, so you have to physically go get another piece. Etcetera.
posted by Solomon at 11:15 AM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nthing gum. Also, if you don't want to go full low carb lifestyle, I find that having a protein heavy lunch keeps me fuller longer and reduces cravings for sweets. Not necessarily a heavy lunch per se --- salad with grilled chicken breast works fine. But the same amount of calories in protein is much more satiating than carbs.
posted by Diablevert at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2014

Best answer: what might help - is to create and frequently re-play in your mind a negative mental image - for example... picture the chocolate as a jagged rock that you would have to bite into with your teeth (achhh!) - or something completely disgusting/revolting that you would never put anywhere near your mouth.. maybe even, to yourself of course, assign chocolate a new name like "chocolate-rock"

also -- set up a reward system. for every day/week - promise yourself something (a music download.. book.. clothes whatever) to look forward to.... put a picture of your reward on your desk/phone (along with the "rocks" or whatever image you create)

another idea - create a file/page where you list all of the reasons why you do not want to eat the chocolaterocks (chocolate is actually a toxin! etc.) and quotes and research supporting your view. keep adding to the list and read the list in the am and pm.
posted by mrmarley at 11:28 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make a deal with a good work friend. Any eaten chocolate means you must leave the wrapper on their desk.

You won't want those wrappers to pile up, and you won't want your work friend to see them pile up.

This totally worked for me.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:39 AM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

The "tomorrow" thing works for me. It especially works if there is always chocolate around - you know that if you skip it now, it will still be available tomorrow if you decide you want it then. Or have a piece of chocolate only on Fridays. It'll be easier to turn down on Tuesday if you know it will still be there at the end of the week.

Do keep healthy snacks around to distract yourself with. Bring in healthy snacks to share, and maybe others will follow your example. I guarantee that you're not the only one in your office who doesn't want to eat junk all of the time.
posted by donajo at 11:43 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing low carb, high fat. Bring your own snacks, make them something delicious and yummy that you love, and eat those instead.
I've been doing LCHF for a few months now, and I've lost over 10 pounds effortlessly and my cravings for carbs and sweets are pretty much NIL unless I make the mistake of drinking a diet soda (the devil) and those cravings come back like the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.
Go for it!
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 11:45 AM on October 21, 2014

I keep telling myself that there is a lot of food in the world and I don't have to eat it all.
posted by scratch at 11:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some things that have worked for me:
* Take a walk around the building or go up and down the stairs a few times when I have a candy craving. It distracts me long enough that the craving goes away.
* Alternate snacks like nuts or baby carrots at my desk.
* Drink a glass of water; if you think you are hungry you are probably just thirsty.
* Go low-carb (I did a Whole30 and after the first week I didn't have cravings anymore) or even just quit eating all sugar.
posted by matildaben at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2014

I'm also terrible with moderation. I went low carb and now eating sugary chocolate is weirdly not pleasant. It tastes like failure and burning.

Luckily there are lots of lower sugar sweet snacks to eat instead. They're not for everyone, but I love dark chocolate with stevia. Also Quest bars.
posted by the jam at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2014

I am the same way with pastries or candies that my office-mates bring in as treats. Also holiday parties or family get-togethers like Thanksgiving and Christmas where there's a lot of really really awesome and delicious food.

I once called myself an "opportunistic" eater, because when the food is free and right there under my nose, I would take it. Doubly so if the food was something I already liked. But if I were to prepare or buy it on my own or otherwise have to drive out somewhere to get it, I would pass.

I was told by a registered dietician that gum with a high mint flavor/content works by cleansing the palate and telling your brain that you're no longer hungry. Something about the scent of food still in your mouth triggers something to make you want to eat. I think it helps, to a certain extent.

I also drink lots of water throughout the day. This does require me to visit the washroom with more frequency, and like you that path takes me right past the snack room. So the temptation is always there.

The two suggestions above are supposed to keep your body "full" so that you don't have the urge to stuff your mouth. However, neither will help if you cannot summon the willpower to walk past the snack table or turn yourself away from the offered treats. FWIW, I've been on a low-carb diet for the past 4 months with little-to-no starch, lots of veggies, and moderate protein, and I still find myself with a half-eaten pastry in my hand and regret in my head.

I've asked myself why I can't just walk away from the snack table, and so far I haven't come up with an answer. Towards that end, I enrolled in an emotional-eating class (through my health provider; check what's available to you), with the hope that it can provide me with tools to curb my tendencies, or at least recognize any cues or triggers that lead me to such moments of "weakness." If you feel that you can't pass up the opportunity to eat chocolate, or you find yourself succumbing to other peoples' comments about your weight, perhaps a similar class or counseling program will work for you.

Of course, the class may offer the same suggestions and advice that you're getting here, so YMMV. I think it's all about the willpower, both to develop healthy eating habits and to maintain such, so I'm trying whatever I can to help me focus on my efforts. If I can stick to something positive and beneficial for long enough, it should develop into a habit and eventually into a lifestyle.
posted by CancerMan at 12:15 PM on October 21, 2014

I work in an environment where there's always delicious and rich food around.

My way of not constantly gorging on this stuff is to just remind myself that there's always going to be more later. I don't need to have a donut right now, because lunch is coming. I don't need to snag a cookie from the dessert table because there will be more cookies tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Because in the past I've always related to these foods as "treats", I just have to remind myself that it's not a special treat anymore if you eat this stuff multiple times per day, every day.

Another angle of this was not letting people's way of talking about sweets and desserts influence the above. Yes, it's Katie from Accounting's birthday, and someone got an ice cream cake from Carvel, and how special. But it's going to be Steve's birthday on Thursday, and we're going to do the whole song and dance again. And neither of these people are going to even notice whether I ate a slice of cake or not. If something seems particularly appetizing to me, sure, I can have it. But I have to constantly remind myself that just because something looks special, and I'm told that it's special, that doesn't mean I have to eat it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I do the No S diet. No sweets, no snacks, and no seconds, except on days that start with S (Saturdays, Sundays, and Special days). I don't eat sweets or eat between meals on most workdays, so I do not partake of free office food.

Stay away from the source of temptation as much as you can. Would it be possible to take a different route to the bathroom? Or maybe to look at your phone on the way, to distract you from the chocolate?
posted by Anne Neville at 12:44 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Low carb. Also green tea seems to kill my cravings, so try that. Those people who tell you to just have willpower don't get the crazy binging we can do. I've eaten so many donuts and cookies till I was physically ill. Sort of like dogs who will just not stop.

I do eat chocolates but only if they are over 90% dark chocolate. One piece is enough and it doesn't trigger cravings.
posted by Coffeetyme at 1:19 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd bring your own snacks to the office. You may be less tempted if you have something else to snack on that is healthy and you actually enjoy.

In some offices, I've found the candy bowl or whatever is a communal meeting place. It's an excuse to get up from sitting forever and it's a place to run into other co-workers and chat. You may consider bringing a healthy snack for the office to share so there's a healthy reason to meet over there. Maybe you can encourage others to do it too sometime.

Lots of creative ideas in this thread for something that certainly seems to plague the Western office setting.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:37 PM on October 21, 2014

Definitely brush your teeth. It really does seem to work to diminish food cravings.
posted by thegoldfish at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2014

I combatted cravings at my office job by thinking about why I didn't want to eat the free sweets, and then writing those ideas down. Then, I used that information to compose a contract with myself and signed it. It read something like this: "Eating sweets at work makes me feel unhealthy, out of control and disappointed in myself. I don't want to feel this way. I hereby promise not to eat any more sweets at work, so that I can enjoy feeling healthy, in control and proud of myself instead." When I signed it, I sort of made a mental note of how serious I was about treating myself properly. Then, whenever I got interested in eating crap at work I forced myself to pull out the contract from the desk and read it again. I would remember that what I really wanted more than a treat was to feel good about myself. Oftentimes it was enough to derail the craving.
posted by RingerChopChop at 6:23 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had this problem with the cookie jar at work. My solution was the 'don't break the chain' method - every day you don't eat chocolate, you get a point. If you do eat chocolate, your points reset to zero (there are apps for your phone for this, or you can just use pen and paper). If you can willpower your way through the first few days, it gets easier to resist because even one little piece will make you lose all the points and start again.
I also had a colleague who pledged to donate $50 to a cause she hated if she snacked. That seemed to work too, particularly when she let other people know.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:31 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I take an approach similar to kate blank's, and it works for me. I tell myself, "I can have this chocolate anytime I want. I don't want any right now." If I mentally forbid myself something, I just want it more, and feel bad about myself when I do give in. If I frame it as a choice, I'm not as tempted, and I don't feel guilty when I do have a piece. And by allowing myself to choose, I'm defining myself as a person who decides not to eat chocolate rather than a person who isn't allowed chocolate and can't be trusted around it. If I tell myself I'm capable of making good choices, I'm more likely to do so.

It can be difficult at first, but the first few times you walk by the counter without taking anything can feel really good. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:14 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking that old habits die hard, so instead of quitting the chocolate entirely, what if you just "enhanced" your habit a bit? Bring a jar of plain peanuts or peanut butter to the office. Let yourself eat a piece of chocolate when the the mood strikes, but the rule is that you have to eat an equal volume of peanuts or peanut butter each time. The increased satiety might give you more will power to avoid frequent chocolate, and over time, you could decrease the chocolate and increase the nuts.
posted by oxisos at 9:00 PM on October 21, 2014

Best answer: I just want to point out that every suggestion in this thread has been suggested in infinite number of diet forums forever. They run the range of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, physiological changes, gambling, bargaining, shame, encouragement, delay tactics, personal disparagement of others, etc.

As you can see in this thread and in the current state of world population, there is NO ONE THING which works for every person. You may have to try several different methods before you find one that (hopefully) works for you. Take the time to do that, come up with something you can live with, and enjoy the rest of your life.
posted by CathyG at 7:39 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding CathyG. And what works for you may stop, or only work sometimes. So change up methods if you need to. Don't assume "oh no, method A failed, I am doomed and a terrible person." Try to just accept, ok, this thing is not working for me. Let's try something different.
posted by emjaybee at 10:35 AM on October 22, 2014

Best answer: My suggestion, in case it rings a bell: I eat clean/low carb all day until I leave work. Then sometimes I indulge a bit at home but I feel so healthy and non-crashy all day that I don't want to fuck up my high with shitty candy and/or chocolate.

Example day: Two hard boiled eggs for breakfast, sardines and a big bowl of vegetables for lunch with tea. Lots of tea all day. It does me good.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:37 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I selected the ones that worked for me as best answers, but as CathyG noted, this is all great advice. As diet commercials say, results may vary.
posted by rebooter at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2014

Response by poster: Most of these worked intermittently, but the only thing that worked long-term was actually getting a cavity. My desire to eat sweet things pales compared to my desire to keep my teeth.
posted by rebooter at 9:29 AM on January 21, 2015

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