How to stop mindless snacking at office?
August 14, 2019 4:36 AM   Subscribe

The siren song of the office snack cabinet (cheese crackers, cookies, processed foods) overpowers me, even when I bring delicious healthy snacks like blueberries from the farmers market or my favorite trail mix. I try drinking fizzy flavored water or going for a walk when there’s a craving. But my hands inevitably reach for the bad stuff many times a day against my better judgement. I think it’s an impulse control issue. How to curb this mindless snacking? I’m not even really hungry but leave the office feeling bloated.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Try brushing your teeth.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:44 AM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Put a rubber band around your wrist when you get to work in the morning. EVERY TIME you find yourself heading to the snack cabinet, flick your wrist with the stretched band. Your mind will get conditioned to avoid the unpleasantness of the snapping rubber band.
posted by eleslie at 5:51 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don't have the snacks available of if you do healthy stuff. (Fruit, nuts, carrots etc)
posted by PetiePal at 6:01 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

What worked for me was having my own, high protein snacks. I'd get bloated on the chips and cookies but some beef jerky or mixed nuts would satisfy the craving and keep me full.
posted by Twicketface at 6:03 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

What worked (mostly) for me was just telling myself full stop that nothing in the kitchen snack bar was allowed to go in my mouth. I was able to substantially reduce my work junk eating by telling myself it was entirely off the menu and commiting to it. It was also very freeing and felt good to be able to say no, I've since lapsed because I'm pregnant and snacking helps settle my stomach.

You could also try having a "just one" rule, or a "3 p.m. only" rule if you are not a binger. I found eventually I could enjoy a single skittle a few times a day versus a handful of them twice a day and I count that as a win and probably more sustainable longterm.

When you leave work feeling bloated, remind yourself that it's a result of your earlier mindless eating. When you feel the urge to get those snacks remind yourself again of that yucky feeling and commit to not having the snacks. I know my energy crashes when I eat sugar so while it tastes good, it doesn't make me feel good. I try to keep that in mind when I'm being tempted.
posted by lafemma at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've been counting carbs for months now. No carb is off limits, but I have to measure and/or weight them all. Sugar = 5 grams of carbs per teaspoon.

I have a carb counting book, and I look at the carb count on everything I eat. Blueberries have very few carbs. Cheeze-its have a lot, but it's right there on the box, how many I can have for a snack. It will say, about 10 crackers = 18 grams of carbs or whatever. So I measure out 10 crackers.

I also eat things like frozen yogurt bars (Yasso), which have less than 20 grams of carbs each. That's often my dessert at night.

Once I figured out that I truly can eat anything I want, the guilt and shame and cravings went away. This took several months. Sure, I can eat a muffin, a tiny one, but I can have it if I want. I can have French toast with maple syrup, as long as it's small slices of whole wheat bread (12 grams of carbs each) and 1 TBS of syrup.

Maybe just look at the amount of carbs in these snacks, and try limiting them that way?

Some days I really DO crave blueberries & plain yogurt for snack.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

lafemma: You could also try having a "just one" rule, or a "3 p.m. only" rule if you are not a binger.

Building on this, what about a kind of budget/game?

Hang up a Post-It note on Monday with the week's dates on it. It represents the one Bad Snack you can have that week: when you eat that week's Bad Snack, the Post-It comes down. Make a game of seeing how many days you can go without touching the Post-It. Celebrate (but not with a Bad Snack -- come one!) if you can go the whole week.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hm not sure this'll work if you're already not eating your healthy blueberries, but it's worked OK for me just recently faced with the same: I didn't ban myself from eating nice snacks, I just gave myself a rule that I had to eat one apple a day at work. It was easier to do because it wasn't a rule that deprived me of anything or banned me from eating nice things. But I eat the apple when I first want a snack, to get it out the way, and then inevitably find I don't fancy the other snacks so much after that, because I'm already full/have a nice taste in my mouth/feel all virtuous and healthy.
posted by penguin pie at 6:45 AM on August 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

Keep a notebook by your desk. Every time you get the craving just stop and slowly, deliberately write down the act, eg "grabbing a biscuit, polishing off a bag of crisps, working through a handful of m&ms" etc. The time it takes to write it down neatly is about as long as the eating would. At the end of the day you have a lovely list of things you enjoyed vicariously. It's weirdly satisfying.

Now choose one for the journey home and enjoy!
posted by freya_lamb at 6:59 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm chewing gum right now to help with this. Mints can also work, if you don't have a job where you can chew gum. It works better than healthier snacks for me - partially because of the taste, and partially because I'll keep a single mint or piece of gum in my mouth longer than a blueberry, and the aftertaste lasts even longer. (Plus, I can keep the gum/mints at my desk so they're more convenient than unhealthy snacks)
posted by dinty_moore at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

For me the snack cabinet was usually connected with 'I can't figure out this problem' or 'I'm not sure what to work on next' or 'I don't want to do this task.' Eating a snack was a good way to feel like I was getting something done even if that something was both avoidant and not really what my body needed.
posted by kokaku at 7:28 AM on August 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

Similar to (but not exactly what) others have said, when you are about to get up and grab a snack, acknowledge it and ask yourself what it is you are really feeling. Are you bored? Anxious? Name the feeling and explore why you are feeling it. Even if you don't set rules around when/what you will snack, this mindfulness exercise will help you target the root of a "mindless" behavior and should help you reduce it.

In addition, if you want to avoid those snacks entirely, a mindset shift that's worked for me is to make it part of your identity. Do you smoke? If you're a non-smoker, you'd never think of taking a cigarette offered it to you. If you become "someone who doesn't eat unhealthy office snacks," it is easier to make the decision not to take them. It may help to visualize the healthy eater you'd like to become and exactly what they would do when walking by the office snacks.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:03 AM on August 14, 2019

Have a set snack time. Mine where 10.30am & 3pm. At those times I could take a break & go & have a snack.

Also is is really the snacks you like or the chance to get up from your desk & take a break for a few minutes for whatever reason while you go get the snack? If so set a timer & every hour or whatever works for you take an actual mental break for a few minutes & go & get a glass of water or just do some stretches at your desk. Having set times, mean you are more consciously in charge & will help you break the doing it without thinking habit. I work from home & constant snacking was a problem for me until I did this.
posted by wwax at 8:37 AM on August 14, 2019

Warming: this is very stupid. But it helps me in the grocery store. My magic phrase, which I've used on myself on probably every damn shopping trip since January, is, "They're out of Twix."

They're not actually out of Twix. Of course they're not out of Twix. But this is what i say in my head as I march briskly past the candy aisle.

I think this works because it forces me to take a sec and imagine what I would do if they *were* actually out. Would I find something a bit healthier to snack on? Would I be absolutely just fine? Of course. So I think, oh what a shame, no Twix today, maybe next time. It's very dumb but it works for me.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:41 AM on August 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

Tracking everything in My Fitness Pal helps me. I can eat what I want, but seeing the numbers helps me give it a second thought.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:45 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Trying to deny yourself something leads you to fixating on it. Frame it as a positive choice. Not "I'm not allowed to snack." but "I am choosing to not eat those snacks." This always produces a better outcome for me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd do a star chart on a wall calendar. Every day you *don't* have a junk snack gets a star. 3 stars in a row gets a sticker. 3 stickers gets a non-food treat like new nail polish, book, toy. Re-do the numbers to suit you. It feels like you're 5, but rewards are very effective for changing behavior.

Is the snack food free? Can the company be persuaded to add apples and fresh cut veggies? Non-fat popcorn, rice cakes? Free junk food is pretty anti-healthy, even those peanut butter crackers are full of salt, sugar, fat. Is the sparkly water in the same location? Keep it at your desk so you have less temptation.

Do all the suggestions here, mint gum, brush teeth, rubber band, etc. I like the mouthfeel of crunchy food, so carrots and celery. I love salt, so salt for the celery.

You can also strike a bargain with yourself that for every junk item you'll use the stairs to go to the 3rd floor and back.
posted by theora55 at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2019

I don't have free snacks at work, but there's a vending machine. I stopped going to it daily by bringing in my own 'bad' treats which I like better. E.g. a fair trade dark chocolate sea salt bar that I eat two or four squares at a time hit the "treat" spot hard enough to get me out of the habit of buying a whole hershey's bar from the machine. The vending machine chocolate was never totally satisfying because I knew there were chocolate treats I prefer - now I sub in one I actually like in a quantity that is satisfying but not overwhelming. To be clear, I also have trail mix at my desk, but that's for "actual hunger" snack time, not "mmm treats" snack time.
posted by girlpublisher at 12:14 PM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

The only way I cope with the same problem is continuously drinking strongly flavored decaf tea all day. Right now next to my desk I have pumpkin spice, maple apple cider, cinnamon vanilla (all Stash brand), and caramel apple dream (Celestial Seasonings). They’re all herbal so no calories and I probably drink 3-5 cups a day.
posted by skycrashesdown at 2:32 PM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

See also the many answers to my similar question Dealing with the snack table.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:27 PM on August 14, 2019

Slowly reduce the hours that snacking from office cabinet occurs. Start making the space in your day that you don't go the cabinet. Start with 1 hour that you don't go the cabinet. You know you can go to the cabinet 7 hours, so it makes it easier to not go for that 1 hour. Probably pretty easy to not go for that 1 hour. Next week it is 2 hours, still probably pretty easy. You slowly build up your tolerance.

week 1 not snacking from 9-10 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 2 not snacking from 9-11 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 3 not snacking from 9-12 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 4 not snacking from 9-1 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 5 not snacking from 9-2 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 6 not snacking from 9-3 but the rest of the day snack as usual
week 7 not snacking from 9-4 (can snack between 4-5 only)
week 8 not snacking from 9-4:30 (can snack between 4:30 and 5)

Good luck! would love to hear back what suggestions you try and how it works out!
posted by halehale at 5:09 AM on August 15, 2019

Remind yourself that the office crapcakes suck and are one more instance of the larger phenomenon of work trying to kill you. I will not eat any free thing at the office, including the terrible sheet cakes at the regular cake parties. I don't care that it makes me a terrible curmudgeonly nonjoiner. If I'm getting diabetes, I'm doing it on my own terms, and it's going to be worth it because I'll be getting it from eating good things that I like, not from ersatz grocerystore cake and crap that I'm eating just because it's there and free.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:30 PM on August 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

« Older Creative boost needed   |   Should I take the bar exam? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.