Changing My Workplace Eating Patterns

Cookie spread“Don’t Eat the Crap at Work” was hard to do at my last job. We were known for our parties and always had extra food afterwards that had to go somewhere. Since we didn’t have a breakroom or kitchen, the office fridge and microwave lived in my department, just outside my door. I know, it was not pretty.

Party leftovers (or leftover pizza or birthday cake or anything else) were usually left on the big table where they were right in my way whenever I walked out of the office. People would graze the rest of the afternoon. And then at the end of the day, I ended up packing everything up and cleaning the space to make sure there wasn’t anything around to attract mice. I ate a lot of it.

I also ended up having poor lunch habits, eating at my desk in front of my computer almost every day. There was literally nowhere else to go in the building, since lounging space was at a premium and the students had priority. Occasionally I’d find a space or two but it was easier to just eat in the office near the microwave, where I would often zap leftovers or a frozen meal. Usually it was just salad in front of the computer and then back to work.

Things are very different now.

My new boss has a strict rule about no lunches in the office. Partly it’s to keep mice from finding us or hanging around if they’re already visiting. There’s a tiny little fridge not big enough for lunches if we all brought them, and no microwave – at least in our department. I did finally find a tiny breakroom on another floor in another section and it does have a small kitchen and microwave, with tables as well as casual seating. The school also has a dining hall that’s been closed all summer but when school’s back in session, there will be another place to sit down and eat away from my desk.

HungryGirl coolerI’ve been eating meals out a lot since I got here, getting in some extra walking and seeing the neighborhood. On days when I bring lunch, I pack it in a little cooler (just got a cute pink Hungry Girl one that’s adorable) with a frozen ice pack to help keep things chilled, and eat it sitting out in the lovely courtyard and reading or chatting with coworkers.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes to actually take a lunch break that’s time away from the office. I come back refreshed in mind and body (my eyes and muscles are really happy to not be sitting at the computer non-stop) and have more energy for working through the afternoon. Wow, what a concept.

I also really love that there isn’t a grazing table anywhere within sight. Occasionally someone will bring in a plate of homemade cookies or nice chocolates to share, but it’s not much, not often, it’s out of sight, and isn’t a problem. There aren’t any scents wafting through from food and that keeps me from picking up something just because it smells good. Chocolate only smells if you have it in your hand and up by your nose.

We don’t really have crap at my new work place, only the things I bring for myself, which means I have the chance to plan them. There are well-stocked vending machines and it’s easy to be tempted by the salty snacky stuff when I pick up my diet soda. So I’ve learned to pack more healthy options to help me get through the day – a Fiber One peanut bar in the morning and an apple for afternoon, usually. And I’m feeling more in control and happy with my choices. It’s a good change.

Applying the Serenity Prayer to weight loss

Serenity PrayerThe Serenity prayer is well known to anyone in a 12-step program and most of us can repeat it, or at least this much of it.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve been thinking about these words and how they relate to me and where I am now with my weight loss journey. It’s a lot easier to say them than to actually live them.

The number of things I cannot change body-wise really aren’t that many but they’re there. I’m short. My knees have limited mobility and damage from arthritis, meniscus tears and ruptured ligaments. I am almost 53 and not getting younger. I’ve lived with irritable bowel syndrome for 25 years. Although I can control most of it by watching what I eat, it often flares up without notice. I have to eat to live.

Changeable things include almost everything: relationships, eating, exercise, where I live, managing money, managing time, fun activities, learning stuff, travel, controlling clutter. I complain about most of them more often than not – no time, too many things to do. It’s a lot easier to wish things were different, that I’d win the lottery or magically find myself coming home from the gym without the step of going first.

Changing them, most of them, won’t take a lot of courage, just a decision to do something different. Others require core change that does take courage. Picking up and moving to a new state and new job takes courage. Taking the courageous step to go to a Weight Watchers or OA meeting for the first time – or even going to a routine meeting after going on a binge. Facing the fact that things I think are unchangeable actually CAN be changed if I have enough courage to deal with them.

Being fat is not an unchangeable condition. Some people will deal with it by taking the courageous step of having major surgery. Others will deal with it by having the courage to recognize their lifestyle is not immutable and can be changed with many many small steps strung together.

It takes courage to stay with it over time. Waving a wand over a body would be a lot simpler but it doesn’t work like that and it shouldn’t. If I didn’t work at this, it wouldn’t have the same meaning. I can put money in a machine, push a button and get my bottle of Diet Pepsi but there isn’t a body machine that works the same way – and to be honest, I’m grateful. I wouldn’t know how to be in that world of the Planet of Girls without the time and courage it takes to move slowly into it from my Planet of Fat (thanks to Frances for the imagery).

Knowing the difference between what can be changed and what can’t does require wisdom and often several attempts to try and turn one into the other. How do you know if it can’t be changed unless you try? And if you assume something can be changed and it can’t, you’ll find that out soon enough.

I may be 52 but I don’t have to look my age. I may have bad knees but I can have strong muscles to help support them. I may be short … okay, I’m short and that’s not going to change.  Time to accept it.