I spent a long career focused on success and putting in the hours required to be a productive and quality professional. I was always energized by my career goals and truly enjoyed my work. But, the work was demanding and very stressful and over time, to maintain that focus and determination at work, something had to give. In retrospect, I see that I made compromises in some important areas of my health. For me, and for many women, I believe, the drive and determination at work brings on a certain neglect of self care.
We hear it all the time, “you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t first take care of yourself,” and its very true. What I just didn’t realize at the time was that some things I was doing to cope with the stress of my busy life, were seriously harmful to my health. I never made time to eat right, and almost always used food to calm me down, or otherwise provide some emotional comfort. Sugary sweets, salty snacks, and fried foods always called my name at work. Since convenience is important when you are short on time, the easy, but unhealthy choice almost always wins outs. So the years track by quickly, and after a while it all takes its toll. The career story is positive … the health story is not.
I can also remember making several attempts to change my ways – nutritionally speaking. My efforts lasted a short while, but when stress levels escalated, I never seemed to have an escape route to keep me from returning to those poor choices. Emotional eating causes a chain of reactions in our brains. During stressful times we crave foods that make us feel good. Sugar and carbs trigger a release of chemicals in the brain that provide relief, relieve pain, and stimulate pleasure receptors. Also, not all work situations are positive and that brings another new set of emotional eating issues. Some people just want to escape from workplace problems that plague them and end up just grazing and eating unconsciously all day. Emotional eating can ultimately leave you feeling drained and defeated, especially if you have been trying to stick to healthy eating goals.
Next time emotional eating at work threatens to derail your healthy goals, be prepared. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help:
Think about your overall health, not just the food. Take some time to think about how you won’t allow your career to compromise your healthy goals and about the big picture of your life overall and the value of taking care of yourself as you age. Let your core values drive you and motivate you toward making positive choices so that the junk food at work is easier to resist.
Devise a real plan. Keep a journal of your goals or get an app to track your eating and exercise. Take it to work and to meetings and allow it to keep you accountable. Its a great motivator to stay on track and believe me, you won’t want to track that candy bar, so you just might decide it’s not worth it to visit the vending machine. Also, a good nutrition coach with solutions and support is always a wonderful resource when stressful times are challenging your efforts.
Be ready for all the office socializing around food. Most offices have regular occasions to bring in food. Office potlucks, someone’s birthday, a work anniversary, employee appreciation events, planning sessions and the list goes on. Try to keep healthy snacks at work for when you need them and for when you want to participate in an “eating” event, but don’t necessarily want to partake in the donuts or pizza party.
If you are in a job that you know challenges you daily with stress and the chance for emotional eating is high, getting prepared is your best defense. Remember to eat mindfully too. Take your time when you eat and try to enjoy the taste and textures and aromas of the food. If you do join the pizza party, eat slowly and enjoy it, taking your time and decide ahead of time that one slice is enough. If you are still hungry, go grab the apple or the almonds you brought to work or the veggies that you prepared and stashed in the office fridge for the week.
You are a busy and creative woman. If you channel the same focus and determination into your self care, and setting yourself up to achieve your healthy goals, as you do in being highly successful at your career, then avoiding the emotional eating train wreck at work will be a piece of cake – yes, pun intended.