Some working women consume an extra 100,000 calories in office snacks annually and can put on 28 pounds a year because of it, according to research conducted by Kallø, a company that churns out rice cakes. They found that women have at least three snacks during a typical working day, totaling almost 500 calories a day (or 2,240 calories a week) on average.
The National Health Service (NHS) guidelines state that women should eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, which therefore means that working women take in more than an entire day’s worth of calories in a given work week. With the start of the new year, working women (among a lot of the population) have resolved to cut back and lose weight — in 2017, almost a quarter of all resolutions were to lose weight or eat healthier.
We reached out to health experts to share tips on how women can stick to their weight loss goals and resolutions, despite tantalizing office snacks. Here are 10 of their best takeaways for office snacking in 2018.
1. Be prepared.
“It is very difficult to eat well without intention, and very easy to eat poorly without planning,” explains Meghan Lyle, MPH, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Arivale Coach. “In-office snack traps abound, from goodies in the kitchen to mandatory meetings with sub-par fare, to candy bowls at reception. Having a plan for how to deal with these temptations first is key. This will likely involve preparing healthy snack options to bring in yourself, or stashing a week’s worth of healthy options at your desk.”
“Whether you meal prep and bring your meals and snacks or find a few restaurants with dishes that fit your goal, create a weekly meal plan,” adds registered dietitian and CEO of Nutrimedy, Karolina Starczak. “It will help remove the decision making when you're under the influence of hunger and checking off the meals can is just downright fun.”
2. Get enough sleep.
“An overlooked key to sticking to your weight loss during the workday is ensuring that you get enough sleep the night before,” says Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo.com. “While most people require around eight hours of sleep a night, the average woman gets six hours and 40 minutes. The resulting sleep deprivation leads to poor food choices the next day. Why? Because lack of sleep can increase levels of ghrelin, a ‘hunger hormone,’ and decrease levels of leptin, a hormone that helps you feel full. Not only that, when you're tired, you can't think as clearly and your willpower suffers. It's harder to say ‘no’ to those cookies when you're tired. In fact, your body will crave carbs when you don't get enough sleep.”
3. Start your day off right.
“People who eat two eggs for breakfast will typically remain less hungry in the morning compared to someone eating toast or a bagel,” explains Carol Michaels of Carol Michaels Fitness. “It takes longer for the body to break down the protein meal. Adding vegetable to the protein gives you the fiber and nutrition necessary for a healthy meal. Try to stay way from processed foods — anything that comes in a wrapper is processed. And of course drink plenty of water or green tea throughout the day.”
“Having a big breakfast would solve some issues for a lot people,” adds Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “Furthermore, and this may shock some people, if you know you are going to snack anyway, do it in the morning. If you want to eat some junk, make an attempt to incorporate it into your breakfast. Not instead of breakfast, mind you, but in addition to… You burn more energy during the day, so it is best to snack in the morning. By the time crave-o’clock rolls around, you are not as hungry as you would otherwise be, hence you are less likely to be tempted.”
4. Don’t deprive yourself.
“Hunger is the enemy to weight loss,” Lyle says. “In other words, depriving yourself by skimping on breakfast or going ultra low-calorie for lunch is likely to backfire. We are wired to reach for high-fat, high-sugar treats when our blood sugar dips, so you are fighting a powerful biological pull if you try to fast your way to weight loss. Not to mention, a pattern of skimping early in the day and caving to afternoon treats can leave you lethargic, less productive, and less likely to hit up the gym after you get off work.”
“When you come prepared it’s easy to stick to your plan,” adds Ginny Wright, certified health coach and fitness expert. “Of course, if someone in the office is celebrating a birthday go ahead and eat the cupcake. Since you’ve learned to eat healthfully 80 percent of the time, it’s perfectly ok to splurge every now and then!”
5. Choose wisely.
Rachelle Mallik, registered dietitian specializing in reproductive nutrition for fertility, prenatal and postnatal wellness says that you should choose snacks that will give you sustained energy, instead of a sugar high that’ll make you crash. “Some easy, office-friendly options are hummus and veggie sticks or whole grain crackers (Mary's Gone Crackers and Simple Mills are two of my faves), a small apple or banana with almonds or peanut butter (Justin's makes single-serve packs, which are super convenient), two clementines and a quarter of a cup of roasted nuts (California Almonds makes portable snack tins for portion control), or a cup of lentil soup," she advises.
“If you choose to have a snack, choose something you know you will enjoy and will satisfy you,” adds Renée Jones, counselor, coach and author of What’s Really Eating You: Overcome the Triggers of Comfort Eating. “If it’s a temptation, and you’re going to give in to it, take the time to enjoy the food, chewing and savoring the flavors rather than swallowing it whole. Sit down at a table, use a plate and utensil, and enjoy every bite. Give that food the same honor you’re giving your craving. Make it count.”
6. Tell your coworkers about your goals.
“If you lack willpower, I recommend telling people about your goals and what rules you have created for yourself,” says Marcey Rader, productivity and health coach. “This keeps you accountable and invites people to call you out if you decide to go for the jelly bean jar. This time of year, others may have that goal, as well. Ask others if you all can take turns bringing in healthier (raw nuts, fruit, veggie tray) or less calorie-dense snacks (popcorn or pop-chips).”
“You can and should tell select (read: helpful) colleagues of your intention to eat well, and let them help you stay accountable, and ideally find a buddy to celebrate your successes with,” adds Coleman Collins, an NSCA-certified coach (CSCS) and author of the forthcoming The Road Warrior: A Practical Guide to Maintaining Your Health, Productivity, and Sanity While Traveling for Work. “Tell them that you’re not going to have any office snacks, and then when you’re tempted, skip it and tell them you didn’t succumb… It’s another way divert the habit loop but still get a reward.”
“Keeping on top of hydration is also important as sometimes hunger signals can be confused with thirst, so make sure to drink half your weight in ounces of water each day, says Jamie Logie, personal trainer, nutritionist and health and wellness coach of the blog and podcast called Regained Wellness.
But that's not the only benefit of hydrating. “Not only is [drinking water] important for the healthy hydration factor itself, but it will help you get up and out of your desk more often, as well, for refilling the bottle and emptying the bladder,” adds Kate Campbell, dietitian and nutrition program coordinator.
8. Eat smaller meals more frequently.
“Eating smaller more frequent meals that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber (egg white frittata for breakfast, turkey chili and salad for lunch or oven roasted salmon with roasted asparagus) can make us feel satisfied for longer, thus cutting out unnecessary snacking,” says Priya Khorana, EdD, exercise physiologist and nutritionist.
9. Stabilize your blood sugar.
“Your ability to stabilize blood sugar is greatest in the morning, which makes breakfast significantly important,” explains Brandon Mentore, strength and conditioning coach, functional medicine practitioner and sports nutritionist.. “Many people either skip breakfast, make a poor food selection and/or begin their morning with caffeine, which in itself destabilizes blood sugar in the short term. The ideal scenario is to eat breakfast; it doesn’t have to be a lot of food, but something with an adequate amount of fat and protein as the primary macronutrient that drives the meal… The more appropriate your breakfast is in stabilizing your blood sugar the less you’ll crave or have the desire to snack, the more you’ll be able to resist the urge to snack, you’ll be more satiated and relaxed, and willpower is more potent when your blood sugar is stabilized.”
10. Focus on the whole journey.
“Never have the mindset that if you slip up, the ‘day is ruined,’” Lyle advises. “Healthy eating and progress towards a weight loss goal will be uneven, and there will inevitably be the days that don’t go perfectly. It’s not about perfection, and a perfection mindset can get in the way of progress. If you eat a donut at that recurring meeting, make a plan for next time, and meanwhile get back to your plan for the rest of the day.”
“Your weight and waist size are bad yardsticks with which to measure your progress or derive motivation (both positive and negative),” says Collins. “They’re bad for two reasons: The feedback loop is not tight enough, and you can’t tie progress or lack thereof to a single, changeable thing. Instead, focus on the smaller wins, the behavioral change, the daily successes, and let the outcomes take care of themselves.”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.