If you work in an office environment there is a very good chance you will have your very own office feeder. In fact, even at Cardiff Sports Nutrition, we have our own dastardly devil that plies us with food (Matt). Many a time you will overhear in telling another member of staff to 'eat more calories'
Not sure what I’m talking about? Well, office feeders are the international diet breakers, those colleagues who enjoy almost force feeding you with a constant stream of delicious treats for various different reasons. They frequently bring in an array of unhealthy foods to tempt fellow co-workers whilst rarely allowing even the smallest piece to cross their own lips. They never take no for an answer, often answering pleas about dietary restrictions with “Go on, just one won’t hurt”, except it is never just one.
Why these people are so concerned with forcing others to eat is up for debate. Some theories focus on the innocent generosity. Often, office feeders are genuinely really nice people who are just eager to please. It is a simple act of bonding with colleagues and making friends through a common interest in the form of delicious food. An act undertaken for the right reasons, that can have negative consequences. Other theories are a little more sinister. It is a strong possibility that these feeders have an unhealthy relationship with food, and may be harbouring some form eating disorder themselves. It may be a way to feed their own egos, watching others consume the calories while they are able to resist the temptation. It is thought that, like most eating disorders, office feeders are more frequently female (although there is no concrete evidence to this). This has lead to the theory that women feeders are driven by a desire to appear more attractive than her female colleagues to the men in the office, and thus uses food as weapon. Food is often used as a competitive tool and slimness is seen as the ultimate sign of self-control and perfection. Although this is debateable (and somewhat controversial) it has been frequently reported by ‘victims’ of the office feeders.
Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University has undertaken research in this area to help understand the reasons and effects of office feeders. Wansink found that secretaries ate 5.6 times more chocolates if placed on their desk, than if they had to get up and walk 2 metres to get them. Another simple study he performed showed that office workers consumed 71% more sweets from a clear glass jars than compared to opaque jars of the same confectionary. Wansink also found that office workers consume 30% more calories when in company than when alone, and women were more likely to be influenced than men.
The big question is how can we limit the impact of office feeders or avoid them altogether? This can be a difficult thing to achieve without hurting their feelings, as the rejection could be taken personally. Unfortunately, sometimes you will just need to be firm (but fair) and politely refuse. If need be you can privately explain to the feeder your situation and that he/she is making you uncomfortable. Usually, this should be enough to curtail their advances for at least awhile.
Professor Wansink found during his research that we are more likely to eat what we can see. Keeping portions of fruit and vegetable snacks in view when the dreaded feeder does his/her rounds, you are far less likely succumb to temptation and may act as an effective way to deter the feeder from pestering you. Another option that has been shown to work is to not throw away chocolate or sweet wrappers can be an effective deterrent to snack by reminding you what you have already eaten, playing those naughty eating guilt strings.
You could also go down a sneakier route to avoid those diet busting treats. Using little white lies, such as dietary intolerances (gluten, dairy etc) or illnesses are much easier excuses for the feeder to accept, and they will be far less likely to maintain their current irritating persistence. You could even accept the treats, keeping hold of the wrapping, and bury them deep in the bin once their attention has moved on to somebody else.
Being able to limit the impact of the office feeder can greatly improve the likelihood of success of any diet or training regime you are on. The persistent treats and snack they provide can quickly increase your daily calorie intake without you even realising it. In most modern workplaces, the success of your diet and achieving the body you desire is strongly dependant with how you deal with those office diet saboteurs.