Working in an Office, Part 4 – Scheduling Breaks

– Toni Sicola, executive editor and wellness expert

As we wrap up our “Working in an Office” series, I want to do a quick recap and then cover something that might be the most challenging task of everything we’ve covered so far — at least that’s what I hear from most of the folks I work with every day, and most of my friends too.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about:

  • Avoiding BPA by not microwaving plastics and minimizing the use of canned foods (find things in tetra packs instead)
  • Five Easy Steps to Microwave Gourmet, in addition to putting those steps use with a some practical recipes for breakfast and lunch
  • Stocking Your Cubby, providing you with solutions so that you can be prepared each and every day with healthy food choices,thereby minimizing (or even eliminating!) trips to the vending machine

Today, I’m hoping to bring it all together by encouraging you to create a schedule for eating at work just as you would a meeting or other work obligation. This post is about YOU taking care of YOU during your workday. (and me too, I struggle with this a lot)

Scheduling Breaks

Making yourself officially unavailable on your calendar each day during your lunch break might sound like overkill, but I can promise you, it’s not, especially if you create a reminder alarm for yourself to stop what you’re doing and eat (and stick to it!). Putting your lunch break on your calendar accomplishes a few things.

  1. It lets others know that you are unavailable for meetings during that time
  2. It prevents non-essential interruptions
  3. It forces a hard break between the morning and the afternoon
  4. It serves as a visual and temporal queue for you to stop focusing on work and start focusing on food

Do you ever find that your plate of food is on your desk in front of you, and then suddenly you look down, the plate’s empty and you don’t even remember eating? What was happening when you were taking a bite of that sandwich and chewing it and swallowing it and putting it back down, and then repeating? Were you reading something? Were you on a conference call and trying to conceal the crunch? Were you even tasting the sandwich??


click to read about a company where eating at your desk isn’t allowed

We haven’t spent a lot of energy dealing directly with mindfulness in this blog, but we will in coming weeks, especially as we eek toward the holidays. Today, we’ll broach that topic in the context of eating at work and making time to do so.

The recipes we’ve covered so far take as little as 5 minutes to prepare, and the ready-to-eat foods we’ve suggested stocking for snacks take even less time out of your day. But does scarfing down a Larabar over the trashcan count as a break from work? And how nourished do you feel shoveling an apple and almond butter into your mouth over your keyboard while you answer emails and look at spreadsheets? (I actually did the latter yesterday afternoon, no one’s perfect!)

Distracted eating has been shown to cause weight gain, because people are more likely to overeat if their brains aren’t focused on what they’re doing (refer to your bag of chips and your favorite TV show). In studies of mindful eating, those who weren’t distracted were often less hungry later as well — a double whammy. Have a look at this awesome article from Harvard Health Publications to learn more about the studies done on mindful eating and get cool tips and strategies. I think my favorite one is to try eating with your non-dominant hand. (I think I might do that today!)

My action call for today (and for you to try out next week!) is this: schedule your snacks and lunch to practice mindful eating. And stick to those three times for eating instead of having the open bag sitting at your desk. Even if you only take 5 to 7 minutes out for your morning and afternoon snacks, turn of your monitor, and focus on your food. Let me know how it goes.

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