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Is eating at your desk dooming your diet?

By Nicci Micco, March 29, 2011 - 11:39am

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Is eating at your desk dooming your diet?

In the March/April issue of EatingWell Magazine we reported on a recent study that showed playing solitaire (on the computer) dampened people’s memories of lunch, which, in turn, may have caused them to eat 125 calories more when they snacked later. My first thought: Well, good thing I don’t play solitaire. Or Scrabble. Or Angry Birds. (What is that anyway?)

Then it occurred to me: I dine deskside pretty much every day. While I eat, I read tweets, catch up on e-mails, flip through a magazine. For me, all of this is work-related. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

As a weight-loss expert, I know that multitasking at mealtime is not ideal: it’d be better to eat mindfully, savoring every bite. (Why tuning into your food helps you lose weight.) But, honestly, it’s not going to happen. I have two little kids and a full-time workload. I don’t mind working through lunch, especially if it allows me to take a break for something else like a walk. Plus, I rarely do one thing at a time. It’s just not in my nature (much as I’d like it to be).

So I’ve come up with some ways that I think can help me—and you—keep calories in check when eating “el desko.”

(Discover 4 foods to eat if you overeat.)

1. Plan, plan, plan. Decide how many calories you should be eating in a day. (Find your magic calorie number here.) Then, plot out what you’ll eat for your meals and your snacks. Choose things that you like, that taste good. That are memorable. Stick to the menu and you won’t overeat. (EatingWell’s interactive menu planner makes plotting out meals fun and easy.)

2. Stop before you snack. Are you really hungry? Or are you anxious? Often I start munching when I’m stressed and on deadline. If that’s the case, popping a piece of gum or getting myself a cup of tea often helps. Or perhaps it’s time to stretch or take a short walk to get some water. An exercise break is even better. Personally, I’d rather take a timeout to walk than to eat (which again I think I can do while working), as I usually return to my desk with improved focus. Of course, this takes convincing myself that it’s OK to go for a walk during the workday and probably good for productivity.
Related link:How do you avoiding eating when you’re not hungry? Weigh in on the discussion in EatingWell’s Losing Well community.

3. Nosh on low-cal crunchy things. When I’m eating at the computer, I can easily throw back several ounces of nuts, which means consuming several hundred calories. So I reach for snap peas and carrots instead.

Recipes to Try: 100-Calorie Snacks

4. Keep a food diary. Countless studies show that writing down everything you eat (or drink) boosts weight-loss success. Tracking forces you to take a look at what you’re really eating. Be sure to record what you’re eating just after you’ve eaten it so you don’t forget anything.

Check Out: Download a Sample Food Diary Page

Now. Tell me: were you reading this over lunch?

Where do you eat lunch?



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TAGS: Nicci Micco, Diet Blog, Good choices, Nutrition, Weight loss, Wellness

Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.

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