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Working in an Office or Working at Home: Which is Better For Your Waistline?

Posted Oct 20 2010 6:30pm
Has there ever been a better-named snack than this one? Why do we not have these in the US? I need some crunky nudity!

"What smells like... salsa?" My coworker at the computer lab (told you I was a born nerd!) looked around until his eyes settled on me, eating lunch tucked into my cubicle. "What is that thing?" he screeched as if he'd caught me gorging on rat innards. This of course caused all my coworkers to come popping out of their cubes like a life-size game of whack-a-mole.

"It's a red pepper," I replied simply. Due to time constraints I hadn't bothered to cut it up and was just eating it whole, like an apple. The moles retreated.

"I thought peppers were just green. They come in red?" he asked, clearly flustered.

"And yellow and orange. Sometimes purple."

"And you just eat it?"

"I just eat it." Ah the days when fresh produce was newsworthy!

I was a lot skinnier in college. This is not unique to me of course - chalk it up to the nuclear metabolisms of youth. For me, however, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was never home. For one thing I had a roommate who was being stalked by debt collectors who insisted on yelling at any female who answered the phone but it also helped that I was as neurotic as they come using every hour not in class or working to study.

Ignoring for a moment the periods where I was actively eating disordered, it seemed to be easier to control what I ate when I wasn't around my kitchen all the time. (Note: it was also much easier to be eating disordered in college.) I'm the planning queen so while office mates were hitting the vending machines for a meal of chewy Runts and diet Dew, I was pulling out my tupperware of salad with sliced pears and cheese crumbles. I hardly ever snacked and I only ate when I was really hungry. (Sometimes really really hungry - I was a terrible meal skipper).

All of which is a far cry from my life now where, thanks to demanding little people, snacks are on the agenda about every waking hour. There is always food on the table, the counters, the floor, and in my baby's neck rolls. (Note to new moms: make sure to lift up your little darling's chin when you bathe him or her. Tons of gunk gets stuck down there and since babies have no necks, you never see it. I learned this the hard way when I found black specks all over my baby's neck. I was sure he had fleas and rushed him to the doctor's. Turns out they were Oreo cookie crumbs. From me. That I'd eaten while I was nursing him. Don't be me.) ANYHOW, as much as I'd like to say that I never eat the PB&J crusts or the soggy nub of a cheese stick, I totally do. In addition to all the visible food, since I do all the shopping our cupboards are filled with food that I love to eat. So when I get writer's block or just hit with a block (happens more than you'd think), it's all too easy to de-stress standing in front of the freezer with a fork and a pint of ice cream. The last issue is how much of my life I spend cooking - I've already 'fessed up to cooking about 20 out of 21 meals a week - and when I cook, I taste. Sometimes I taste so much I have "tasted" an entire meal before even sitting down with my family.

But while I do impart a glossy sheen to my pre-child work days (I could wear a cute top with a skirt and heels without anyone asking me why I'm dressed up so fancy and then bursting into tears because that usually means I'm going somewhere without my entourage of minis.) I do remember the pitfalls of the office diet. Many of my working friends, and quite a few of you in the comments section of my last Intuitive Eating post, reminded me how hard it is to eat healthily at work. Between the client dinners and the office doughnuts and the face cake for everyone's birthdays , the office can be a minefield of temptation. Not to mention the lack of kitchen facilities for fresh food prep and storage, the overtime and the lunch hours that slowly turn into lunch minutes between meetings.

So! Which is better - working in an office or working at home? Cue the mompetition! Second only to the "does this make me look fat" conversation, the career vs. stay-at-home argument is generally a guaranteed way to end up with hurt feelings, strained friendships and possibly a stiletto heel in your eye. Thankfully for me, I'm only talking about which is better for your waistline, not the cosmic implications of where you choose to raise your Special Ovarian Deliveries. (You will notice that I use the phrase "working" in both descriptions because having done both I will tell you that it's hard work no matter which venue you choose to do it in. You may also note that I choose to refrain from limiting the fun to one gender- um, dudes can totally wear stilettos too. Lots of Daddies work at home these days.) The research says that people are more likely to overeat when they are stressed out and their cortisol levels rise so perhaps it's just a question of who stresses you out more - your kids or your boss?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both but I'm going to vote that for me, being in a different zip code than my refrigerator really quells my predilection for mindless grazing. What's your vote? Do you do better with your eating at home or at work? At home - what are your tips to keep from grazing? At work - what are your tricks for avoiding the candy jar? And - anyone else eat ice cream with a fork? I cannot use a spoon; it just feels wrong!
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