Pitfalls of the Office Kitchen Treat Table

Two months ago, I started a new job. I love the people and the work so much. The benefits are awesome, and I can tell that my new employer really cares about my well being. We have programs that support health (walks, nutrition information, etc.), and work-life balance couldn’t be better. Get this. There was even a taste test among different coffees when the type of office coffee was being changed.

Donuts make up a big part of treats left in the office kitchen

There is, however, one thing. The office kitchen treat table. With 60 plus employees in the building on any given day, the treats can pile up. Over the past couple of months, I have had to steel my resolve to resist a cornucopia of treats, including but not limited to:

–Birthday cake that appears every time one is celebrated

–Leftover cake, cookies, and other goodies every time someone has a party

–Leftover donuts from meetings

–Pizza from lunches (this is the hardest to resist)

–Warm banana bread with butter

–Candy of all types

I have caved a few times, once almost sticking my face in a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting. I am in the kitchen a lot, preparing my lunch and snacks. So, I have to parade by this stuff pretty often. I have gotten used to it on some level. I know there are other people who struggle as I do with cravings and a love of all that carb-ey goodness. As I have seen in my own life, it is very hard to change a food pattern once it is established. I think it is the same with the office treat table. It is accepted and it is a place to celebrate. I really get that and love the “spirit” of the treat table. So, I know it is not going to go away. I can do my best to change what treats appear on the treat table, but I know it is a fixture.

So, how do I deal with it? Planning, planning, and more planning ( see post). It can be tedious and not as fun as the treat table, but I’ve got to do it. I resist the treats by being intentional and having great food planned for meals and snacks. If I get into a rut and have boring food, or stuff I just don’t like all that much, I am going to cave. I make sure I am satiated after meals so I am better equipped to resist the cakes, pies,  and pizza. I have also taken to ordering “special” food when we are having lunch brought in for meetings. People are really accommodating when you just ask. Perhaps leading by example is the best place to start when trying to change what lands on the treat table.

How have you struggled with the office treat culture? How can we change it? Leave a comment.

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5 Comments on “Pitfalls of the Office Kitchen Treat Table”

  1. Barb says:

    I really enjoyed all the comments and have to say that I think I do a little of all of the above. My problem was that my office is the central place for our department and all treats go about 3 feet from my desk next to the coffee pot. I am the “really nice lady” at work so hate to make waves but I know all the junk is not good for any of us, so I finally worked up the courage to tell everyone that if they have sugary treats to bring in, they need to wait for a staff meeting (about once a month). That way I’m not being the bad guy, they can have their cake but I have some control. I have a great boss who is very healthy and would like to see about 3/4 of our department lose some weight so between us, we bring in clementines, apples, an egg dish, nuts, etc. Now a few others are joining us and doing the same. Summer has been great so far and we have had lots of shared garden produce. So while I think a certain amount of acceptance (and the occasional chocolate chip cookie) is good for office morale, the more we individually can do to turn the tide of popular, but negative, nutritional behavior is the best option for everyone in the long run..

  2. John M. says:

    I find the best defense is just staying away. We tend to have an announcement if someone brings in bagels or pastries. If I know it’s there and can stay out until it’s gone, I’m fine. The ones that get me are the home made cookies. On those days, I hope I have ridden my bike to work so I have a chance to keep even on the way home.

  3. Jessica says:

    Late night (early morning) greetings and kudos from the Chicago ‘burbs.
    #1 congratulations on landing a job in a tough economy! (So glad it’s going well for you.)
    #2 bravo for identifying a recurring issue that those in the group work environs must handle

    My office treat table experience (struggle) echos yours. With a nod especially to the love and sense of community that co-workers/colleagues share these goodies. (We’re so stressed; we need and deserve the BREAK)

    As much as everything is about the food for me, I regularly feel the treat-table tug is also about a sense of community and what I miss (i.e. the workplace social “fallout”) if I do/don’t participate. (sidebar: I’ll admit to the perpetual psychological at-war-with-self grey area I play with about recognizing special occasions – with food/not denying myself that occasional celebration – and my deserve-level. Even if I’m full, the cake is calling! But that’s a whole other level of self-awareness that needn’t be unpacked as comment here)

    You’re on-par about so, so many things:
    –> the treat table is not going away
    –> planning is essential, both resisting and for indulging
    –> recognizing that we own the choice

    Treat table – numbers game: Accept that the numbers are not in our favor. 60 co-workers = 60 birthdays. Let’s not forget graduations, work-place anniversaries, and if you’re lucky a celebrative atmosphere where project completion and workplace milestones are celebrated (with food)! Our bodies have proven to us that we can’t handle that level and frequency of indulgence. What you clearly DO have a handle on is what your body needs to be healthy.

    In addition to the excellent daily plan and treat ideas you’ve got going for yourself, here are a few things I do:
    *strategy: plan to indulge once a month (or x-time period you can live with)
    *strategy: BYO for the rest of the time (some for self and some to share)
    *alternatives: reward and recognition (or at least self-reward) that you’ll LOVE. Put a dollar in a swear jar for each time you don’t each that $#!king doughnut or &$#%^mned piece of cake. At the end of the (day/week/month) spend it on yourself. Designate a (day/week/month per year) to donate to a favorite cause or charity.
    *comment: Deviant Snacking = awesome! Regarding healthy snacks, they’ve become surprisingly popular alongside the “junk” at my workplace. Seems there is a quiet group of folks (dare I say silent majority) who appreciate the healthful veggie tray. More on this below

    Planning: your daily living plan is SO solid. Maybe you can take a similar approach to the treat table celebrations? Plan to not participate (eat their junk) most of the time. Keep an emergency stash of dark, dark chocolate on hand – preferably something so expensive and indulgent that it should be behind a glass window and include a little tool to break the glass (alt.: have a friend keep your chocolate/treat) for when you are close to caving. See also swear jar above!

    Pick a fun food (in my case, that involves a recipe!) to share in the food fest: roasted chickpeas, kale chips, some of your fabulous homemade ranch dressing and cucumber slices, NWW egg bake (made in mini-muffin cups), or NWW cheesecake.

    I love bringing in the new/funky (healthy) recipe. It’s NOT chocolate cake, but often it’s a hit, but sometimes not, but that’s okay. In a hundred years, it won’t matter! [I’ve been working to give up perfection. Funny thing is that THAT requires practice. Ha. Tough!]

    Note/confession: Though the occasional fun/party stuff comes easy for me, the daily living planning is a complete drag for me and I generally stink at it. Thanks for continuing to be a role model in this regard. (I need the guidance and motivation to keep at it!)

    Ownership: I have to remind myself (repeatedly) that my co-workers aren’t in the doctor’s office with me when I get my blood pressure checked or blood drawn for a lipid profile. We share lots of things at work: stress, complaints, workload, office colds, gossip, etc. We do not share a liver or pancreas.

    No one is force-feeding me cake (or fritos or taco dip), and once I put it in my mouth, it’s all mine… the good and the bad.

    I need to do a better job to take a page from my Yoga class (and Buddhism): pause – before I put anything in my mouth – pause to just Be. Just celebrate this wonderful moment where I appreciate yourself (myself). Your self (My self). Your body (My body).

    Celebrate having this good place: a job you like (or love), pleasant colleagues/workplace, and the event you’re recognizing. How fortunate we are, and how good is life? Pretty darned good.

    Last note: it’s much easier to write and think about it than to execute “good” behavior in those moments, especially when one is not prepared. The actual practice of a personal lifestyle change and the added complication of an office overhaul is not easy. Hopefully we’ll be able to help ourselves and each other work through things. It’s good to have a forum to think about and work through these things. After having taking time to assess my strategies and planning tools, it’s a good reminder that we’re not in this alone, and I hope to be even more mindful about this at the office this week!

    Good luck to all of us!

  4. Sarah says:

    forgot to say, that I also will bring in a dish for sharing that is friendly to my lifestyle. Like veggies and a super yummy dip. Or a salad, etc. Donuts and candy are cheap so that’s why everyone always brings them 😀

  5. Sarah says:

    oh gosh do I understand that!! I work at a hospital and every doctor and patient thinks it’s great to drop boxes of donuts off and candy and chocolates. It’s ridiculous! I’ve taken to preparing meals that I can eat for snacks and lunches that I don’t need to go to the staff room for. I can just grab and go! If it’s nice out, I go outside and eat. If it’s not I eat in the common area and read a book.

    I find it’s not good enough (for me) to just have an alternative. I can’t even see it as my sugar deprived and addicted body just goes into obsessive compulsive mode once I even SEE the junk. Salivary glands and brain go into overdrive and I am sure all my brain chemicals are dumping insulin into my blood stream too.


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