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How to Resist Junk Food at the Office

By Amalah

Photo by bonimo

Hey Amy!

(Please read this parenthetical as the standard you rule, I love your column, your blog, and now that I’m pregnant for the second time I am loving Zero to 40, swoon swoon, you rock, The End.)

Now I’ll get to the point! This is a pregnancy question, but it’s a little different. Over the past 10 months, I have been on a fitness and nutritional coaching program. I lost 50 pounds but, more importantly, became much, much healthier. Thing is, while people really respected those decisions before, now everyone leaves me cookies, muffins, candy, whatever “for the baby.” Seriously? I gained 60 pounds with my daughter, who happened to be 9.5 pounds and prompted the doctor to say, “Does the mom have gestational diabetes?” when she was born. I don’t want to do that again. I’m not going to over-indulge in refined junk. I’m trying for a VBAC, so I can’t have another big-bellied giant growing in there. I avoid feeding my daughter HFCS and artificial colors and refined sugar, so why would I feed it to the one in the womb? I also don’t want to feel as fatigued and gross as the first time. But come on. Baked goods.

They are like my siren song of junkiness. Put a chocolate chip cookie in front of me and then expect me to toss it? OH IT IS SO HARD.

Basically, how do I get people — specifically office people — to stop doing this? Do I wear a sign reading “I give birth to giant children, be nice to my vajayjay and keep the sweets to yourself” or do I just keep trying to stay strong? It’s nice of them, right? And yet… NOT nice, because the people leaving the food definitely know about how I eat! What would you do, great Amalah? I have 27 more weeks of this!

Thank you, Amy!
Knocked Up in DC

Lemme tell you about the easiest 10 pounds I ever lost: the month after I quit my office job to work from home, BAM, the extra pesky weight just melted off. Despite THINKING that I ate reasonably healthy, turns out that I was giving into the temptation of vending machine garbage and the constant, never-ending buffet of the Donated Community Office Snack Table. Krispy Kremes, homemade cookies, birthday cakes, client gift baskets and catered meeting leftovers. Oh, God. All smacking you in the face every time you simply wanted some water or a cup of coffee. I was powerless. POWERLESS.
So there are really two problems here: you need to cut off the supply of junk food, but if that fails (and let’s be honest, it probably will), you need to be able to resist caving in, or at least from caving in so often.

Number one on the temptation beatdown is BREAKFAST. Do not skip or skimp on breakfast. Hit as many major food groups as you can in that one meal. Eggs, fruit/juice, whole grains. Include a healthier meat, if you can, like chicken sausage or turkey bacon, just for that real feeling of fullness. Give into your carb craving (like by baking your own muffins) instead of denying it all day. Breakfast will help curb the morning problems of people depositing their junk-food offerings first thing. Bring along your own snacks that fit your nutritional guidelines for mid-morning and mid-afternoon. If someone brings you something processed and tempting that still has the nutritional info attached, I usually find that a few readings of the ingredients are enough for me to realize that oh…yeah…that sounds more like a science experiment than like, delicious.

But…haaa, right? Plenty of us can stuff ourselves to the gills with “good” stuff and then still manage to find a leeeeeetle bit of room for the “bad” stuff, even if it means a stomachache later. (And by “plenty of us” I mean “me.”) How do you nicely turn down the junk food gifts from coworkers?

Depending on your level of familiarity, there is nothing wrong with just being honest. Try to explain that you and your doctor have a lot of nutritional concerns about this pregnancy and you’re trying really really hard to eat a certain way. They’ll likely assume you’re worried about weight gain and vanity, and it’s up to you whether you want to go into greater detail about the fear of gestational diabetes and fetal size or not. Exaggerate if you have to — mutter something about preliminary blood sugar results and doctors’ orders something something heartburn nausea something. Start putting the food out in a common area — preferably one you can avoid for a few hours — all the time, so people get the hint that you really meant what you said.

I will never, ever underestimate the depth of Some People’s cluelessness, though. There are just people that you can (repeatedly) say NO THANK YOU to, only to have them assume that you didn’t really meeeeeean it, and that they’re still really doing something nice for you. “Oh, she’ll never treat herself otherwise, soooo….” You might try redirecting their kindness — complain about how sugary foods are upsetting your stomach lately, but oh, how you’ve been craving bananas! Or pumpkin seeds, or fruit salad, or peach yogurt, or anything they can grab instead of the giant-ass muffin at Starbucks for you. People LOVE hearing about pregnancy cravings, the more off-the-wall the better, and your office offenders might delight in indulging one for you, if you give them some prodding and guidance.

But take heart! I had a 9 pound, 15 ounce baby and yes, there was much discussion about whether I also had undiagnosed GD. (Noah was tested after birth and his blood sugar was just fine.) I did eat a ton of processed crap during my pregnancy, including plenty of HFCS and hydrogenated oils, since I was more than happy to cater to whatever food whim I had at the time. With my second pregnancy, I definitely ate better (though still far from “perfect”) — I ate a ton of what I could keep down (burritos!) but it was all whole and unprocessed. And while I still ate sweets and desserts, they tended to be more of the “actual real ingredients” varieties. And baby number two was a blissfully manageable seven pounds, seven ounces. So keep doing what you’re doing! The occasional homemade chocolate chip cookie probably isn’t going to be the end of the world, but you’re definitely on the right track and it’s worth sticking with.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Laurie

    November 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

    OMG I completely understand this. I left my job a month before I gave birth to my son and I stopped gaining weight right then and there. Now that may be because it was a hot, hot summer and there was no room in my belly for anything but tomatoes and cucumbers but I was also no longer in the office.
    After he was born (8 pounds even) I breastfed him exclusively and the weight came right off plus I was down about five pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight.
    After his first birthday I weaned him and then went back to work. And gained five pounds. Stupid office job. Or maybe it was my appetite hadn’t realized I was no longer breastfeeding.
    My point: it’s hard and and everything Amy said sounds right on. I’ll be quiet now…

  • Bethany

    November 16, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I’m not pregnant, but I know that my coworkers who have been pregnant have been very open about how they need to be healthy and it seems to help people respect that. I also think that the redirect to healthier foods would be great. If you word it as “my stomach can’t handle sweets, that cookie is making me ill” and then run to the bathroom, people might get the message. No one wants to make the pregnant lady sick…

  • eva

    November 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    The receptionist at my office is 8 months pregnant and “has gestational diabetes” which has totally worked for her in terms of not getting piles of crap shoved down her throat. She is also Italian, so the “diabetes” has helped her to refuse all those third pasta helpings that her family likes to force-feed her. I would definitely recommend maybe not outright lying and saying you have GD when you don’t, but at least stress the whole “my blood sugar” thing as much as possible. Good luck!

  • Dawn

    November 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    My diet at work is fairly lengendary (PB&J sandwiches, pretzels and yogurt)so no one tried to mess with it too much. I did have one employee who would bring in pastries and baked goods for everyone but thankfully didn’t single me out as a recipient. The best thing to do is smile and say that was so thoughtful of you but I’m not hungry right now. Why don’t you put it out for everyone to enjoy?
    When my son was born 12 weeks ago, he came in at a whopping 10 lbs, 7 oz. They were concerned about his blood sugar level but it was fine. Turns out his bilirubin level was out of whack but that’s a different story….
    Doctors did ask me if I had had gestational diabetes but no, I just grow large children and have them vaginally. Though I agree with the PP that breastfeeding took the weight right off (the saggy skin/pouchiness – not so much). In fact my spider sense is tingling so its time to go and pump…

  • heels

    November 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I got to the point where I would thank the person who brought me something and then chuck it in the trash as soon as I was sure they were gone. I didn’t even give myself the chance to consider it as food. I kept a few healthy snacks in my office and, when it got really bad, would make myself a cup of herbal tea. It’s hard, though! It was a daily struggle.

  • Melissa

    November 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I am almost 25 weeks pregnant and have gained…one pound. All I want is oranges and apples. My doctor says I am measuring fine. I was a bit overweight to begin with and he is happy with my progress. Everyone has something to say about my eating habits. Eat more. Not that. This! The thing is, you have to do what’s right for you. I have tried eating people’s “gifts” or having that second helping of whatever (thanks mom), but this pregnancy has put some sort of alarm system on my stomach. I could be craving a cupcake, buy it, bring it to my lips and have two bites. Then, some sort of reaction happens that tells my head, “THIS IS YOUR LAST BITE.” If I don’t listen to that voice, I lose my lunch. or snack. or breakfast. whatever. Without going into detail, I just tell people that my stomach is very sensitive now.
    Also, everyone has a comment. I have been told I am gigantic and that a person didn’t even know I was pregnant in the same day by two different women. I don’t need the commentary.
    I can definitely sympathize with KUDC.

  • Della

    November 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Just chiming in that having PROTEIN with your breakfast will help you be satisfied longer. Once I figured this out, I started to realize that it was lunch time already and I hadn’t been distracted by thinking of food/driven to the kitchen from hunger.
    As far as dealing with the people, I think the redirect method is awesome. My mom is one of Those People who (like Amy described) figure since everyone else listened to you, you need someone (aka her) to still bring the sweets because she know how much you love them and “cheating every once in a while [turning into daily] won’t hurt!”!!!
    Redirecting to “wow, I have totally been craving ____” (insert specific item there) would work great with her. Especially the more specific, and more indulgent it sounds. For some people, like Mom, the harder to find (and less likely you would buy it for yourself) or prepare, the more excited they are to supply it for you.
    I had this thing about the smell of cucumbers when I was pregnant. It always smelled delicious, but I just couldn’t overcome inertia to get one, slice it, and so on. With a person like my mom, if we’d had a conversation about the craving and how I “never get any cucumber” because I bought them but “could never seem to find the time to slice it, and by the time it went bad I hadn’t eaten it!” you just KNOW I would have found a plate of them on my desk every day.
    Alternately, if they’re the kind of person that is simply stopping by the neighorhood grocery and picking up a coffee cake, rave about how bad you’ve been wanting canteloupe, and maybe they’ll grab a fruit tray instead. Still easy, still a standard, but healthy.

  • TasterSpoon

    November 16, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Oh man. I’m not pregnant, but I still struggle – today is Doughnut Day at work. I’m eager to see people’s advice for resisting the siren call of a Raised Glazed.
    What I do presently is bring nothing but raw fruits and vegetables for my lunch on Doughnut Day and hope the calories/fat/nutrition average out.

  • Heidi

    November 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    When I was pregnant, OH LAWD the stuff I was brought. Where my office was, it was predominately women. MOTHERS. I was given scads of ice cream, cookies, muffins, scones…While OH MAH GOODNESS GRACIOUS I wanted to eat it, I couldn’t. The first trimester, I didn’t want to eat a single thing, and the second & third I wanted only a few specific foods. (Wassup, pancakes? How YOU doin’, mashed potatoes?)
    I tried to tell the women, bless their hearts, that I appreciated the gestures, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. (I left out the “the very thought makes my stomach turn” part). They didn’t stop, and I felt bad about chucking the homemade raspberry, oh-so-buttery scones in the trash so I put them in the conference room for the sales reps to eat. I never went in there, so it worked out great.
    That really helped me avoid eating what I couldn’t and wouldn’t eat when I was pregnant without offending anyone. I will say this, though. One lady wised up and started bringing me cinnamon pancakes that she made for me every Friday from her kitchen. Sometimes they’ll wise up, sometimes they won’t but their hearts are in the right place.

  • Karen

    November 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Just an aside here, but what is with people, when they see a prego gal eating something, always chiming, “eating for two, are we?”
    I work in an office with mostly men and they dipped from the mini-Snickers bowl as often as I did when I was prego (same as non-prego) and everytime I ate a mini-Snickers, some middle aged dude would chuckle and say, “eating for two, are we?”
    That really tested my already thin patience.

  • Alias Mother

    November 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Karen, you didn’t once say, “Yes, you too?” back at them? You are made of stronger stuff than I.

  • kari Weber

    November 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    It sounds more like your health is the issue here and not the baby’s. That is fine! I was pretty healthy with both my pregnancies, even exercising through both of them, and my first boy was 9 pounds (but late…). With the second son, I was concerned about going late, gaining too much, etc. Didn’t want a repeat big baby that might result in problems. Was induced on my due date, had gained LESS weight than with the first… 9 pounds 11 ounces. Damn. I was able to deliver both naturally, with drugs of course, and no problems. Big doesn’t have to mean problems. I agree with Amy’s suggestions for deflecting the sweets, but don’t spend the next several months panicking about weight. Do what you and your doctor can, and then try to relax. What happens happens, and you will know you did the best you could!

  • Amy in StL

    November 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I think she shouldn’t wear that sign she mentioned, but she should post it in her office. That would be hilarious and might actually get people to get the hint. In our office at least….