They’re coming. All two dozen of them.
I can start to smell their sweet, sugary scent. My nose twitches and perks up as if I’m a Greyhound, alert and hunting for clues to an important case.
I touch the left corner of my mouth and feel a tiny, little stream of saliva dripping down, confirming my worst fear.
I’m publicly drooling.
Now they’re less than 10 ft away. Their owner, Shelly, is a perky, blond lady who works in our administrative department. I see her offering them to each person, one at a time, in our working area.
As I sense their approaching presence, my heart starts to race a little faster and the bottom of my palms start to dampen.
“Get a grip, Vanessa. What she’s offering is the devil, remember? All the Netflix health documentaries you’ve been watching have said so,” I mutter to myself.
I pretend to look busy typing an email but in reality, I’m creepily monitoring Shelly from the corner of my eye.
A moment later, Shelly pops her head over my cubicle. Her huge, puppy dog eyes are filled with excitement as she flashes me a wide smile, showing off a perfect set of pearly whites.
“Just wanted to see if you would like a cupcake! I spent yesterday evening baking these. The first set is chocolate, topped with toasted marshmallow and next is a classic Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. You can choose whichever you like!”
I look up at her with my most innocent face, pretending that she caught me completely off guard.
“Oh wow! They look absolutely delicious.” I say as I take a half second glance towards the batch, biting down on my lower lip.
“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pass. Thanks so much though!” I reply.
Believe it or not, I now turn down around 90% of the sweets offered at work to avoid my sugar cravings.
Our office can truly be a diabetic’s nightmare. From my experience, there always seems to be cake lying around from someone’s birthday (Mint Chocolate Chip!), foreign sweets that our boss brings back from his latest international trip, or organic butter tarts my hipster colleague purchases from the nearby farmer’s market.
However, scientists are currently discovering more and more about the harmful effects that sugar can have on our bodies, including weight gain, inflammation of our joints, faster aging of our skin, negative effects on our sexual health and added stress on our heart. Your pancreas, kidneys, and liver pay a price as well as they work hard to process excess sugar. In addition, too much sugar can make your body resistant to insulin, the hormone that converts sugar in your bloodstream into energy. The end result can be Type II Diabetes.
From my experience sitting at a desk, day in and day out, while working on the same mundane report, has made my brain very susceptible to the temptations of sugar. I used to give into my sugar cravings whenever I needed to temporarily boost my energy level. However, half an hour later, I ended up going through the dreaded sugar crash and an awful headache would ensue.
Eventually, I decided that indulging on a bunch of cookies in the break room for a few minutes was not worth the longer-term consequences. So, I started cutting back and today I’m happy to announce that I’m “almost” sugar-free at the office. How did I do it? Check out the 3 tips below to help you control your own sugar intake. Check out the 3 tips below to help you control your own sugar intake.
1. Have an “Action Plan” For Sugar Cravings
If you’re going to step into Willy Wonka’s Factory, aka your office, it’s important to arm yourself with an “action plan”.
For example, my current “action plan” to avoid sugar cravings is to refuse almost all offerings.
Refuse, refuse, refuse.
Some people might find that extreme. However, the problem with eating sweets in moderation is that it’s very hard for me to know when to draw the line.
When is one cupcake enough? If I have one cupcake, why not go for the cookies left in the kitchen? How about the candy jar left open on Mitchel’s desk in Human Resources? The fudge bars leftover from today’s meeting?
Sugar cravings are very real and studies have shown that sugar is highly addictive. Working similarly to cocaine, sugar stimulates a chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with your brain’s pleasure center. Eventually, when you eat enough sweets, your brain gets desensitized to it and a tolerance is developed. This means that over time, you need more and more cookies to satisfy your sugar cravings.
So why did I mention that I now refuse only 90% of sweets at work?
Because I’m only human. I will actually hold out for something really, really interesting, like Italian white chocolate truffle coated with pistachios, and by doing so I won’t end up feeling too restricted.
However, everyone is different. In my opinion, your “action plan” should involve deciding how much sugar you are willing to cut out. Make sure your goal is realistic.
2. Keep a Log of Your Sweets at the Office
Another option to help you to avoid sugar cravings is to track all the goodies you’ve been eating on a small notepad. You can even make a note of their sugar contents as well.
Friday, Sep 15 @ 2pm – 4 chocolate chip cookies
Thursday, Sep 21 @ 3pm – 1 blueberry muffin
Monday, Sep 25 @ 3pm – 1 piece of birthday cake
Thursday, Sep 28 @ 3pm – 2 chocolate glazed donuts
Tracking this information can help you be mindful of what you are actually eating. However, if you didn’t eat any sweets at work, that doesn’t mean that you can binge on a box of Oreos at home! Consider extending your tracking log to include when you’re at home if you would like greater insight into your sugary patterns.
Did you know that the American Heart Association indicates that the maximum amount of added sugar women should eat in a day is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons? According to Sugar Stacks, one Chips Ahoy cookie has 13 grams of sugar. The math isn’t hard here, eating just one cookie literally takes up half your recommended daily sugar intake. In 2008 in the US, citizens were found to ingest an average of 76.7 grams per day.
So instead of mindlessly gorging on anything covered in sprinkles or chocolate that passes your way, logging your intake makes you consciously aware of what, when and how often you’re eating sugar. It’s easy to think “oh it’s just one little cookie, it’s not that bad”. But usually one turns into five and next thing you know you’re shameless wiping away the crumbs on your keyboard.
So put on your nerdiest glasses and start analyzing your data collection. Do you see any trends? What types of treats to do you to gravitate towards? Is there a certain time that you’re eating them at? Anything you can do to make a change? Knowing this information can help you figure out a plan of attack.
3. Bring Alternative Snacks
Bringing a variety of snacks to work, including mixed fruit, nut butters, steel-cut oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon, and plain yogurt topped with granola can help reduce sugar cravings. These snacks will not only keep your energy levels high, but they are also rich in protein and in fiber.
Most importantly, you can refer to your tracking log and examine the times you usually go for your sugary treats. Are you graciously accepting Shelly’s homemade cupcakes around the 3 pm slump?
So get to know your habits, and distract yourself with fruit instead. One large apple contains 23 grams of sugar. However since the fruit has fiber, water, and nutrients, once ingested, the sugar slowly releases into your system giving your liver enough time to process it. Compare this to when you eat a candy bar. A huge amount of sugar overloads your liver, converting the excess amount to fatty acids which are sent to your bloodstream and then stored as fat.
Putting it All Together
By following these steps, over time you will eventually be able to build a habit and learn to politely say “no thank you” when the butter tarts come around. Never feel obliged to eat or do something that makes you uncomfortable, especially when you know it can harm your health.
If you’re still thinking that you’ll never be able to reduce your sugar cravings at the office, think again. Stephanie used to go for 3 pm donuts on a daily basis (she had a weakness for Honey Crullers) but changed her eating routine at the office after she started eating a simple bowl of oatmeal in the morning.
In the comments: what are your some of your thoughts on how to tackle sweets at the office?