The unwritten rules of office food

by Ali on July 11, 2008

Have you ever noticed how there are certain “rules” about food in the office that just don’t apply at home? Here’s four very common ones … and ways to use them to your dieting advantage.

No-one ever eats the last cookie

Have you noticed how colleagues will dive into a bag of fun-sized chocolate bars as soon as it’s opened, until, a couple of hours later, there’s one solitary mini-aero left? There seems to be an unwritten rule that no-one will take the last chocolate.

Use this to your advantage by saying “I’ll have one later” when the goodies are offered round. Wait a couple of hours, and there’ll be a single sorry-looking piece of whatever-it-was left … and you’ll feel guilty if you eat the last one.

New forms of life might be growing in the fridge

Has someone’s salad turned to sludge in the bottom of the office fridge? Are the shelves crammed with Tupperware boxes that may once have held something edible? Does anyone ever throw anything out?

This rule needs breaking. Send round an email declaring a fridge clearout at the end of the week … anything in there on Friday afternoon is going to be chucked away. When the appointed time comes, grab a black sack and don rubber gloves, and get stuck in.

And, once it’s clean, check out my tips on /2008/04/14/is-your-office-fridge-improving-your-diet-at-work-or-is-it-a-health-hazard/ how to use the office fridge effectively.

Eating “out loud” makes you feel awkward

The layout of your office, and the level of background noise, may determine how loud you and your workmates feel you can eat. If you work in a silent open-plan room, munching on carrot sticks and celery may get on your workmates nerves. But if you have your own office (lucky you!) or work somewhere quite noisy, you can get away with eating loud foods.

If you do feel self-conscious slurping your soup at your desk, or crunching through crudites, remember that at least it’s a disincentive to eat other loud foods like Kettle chips… Try going for soft fruits and vegetables, such as ratatouille, grapes, kiwis, melon, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Smelly foods will not gain you much popularity

Even more invasive than loud crunching, though, is the waft of a particularly pugnent food. Not all of your colleagues will appreciate the scent of yesterday’s leftover curry, and try to be sensitive to individual likes and dislikes in your office. (If the smell of eggs turns your deskmate’s stomach, coming in with an egg butty for breakfast every morning isn’t going to win you a friend…)

Again, this can be used as a positive incentive to stick to your good dieting habits: the smell of fast-food meals might be disliked by your colleagues. In the novel JPod, Douglas Coupland has his characters in a megolithic IT company refer to McDonalds’ food as “the Taint”, deriding any hapless colleague who dares bring it into work … sound familiar from your own workplace experiences?

(Image above by Kakadu)

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