CAN YOU REALLY EAT CLEAN AT WORK?? Advice from our very own and very lean David 'Macca' McAvelia...
Not a week goes by when there isn’t a cake, a packet of biscuits or sweets brought into my workplace by a member of staff. It’s an endless yearly cycle starting in January with unwanted Christmas selection boxes. At Easter time we are presented with leftover chocolate eggs and summer time sees an influx of cheap sweets from returning holiday makers. Then there’s the sporadic birthday cake, work anniversary cake, buckets of M&S Rocky Road, tins of Quality Street, Colin the Caterpillar and Percy Pigs. The empty desk beside me is a shrine to Willy Wonka. Don’t my colleagues realise I am trying to qualify for the CrossFit games next year?
Last year I hit 40 and I set myself a challenge, eat only clean foods and avoid fizzy pop, alcohol and sugar during the working week. Why? Quite simply I’m keen to avoid turning into a fat bastard. I commit five to six hours a week training at Boar City, if I have the willpower to get up at 6am every day to train why can’t I have the same attitude to diet?
Anyone who has set a new diet plan knows that buying the right foods during your weekly shop is the first step in avoiding the temptation of snacking on junk food. However it’s actually snacking in the workplace that is the biggest threat to my mid life crisis sugar free challenge.
Before I explain how I tackled this challenge I want to highlight a few of the observations I have made sitting next to the cake desk. Firstly, nobody ever picks up a biscuit or cake and immediately eats it. The act itself is always preceded by comments such as -
“One won’t hurt”
“I’ve already been to the gym today so I can have a Hob Nob”
“Diets starts tomorrow!”
“I’ve been good all week”
“It is Friday after all!!”
“I know I shouldn’t but……”
I’ve also observed the timings of the sugar desk raids, it is usually late in the morning or late in the afternoon when people snack. This suggests to me that it’s not hunger that is fuelling my colleague’s impulses, it’s actually boredom and addiction.
When faced with another spreadsheet, email or monotonous task it’s easy to be distracted by sugar. Sugar, or even just thinking about sugar triggers a release of Dopamine into our body, basically a mini injection of pleasure. It is this thrill that prompts us to eat sugar rather than a desire to eat and feel full. Sweets and slices of cake don’t fill you up in the same way your lunch or dinner does. If they don’t cure hunger my view is I don’t need them. When have you ever seen cake or sweets mentioned on a diet plan?
After almost a year of this experiment I can say that I have stuck to my challenge roughly 90% of the time and I have slowly weaned myself off the sweet stuff. I don’t have any scientific research or stats to back up my findings but I feel healthier, I am training well and I am carrying very little body fat. Eating clean also helps me justify eating the odd takeaway and beer on a Saturday night. The weekends are definitely cheat/treat days.
How have I done it? It’s a simple question of will power and I’ll be honest, it's been tough. When a new cake arrives or a bag of sweets is passed around I remind myself that I’m not hungry and I don’t need it. I sometimes find myself repeating “I don’t need it” like a mantra from a crazy diet cult. If my stomach is rumbling it's time for me to eat something so I ensure there’s a stock of fruit and nuts at my desk. My colleagues make jokes about my boring diet but I now thrive off this and enjoy proving to them that I won’t buckle. We push ourselves hard at Boar City, we’ve all experienced the pain of pushing out those final burpees, pull ups and lifts. If I can be stubborn enough to complete a WOD surely I can be stubborn enough to say no to a slice of cake.
Nobody at Boar City is pressured into losing weight or having the body of a fitness model. This type of culture is something the coaches are very keen to avoid and rightly so. However, if you are training hard, you’d like to make minor changes to your diet and perhaps shift that extra few pounds give yourself a challenge like mine. Try to eat clean Monday to Friday and stay off the sweet stuff at work. If you’re feeling brave take it one step further and avoid that evening drink on the sofa whilst watching Love Island. Avoid the tired excuses such as “diet starts tomorrow” and remind yourself…. “I don’t need it!”
Anyway, it’s Saturday and it’s a cheat day. I’m going to have a beer and pinch some of my son’s leftover birthday cake.