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Is the Office Sabotaging Your Diet?

donuts.jpgHave you seen the Seinfeld episode where Elaine finds herself snacking on cake almost every day at the office? At first, she’s frustrated with the constant stream of birthday, get-well or goodbye celebrations. But when she tries to give up the cake, she realizes she’s hooked on the afternoon sugar rush.

Elaine isn’t alone. For many of us, the office is one more place that poses a threat to our healthy intentions. Whether you’re nibbling on donuts and bagels during a morning meeting or mingling at an office party, social pressures may impact how much you eat – especially if you’re a people-pleaser.

According to researchers at Case Western University, people-pleasers – those who strive to keep their social relationships smooth and comfortable – particularly are at risk of overeating in social situations. The researchers framed their findings around social events, like the upcoming Super Bowl parties, but their findings also may strike a chord for those of us facing down food at office parties or meetings.

Passing on that jelly-filled donut in a meeting while everyone else is enjoying one is hard enough, but people-pleasers have an especially tough time. If people-pleasers feel a sense of social pressure to eat, they often will eat more to match what others are consuming. And that comes with consequences.

“Those who overeat in order to please others tend to regret their choices later. It doesn’t feel good to give in to social pressures,” said Julie Exline, a Case Western Reserve psychologist and lead author of the study. In addition to the guilt, you may compromise your health, which in turn could impact your productivity at work, as other research suggests.

It’s something to keep in mind when the cake comes out (again) for a coworker’s birthday. In the end, while indulging in those office goodies might make you feel a part of the team, you’re the only one who has to battle with your waistline – and your health – later.

The research findings were reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

For more on workplace wellness and fitness initiatives, read our April feature, “Workplace Workouts: Combating Employee Obesity.”

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