Keep the chocolate away from me! How co-workers' eating habits make you fat (and they may be doing it deliberately)



23:03 GMT, 20 March 2012

Dieting is never easy but at work it can be made almost impossible. The tradition of bake-offs, birthday surprises and 4pm group chocolate breaks are all good for morale but not so great for our waistlines.

Now, new research has revealed that it is your co-workers who are the biggest enemy when it comes to weight management.

According to a study of 325 dieters by
Medi-Weightloss Clinics in Florida, 29 per cent of dieters said that
colleagues try to force them to break their healthy eating regime.

Pressure cooker: Beware the colleague who forces you to eat their homemade birthday cake - they may be after your job as well as your waistline

Pressure cooker: Beware the colleague who forces you to eat their homemade chocolate cake – they may want to sabotage your job as well as your waistline

Whether through well-meaning offers of treats or gentle teasing about their size, the result is a nightmare for a third of dieters.

Even worse, according to the clinics' corporate dietician, Chelsey Millstone, the pressure can come from deliberate malicious competitiveness – even if it is on a subconscious level.

Ms Millstone told the Wall Street Journal that some co-workers may feel slighted by an employee who doesn't want to join in the eating fun or they even might see a slimmer colleague as a threat.

As a result a worker will intentionally embarrass a dieter with personal questions or public jibes when they receive a polite 'no, thanks'.

A similar study, in the journal Obesity, agrees that office pressure to gorge is hard to handle.

Lead researcher Tricia Leahey says that 'Social contacts can be extremely powerful' when it comes to praise or discouragement.

So how do you handle a serving of calorie-ridden homemade gooey brownie without upsetting your kindly (or not so well-intentioned) team member

Becky Hand, a dietician with Cincinnati-based fitness website SparkPeople, told the newspaper that it's worth rehearsing a response to avoid any possible confrontation.

'Saying such lines as, “I've had your food in the past and it's always delicious. But I'm sorry, at this time in my life, eating those extra whatever isn't benefiting my health,”' she suggests.

Even harder than saying 'no' to a colleague is turning down a client.

One in five of the people surveyed admitted that they feel most pressure to over-indulge at business lunches.

When you might potentially offend a future client or lose a contract, how do stay polite but stick to your diet plan

It seems there are only two solutions here – make a joke at your own expensive or call an end to the meeting before anyone orders dessert.