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The Painful Price of a Free Lunch at Work

For over twenty years I have received a free lunch in exchange for not taking a lunch away from my desk.  It sounds fabulous and it is, unless you are a stress eater who works a stressful job.

That one hour of peace and freedom most office workers are entitled to is denied to me. The idea that I leave my desk is frowned upon so for years I sat at my desk and escaped into my free lunch.  I ate….and ate…and ate some more.

My health declined, I gained and lost the same forty pounds until I just didn’t anymore. I didn’t move from my chair nor did I implement a consistent exercise program. Years ago my old boss suggested I meet with his trainer or try the South Beach Diet as he wrapped his hand around around my upper arm feeling the lack of definition. I declined.

I continued to plan poorly while our executives lost weight with their fancy diets and workouts. Weight loss for me came from fad diets, pills and juice fasts. Nothing sustaining. No consistency.

Twenty three years later I worry about being prediabetic and don’t go to the doctor for my yearly physical in fear that I will get news I don’t want to hear. I have difficulty with my feet hurting when I stand and a problem sitting for long periods of time.  My hips, knees and back hurt. My muscles are spasming and tightening. I’m about forty five pounds over my normal lifetime weight, which was thirty pounds over my ideal weight to begin with.

Sedentary desk jobs are no joke, the lack of movement is health busting if you don’t actively participate in your own health.

Looking at me I don’t think you would guess that I have these health issues and I realize that creaks and strains are not life threatening, but they are signs that without changing my health story I am on the way to bigger health issues.

So how do you stop stress eating, lose weight and get healthy when your brain goes for the burger and cookie when your office buys you a free lunch everyday? How do you consistently order healthy food when stressed?

You change your health by changing your thoughts about your life and not overeating.

I know, it’s hard to believe that successful weight loss comes not from unrestrictive diets and can be done by managing one’s mind.

In April 2019 I joined Phit and Phat with Corrine Crabtree, now re-named No B/S. Her online weight loss program consistantly shows women losing over 100 pounds successfully as Corinne has done. I have never seen such success from a program that is not food based or surgery of some sort.

The program has four basic rules.

Create your food plan ahead of time. (brilliant!)

Eat when hungry, stop when you’ve had enough (I had not really felt true hunger and when I did it was comical!)

Get seven to nine hours of sleep (This was not easy for me but I kept at it and now have it down)

Stay hydrated (Also not the easiest to implement for myself and yet now I do it well)

They are deceiving simple rules that are supported by the No B/S coaching program, and the program is filled with everything I could possibly ever need.

After the initial success of 25 pounds down and feeling great, I got to “Onderland” and weighed less than 200 pounds for the first time in seven years. I was over the moon. My diet and exercise were under control until, in rapid succession, life started throwing punches and I lost control of my health.

Beginning in July of July 2019 there were many events that occurred that I allowed through me off my weight loss game.

I almost died and ended up in the ICU after thyroid surgery. I quit smoking. Our family dog got cancer and died. My family then got scabies from the dogs – which are insects that burrow under your freaking skin and cause you to itch for weeks. My mother-in-law died.

There was always work stress but in 2020 the COVID pandemic began, as did online school for my fourth grader. My co-worker took medical leave and I worked by myself in the office for 12 hour workdays because we were understaffed.

Social unrest, political upheaval and finally the passing of our remaining two dogs and our family cat in rapid succession in 2021. Through it all I kept working to manage my mind.

I re-gained the 25 pounds I had lost in 2019 during my initial success but through all of it I wrote my food plan regularly, took the classes, listened to the podcast, started to make time for myself to meditate and move a bit. I journaled. My accountability partner hung in there for me. I started to slowly learn how to bring my attention back to my health.

I stopped the weight gain overeating train and just maintained my weight while I worked on processing my feelings, overwhelm and stress.

I created the consistent habit of setting up my day. I didn’t give up on myself.

On January 1, 2022 my weight was exactly the same as it was in April of 2019.  I couldn’t be more proud of myself than if I had lost the 75 pounds.

It is in these three years that I learned how to manage my mind, show up with grace for myself and for others. I don’t scream and yell anymore. I treat my co-workers with kindness. I am more loving and optimistic. I am a certified life and weight loss coach. I paddle board, meditate and work out consistently. I feel amazing and am filled with gratitude.

None of it had to do with weight loss. Same weight, different mindset.

Managing my mind has helped me have confidence in myself. I see resilience and strength in that dances with a light spirit and beautiful humor that I have not experienced before in my life.

My husband and I are closer than ever. I am unstoppable, capable and committed to my health.

This year my commitment is to take care of my body by eating foods that that I love. I plan on successfully losing fifty pounds by constantly implementing all my good habits that I developed during the past three years and that have supported my mind management.

I’m still at the same job and sometimes order lunch and sometimes I don’t. I don’t take an hour lunch break because I negotiated a six hour work day with a 4:00pm out time verses an eight hour day. I decided to trade my lunch hour for an earlier leave time.

The greatest part of this I no longer use my “free lunch” as an escape from myself and my job. I’ve learned that I can step outside, breathe some non re-circulated air and shake off the stress. I’ve learned how to take care of me.