A few weeks ago, I had 4 back-to-back days of all day meetings. My first two days of meetings provided lunch and then my last two days of meetings provided all three meals as we were in Baltimore. I was happy to not have to think about packing meals those days and focused on the choices I had more control over (workouts and meals outside of my meetings).
As I shared at the conclusion of my first two days of meetings, I struggled with what was offered for lunch during my first two days of meetings. By the time lunch arrived, I was super hungry. I didn’t pack snacks either day and ate all that was in our lunch box. Each box had a sandwich (roast beef or turkey on a croissant), a small bag of chips, a piece of fruit, a cookie, and a bottle of water. I stayed away from the candy bowls on Wednesday, but on Thursday I also snacked on candy after lunch.
After publishing that post, a number of you asked why I didn’t pack my own lunch. If I didn’t know what was going to be provided both days, why didn’t I just pack a healthier lunch and bring some snacks with me? The truth is, I never thought about it. In hindsight, it makes total sense to pack a healthy lunch and to avoid the temptations and high calorie options provided, but at the time, it didn’t even cross my mind.
It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t even think that packing my own lunch was an option, but if I’m being honest, turning down free food isn’t something I’m used to. Over the years I’ve developed healthier habits, but y’all really opened my eyes to the need to address my struggles with free food. I work in an environment where there is a lot of free food. During certain times of year, I could literally eat all three meals for free at work. Sure I’ve turned down free food before, but there are certain situations in which I don’t think twice about accepting the free food. The boxed lunches a few weeks ago were an example of that. Free food allows me to save money and gives me access to foods I don’t normally eat, which I like.
I was really successful eating during my second stretch of all day meetings, but I was much more mindful of the need to turn down various free foods. I turned down the afternoon snack both days and was selective with the foods I ate at each meal. The boxed lunches on Wednesday and Thursday reminded me that I have to bring snacks and that it’s ok to be more selective of what I eat, even if the food is free.
It wasn’t until last month that I realized how much of a struggle free food is for me. It’s really hard for me to turn down free food, especially when it’s good food or food that I don’t normally have access to. I’m pretty good about not letting too tempting of foods into my house and don’t eat out that often. I’ve always said that my struggle really boils down to portion control, even with healthy foods, but last month my eyes were opened to my struggles with free food.
I personally find myself facing two struggles when it comes to free food. First, it’s really easy to eat mindlessly when offered free food. Even if I’m not hungry, it’s hard to turn down free food when it’s available. Take breakfasts for example. I usually eat breakfast at home around 6:45AM. By the time I get to work and free breakfast is offered at a meeting around 9:30AM, it’s hard to turn it down. I justify eating the 1/2 a bagel or hard boiled eggs. The free food isn’t necessarily bad food, but it turns into calories my body doesn’t needs. Programs like Weight Watchers help me to keep my mindless eating in check, but this is still something I have to combat whenever free food is offered and I am not hungry. The second struggle is when free food is offered and I choose to eat it instead of healthier options. This is what I faced a few weeks ago during my work meetings. I didn’t think twice about eating the free boxed lunch, even though packing my own lunch was the better option as I’m trying to lose weight. I saw the sandwich, chips, and cookie as something I rarely allow myself to eat and I took full advantage of it. I paid the price when I weighed in that week and regret choosing to eat those boxed lunches… or at least all of them both days.
I am thankful for your insight and comments regarding my decisions to eat the free food. Your words really made me think and I’ve had to recognize the need to address this issue. There will be plenty of opportunities to eat free food at work this next academic year, but I want to be more mindful moving forward. I almost always bring snacks and lunch to work each day, so I really shouldn’t need to eat the free food. I know that I can plan ahead when I do choose to eat the free food at work, just like I did when I traveled to Baltimore for my work meetings. I just need to recognize the struggle and to be more mindful.
I have lots to learn, but I’m thankful my eyes have been opened to this issue.
Do you struggle with eating free food offered to you? Whether at work or through another venue?