The Curse of the Office Candy Dish

Does this ever happen to you? You’re not hungry, not even thinking of food, but you pass a bowl of candy on someone’s desk or a box of donuts in the break room and all of a sudden, you’re mindlessly eating sugary crap.

In life there seems to be two kinds of people: those who can’t resist sweets, and those who can’t resist salty snacks.  Sweets are definitely the most common challenge for many of us and for some reason, jars or bowls of candy are ubiquitous in offices.  When we hit Halloween or Christmas, it gets even worse.

I was talking to a new employee recently and she listed a litany of junk food they currently had in her work area, including several types of cookies and candy.  “I said to my team, can’t we at least get some bananas or oranges to balance this out?” she told me. Many of us have felt the same way.

If you struggle to resist the temptation of the candy dish, you’re not alone.  There’s actually been a lot of research on this, including extensive work by Brian Wansink, the author of the book “Mindless Eating”.

In Wansink’s research he studied which kinds of dishes made people more likely to take candy, the impact of the proximity of the candy to your desk, wrapped versus unwrapped candy and other factors.  His research notes how hard it is to avoid, you may pass the dish multiple times and not take any candy, but finally it almost wears you down and you start eating.  And because sugar stimulates appetite, often one piece leads to more.

By the way, if you haven’t read this book, it’s really fascinating.  It has great information on how we trick ourselves into, or out of, eating.  I highly recommend it.  Here’s a link if you want to check it out:

Another thing to consider is that all those calories add up.  A few mini candies can have as many calories, and sugar, as a full-size candy bar. So what’s a worker with a sweet tooth supposed to do?  I was wondering the same thing myself as I snagged a mini Snickers bar from someone’s bowl today.  Here are some hints to try:

  • Don’t keep a candy bowl on your own desk.  Or if you feel you must, put it in an opaque dish (one you can’t see through) and push it as far away from you as you can.   And fill it with candy you don’t personally like that much.  I have a candy dish in my office and I keep things like Starburst and Swedish fish in it, because I can take or leave those.  If I had Hershey’s or Reese’s peanut butter cups in there, I’d be eating all day ad there’d be no candy for anyone else.
  • Instead of candy, put up a bowl of cutie tangerines or other fruit.
  • Take the long way around.  If one coworker always has something that tempts you, try to avoid casual walk-bys if possible.
  • If someone always places candy in the common area, add a bowl of fruit or sugar-free gum to offer a better option.
  • Try something savory instead. I keep single serve bags of olives in my office and if I want candy I can generally convince myself to have olives instead.  I know, it sounds weird but olives are very satiating.
  •  Drink more water.  Sometimes when you are munchy, you really are thirsty.
  • Take a walk or do something else to distract yourself.  Tell yourself if you still want a treat when you get back, you’ll get one.  Chances are you’ll forget about it.
  • Tell yourself you don’t eat sweets until a certain time. I have a friend who never eats anything sweet in the morning, even fruit or yogurt, because she feels it stimulates her appetite for the rest of the day.  Another friend will only eat candy after 5:00.  Now sometimes she’s grabbing candy on the way out the door at the end of the day, but most days she’s not.
  • Make sure your lunch is filling, and includes a lot of fiber.  If your stomach is filled with slowly digesting food, you’ll be less likely to have those 3:00 hunger spells.
  • Ask yourself if the treat is really worth it.  If someone offers me something that is so-so,  like a snickerdoodle cookie, I try this trick and can usually convince myself to “save my calories” for something I really like.
  • Ask yourself if you are tempted by the candy because something else is going on.  Maybe your coworker hurt your feelings or your boss is micromanaging you or you are just feeling really overwhelmed by a project.  In that case, candy is really not going to help, and it may just make yourself feel worse.  Instead try taking a break: do some deep breathing, take a walk,  camp out in the ladies room and play a game of candy crush,  whatever it take to give yourself a mini mental health break.

The return of Fall usually means the return of candy-related holidays, so start practicing ways to resist temptation now.  You’ll thank yourself later.



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  One thought on “The Curse of the Office Candy Dish

  1. September 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Nice writing, Rose!! xo

    Liked by 1 person

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