Skinny Daily Post


As a pre-Memorial Day party, my company had an all-hands lunch today to celebrate the upcoming long weekend. Billed as an ‘ice cream social’ it featured exactly three items: soda, pizza and ice cream – all of which were available in copious amounts. In the break room, in case that wasn’t enough, we had pastries and donuts. The staff had a great time, everyone was laughing, lots of horseplay and interpersonal bonding.

Now I’m not enough of a sourpuss to complain about events like this. Anyone could see how much fun people were having and clearly the empty cans, plates and dishes were an indication of the party’s success. I fully understand the value of offering the chance for people to just shoot the breeze and enjoy themselves on the company’s dime. And free junk food is definitely a big hit with overworked employees.

But as I reflect on this day, I’m wondering if there is any hope at all of ever encouraging some kind of fun company activity which, however tangentially, could have a positive health impact. Certainly if we presented it as a “good health” activity, we would get zero participation (hey, I’m a realist).

I honestly don’t have a single idea! We have macho engineers and slick marketing people and harried retail staff and I can’t really imagine doing an event that would involve leaving the office for any period of time. Maybe a long-term challenge .. walk so many miles and get a free t-shirt? I don’t know.

Perhaps that’s why they opted for pizza, soda, ice cream and donuts.

11 thoughts on “Suggestions Please!

  1. JuJu says:

    And yet, at least a third of the folks at your office struggles with their weight, tries to avoid those foods, and works at their health. So, hmmm…

    First, get yourself on the event planning committee. Then ask for a piece of the budget for those events and offer to bring in fruit and veggies and nuts, too.

    At our office parties, one of our designers brings in her X-box and Dance Dance Revolution (is that the name?)and another video game you play with bongos. That gets us moving a bit.

    Depending on your culture, a kitschy or slightly naughty or industry-specific scavenger hunt? With prizes that include things like free yoga lessons or massage therapy or coupons to Whole Foods or something?

    Or an office art competition? Gather the flotsam from the supplies closet that no one uses, have people work together to make sculptures from the supplies. A competition, with prizes like those above?

    During any of these, play music with a good beat fairly loudly to encourage people to move a little.

    We gave scarves and taught scarf juggling at one party. Alison, the designer of this site, is really good at it, and can juggle scarves while counting backward in Polish. An amazing thing to see.

    These aren’t really active activities, but at least encourage something beyond sitting and consuming lots of fat and sugar.

    Of course, you need to remain sensitive to anybody in the office whose movement is restricted. And I remember feeling terrified of office activities that involved sports or movement when I was obese. But in a small company, it’s pretty easy to figure out something everyone can do.

    Good luck, sweet. Your office is lucky to have you.


  2. Stretchy says:

    At our annual company picnics, (1985 – 2000) there were plenty of fresh veggie platters with dip, lots of healthy casserole, a variety of interesting salads and lots of skinless lemon chicken along with all of the junk foods.

    A lot of nice prizes sat on a table, and the only way to win was to particpate in a goofy event (physical). Every participant got something. Back then, the company had very few large people, and even they were pretty fit, considering.

    Fast forward six years and the people I still know from the company are all overweight. They were slim at 30, but at 40+they are less active and have discovered Krispy Kreme or something.
    Reports on the annual parties NOW sound like the caterer is the same one Jon’s company got: ALL junk food.

    There are a lot of reasons people give up on being healthy and fit, and it has a landslide effect.

    Parties are always going to be tough. It is a shame we have to eat before we go, and walk around sipping water because no one wants to see tofu pups, a 3 bean salad or a carrot stick.

  3. Quinn says:

    Office parties. Gawd how i hate office parties. All that fake bonhomie (sp?). And horrible food.

    Juju’s suggestions all sound really good! And fun! Good golly! REAL bonhomie for a change.

    Other than all that, is it possible to try to at least make sure the pizza and icecream and drinks are all the of the best quality one can buy? My main problem with junk food and other office sweets is the lack of ingredients that one can grow in a garden, but instead come out of someone’s lab.

  4. angie says:

    Wow– the articles here always “speak” to me! This one was right on with what I dealt with this week. I was in a teacher workshop for 4 days– the subject matter was pretty dry, and everyone was feeling a little cheated that we had to spend the first 4 days of summer in training.

    So, to raise morale, the organizers brought in huge platters of pastries in the morning as well as huge baskets of cookies in the afternoon. That was a treat for most, but really torturous for me. It looked like high-quality stuff, too. Gooey Otis Spunkmeyer treats…. arrrgh!

    I have a rule that I try to follow about eating treats: they have to be the best possible example of their kind, and it has to be a situation in which I can really relax and savor the item. So, since this workshop didn’t fit the “relaxing cafe” situation, I avoided that table. I brought in my little “100 cal” oreo packs each day instead. But I really did feel cheated!

    Everyone else seemed to get a little boost from this, and it was hard to watch these very normal-weight people chow down on goodies all day. Like you, I don’t want to be a sourpuss and deny anyone their treats, but I am truly stumped on how to “sweeten the deal” at these workshops without sweets.

    I did, however, get up the nerve to ask a couple of teachers I barely know to walk a couple of laps around the building with me on our breaks. They got a kick out of it. I explained that I needed to walk to keep my butt from falling asleep from sitting all day, but really I needed to walk as far away from the treat table as possible during those breaks. So, that was a start, and I had the side benefit of chatting and bonding with some co-workers.

  5. Sarah says:

    My quandry is free food on a weekly basis. While it is a very nice gesture, we all feel like heels requesting something other than fried chicken or pizza. Subs are something you can make healthy, and we get that every one in a while. Also there is another vegetarian on staff, so we share a veggie pizza. I am amazed at the non-veggie co-workers who will also eat a veggie pizza with me. We also have snack-cake Tuesdays. I personally get around that by bringing in a fruit bowl or waiting an hour for everyone else to get to the snack cakes first. I also bring in vegan cookies that people eat as fast as I put them out. I think its one of those things that if its there and you don’t make a big production about how healthy it is, people will eat it. Except hummus. Many people can’t get past the color. Their loss.

  6. Stretchy says:

    Thank you Angie for the new creative excuse to take a walk

    “Excuse me, but my butt fell asleep, I need to walk.”

    so much better than “gotta stretch my legs” or the old fresh air excuse.

  7. aimesq says:

    I, too, had a training seminar within the last week, and was utterly DISMAYED at how poorly-planned the food was. I mean, if you have people sitting for 8 hours a day listening to lectures, basically, the last thing you ought to give them is sugar/highly-processed carbs, as that will ENSURE they fall right to sleep at 2 in the afternoon. Rather than feeling “cheated” by the fact that they “got to eat” the high-sugar/fat-laden/high-carb cookies, donuts, and other crap that was laid out during the breaks, I just noticed how I was about the only one come mid-afternoon who wasn’t nodding off, yawning, or the like. I brought along snacks that I could eat which would give me energy — beef jerky nuggets, carrots & hummus, nuts, fruit — without putting me to sleep. It worked, and actually, a couple of people around me even wanted to share MY snacks instead of eating the cookies. So — I guess, as with any other activity that goes along w/ this weight-loss effort, you just have to plan ahead and stick to your plan. I always bring something along to any gathering which I know I will be able to eat and which is on my food plan, and just knowing that there’s ONE thing I can eat makes me able to take the focus off the food and instead focus on the people I’m with and enjoying their company. It’s hard, I know. But I don’t think we need to feel like we’re being “deprived” — the only thing we’re depriving ourselves of is extra sugar, fat, calories, and guilt. 🙂

  8. Angelina says:

    I am facing the same situation here….except that is almost a weekly event!!! The people in my department love to eat. Morning teas are a very big thing here in Australia. Everyone brings in some food, and we spend the whole day eating it. Everything you can imagine…cheese, crackers, dips, donuts, cakes, muffins…you get the picture. It is very hard to resist…not only because it’s yummy, but because you’re almost expected to join in. In fact, you’re questioned extensively if you don’t. So last week, I brought in some fruit, ate it, and went for a walk. By the time I got back, it was nearly over. But the food was sitting there all day, and I really had to control myself. But I made it. Just.

  9. Cindy says:

    I understand fully! My company loves to do lunch meetings. We also have consultants in usually every two to three weeks and then breakfast, lunch and often dinner is provided. My problem is that if the bad food is around – I want to eat it. I have offered on several occasions to be in charge of purchasing the food. Then I can provide healthy choices. The only problem is that no one else is willing to put forth the time and effort to provide healthy selections. Fruits and vegetables have to be washed, peeled, cut up and the like. So if I want a healthy choice I have to do all the work myself.

  10. TLo says:

    Obviously this post struck a cord with many – it certainly did with me. There’s a lot at stake with work “parties” and most of us care very much about fitting in with our co-workers.

    As tempting as it is to look for a simple, quick answer, I’m afraid that there isn’t one. It’s going to take a cultural shift, and those are never simple or quick. But they can be done, and I believe that it’s terribly important that each of us more enlightened souls make an effort to shift this piece of our company’s norms to the extent that we can. Because if we each do a little bit, a day at a time, it adds up in an almost magical way.

    Remember smoking? I work in a hospital, and it used to be part of the culture, in many if not most hospitals, for nurses and other members of the staff to smoke in the break room. This wasn’t forever ago either; less than 20 years. If you hated that, you were just SOL for a place to eat your lunch. Worse, you were often viewed as something less than a trusted colleague if you were “too good” to hang out with the rest of the gang while they lit up.

    Well, that has certainly changed. And I’m optimistic that the culture of camaraderie- equals-junk-food-intake can change as well. If we each do our bit, one happy day we’ll find that it’s simply no longer fashionable to serve sugar and chemicals to intelligent people who have important work to do.

    The way an organizational culture moves is that a few brave, kind souls gently set an example of a better way. Without apologizing, without preaching, and without exceptions.


  11. Nicole says:

    We had a “fitness initiative” where my company gave out pedometers then had a 8 weekly contests among the people reporting in their “steps.” Each week the most steps got a prize (only once per person) and a few more people were also randomly drawn for prizes. The prizes were all “healthy” things, like water bottles, gift certificates etc. Great fun.


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