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Do Co-Workers Hurt or Help Your Weight Loss?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I’m lucky to work in an office where the environment is generally healthy.  We have a kitchen stocked with healthy foods, and it’s very typical to see people using our gym equipment or a workout video at lunchtime.   Occasionally someone will bring in an extra box of Girl Scout cookies or leftover cupcakes from their kid’s birthday party.  Fortunately that’s the exception and not the norm, because those treats are always tempting when I see them innocently calling my name on the kitchen counter. 
Many (if not most) office environments aren’t quite like mine.  If candy jars and donuts for the morning meeting are common, you might find it more difficult to stick to your healthy eating plan.  It’s even more difficult if you are singled out by co-workers for your newly adopted eating habits.  Some might encourage you to “Take just a handful of M&M’s.  A few aren’t going to hurt you.”  Others might encourage you to skip your lunchtime workout to have lunch out with the group.  A few extra treats or skipped workouts can eventually hinder your progress and get you off track from reaching your goals.  So what do you do?  Do you seem ungrateful for the treat or lunch invitation by declining?  Or do you accept knowing the consequences could be negative? 
According to a survey by Survey Sampling International, “29% of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diets or order them restaurant food they know isn't on their diets.”  Why do you think co-workers might not be supportive?  There could be a number of reasons.  Perhaps they are slightly jealous because you are making changes to your life that they should be trying to implement themselves.  Maybe they miss the camaraderie of sharing lunch together.   
Although you can’t force people to change their attitudes and be more supportive, perhaps you can make changes in the workplace that encourage healthy behaviors.  Start a walking group at lunchtime, or organize a healthy potluck or friendly weight-loss competition.  A recent study published in the journal Obesity looked at 3,330 participants in a team-based weight-loss competition, including many teams of co-workers.  “Those who reported having positive influence from teammates lost a larger percentage of their body weight than others.”
Looking for more information on this topic?  Check out Advantages of Workplace Wellness Programs to get ideas for how to get your office moving in a healthier direction.
What do you think?  Do your co-workers help or hurt your weight loss efforts?  How so?

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It was hard, always a fundraiser going on Report
KOALA_BEAR 7/21/2019
I recently retired so this problem us behind me. The county I worked for encouraged health & fitness w/ free classes, helpful weekly emails, & recipes. However my agency is large so always unhealthy food, & a cafe that wasn't the best in low cal options altho the salad bar was okay. I mostly brought my lunch & snax. Monthly potlucks , pizza lunches for baby showers, promotions, Admin Day, donuts, candy, homemade Mexican food, sports celebrations, etc. I said no thanx a lot but under stress I sometimes folded - so am doing much better now on my own. Report
KOALA_BEAR 7/21/2019
I recently retired so this problem us behind me. The county I worked for encouraged health & fitness w/ free classes, helpful weekly emails, & recipes. However my agency is large so always unhealthy food, & a cafe that wasn't the best in low cal options altho the salad bar was okay. I mostly broughy Report
I could never lose weight when I was working. I did much better after I left the work force. Report
Very interesting article Report
I find that it hurts. Someone was always bringing in sweets and that is my weakness. Report
I currently work in an office-space where the food situation is unhealthy. Potlucks frequently, junk food in shared spaces daily, and a vending machine within steps of my desk. It's the perfect storm!

I'll be moving, though, to a new work team and facility where there are no such vending machines or junk food spreads because 95% of the group is made up of self-professed "health nuts". I feel hopeful!! Report
I am part of a Senior college performance committee. I help provide intermission healthy snacks.
It used to be chocolate cookies, chips and small pastries. Now it is Red and Green grapes all washed and cut in to small clumps. Wheat free crackers and Mild salsa and indiviually wrapped cheese sticks and string cheese.Babt carrots and packes of baked "healthy " choices of various kind of Chips. The women attendees all thought this was really good. Children likes it. Teens just never ate and there were several complaints from the menfolk that they miss the chocolate goodies. When they were there they took way more than the women. I just found that to be interesting. Maybe the women wanted to but backed off knowing they were "healthier offerings".Perhaps too shy to eat them in front of others. Report
My office is very unhealthy. Everybody there keeps talking about how much they have been dieting, but then they are always snacking on doughnuts, candy, chips, cookies, etc. I stock my desk full of healthy snacks for me, which this term is a lot easier, as I am only there for 5 hours a day, and so am not usually very hungry throughout my time at the office. Definitely though, if I had even an ounce less self-control, I would have a lot of issues there... Report
I work in an office where there is someone always bringing in sweets. I have a very sweet tooth and this makes life very difficult. Report
I think its DEFINITELY a negative influence. I work for a big company, that means lots of birthdays, and birthdays = cupcakes;cakes;doughnuts etc. And at my office they have started this new thing where someone makes lunch for everyone. last week a guy bought everyone chip rolls. in South Africa that is deep fried chips, sloppy and oily, with sugary rolls. they taste amazing. but they are pure evil. I have no problem saying no to fat food, but its hard when someone spent money on it. extra guilt. especially if you are the only one out of the office to decline. its not cool.

Another disadvantage is that people arent really tuned into your regime. like today someone at work asked me if i stopped jogging again. not realising i have been starting it up again with full force for the past week or so! Weight is a HUGE discussion topic at my work. actually everywhere i go its a huge topic. at home - friends etc. its like this universally shared feeling. what i dont get is that we have this intense overkill of bad emotions if we feel the slightest bit of chubby. i dont think it should be thaaaaat important that it measures your self worth as a human being. Actually people in general keep me in that mode - that race to thinness panic. and now and then i have to remember about being healthy and happy and balanced. Report
I don't work in an office, I work at a school, but this is a HUGE problem for me. There are always snacks being provided by parents, PTA, co-workers, etc. I have a hard time avoiding them. I'm working on my will power lol. Report
I am a lucky one - our whole work place started a "get healthy" group this year - we call ourselves "biggest winners", we run 5K-10K (we even half a few people in the 1/2 or full marathon category) races as a group... Unhealthy food isn't forbidden - but it is definitely not encouraged... We have a meeting once a month where our CEO has invited in running specialists to give us tips on safely starting running, a dietitian etc. I was working on this myself before this - but it is really nice to be able to enjoy pot lucks and know I will have plenty of healthy options to choose from. Report
The people in my office will routinely bring in sweets and treats, and we sometimes have vendors that will bring pizza for the entire office. I have been very successful at avoiding these temptations. The more I move toward a healthier lifestyle and a healthier way of eating, the less I'm tempted by junk food. (Thank God!) Report
I am a houswife and unemployed so I don't worry about this issue :)
"Perhaps they are slightly jealous ..... "

That has to be the record for understatement of the year, of the decade, maybe even the century!

I was a bank officer for a number of years and each one of our different sites had a break room with a full-size refrigerator, a microwave and a sink to wash used utensils.

No matter the location, if I was there during the lunch three hours (folks could only go to lunch one or two at a time to keep customer service levels up). At first, I could get by with saying, "Oh, I was hungry and had an early lunch", or "Thank you but I have a luncheon engagement".

Over a period of time, managers and their crews would lay out a very tempting array of different types of treats. One Assistant Bank Manager knew my wife, who worked for the same banking company - but in the Insurance department, and found out my favorite "I have to shoot myself to say no" meal.

My weakness is skinless, pan-fried chicken.

You know what happened on my next scheduled visit.

It was the very first time in my life I used the excuse, "That looks SOOOO Good, but I have diabetes and eating now would blow my blood sugar out of sight."

OK. I lied. Most people have no idea of the low carbohydrate diet that diabetics have to follow, but that general lack of knowledge worked to my benefit. I started to occasionally bring a lunch with me (a large salad with multiple raw vegetables and a small portion of chicken with a non-fat salad dressing).

There were still some people who gave me the weird-eye, but nobody seemed to feel it necessary to challenge me and bring up the possibility I might not have told the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

I've always wanted to ask, "What's it to you what I eat? Actually, my family is from Transylvania and we like certain meat dishes very, very rare ... and juicy". Report
Most of my coworkers will bring something on occasion, but one is the QUEEN of sabotage. She will bring in pizza, Taco Bell, king size candy bars, etc. ALL. THE. TIME. I tried to be nice about it, say I wasn't hungry. But she started to get angry with me. So I tried to explain that I just don't eat like that anymore. She just didn't get it. At one point, she even complained to our supervisor. Lol

It's still an ongoing war. I've told her that I don't mean to hurt her feelings. I really appreciate the thought, but my health comes first. Report
Our office has a candy dish in the reception area that's always filled with mini candy bars, and clients often bring us boxes of candy or other treats at various times of the year. I guess I can consider myself fortunate in that I am able to ignore these things and stick with the healthy foods I bring from home. I decided long ago that I wasn't going to let what my office mates consume influence me. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes want to have some of these foods, but I always stop and ask myself if I am willing to track having eaten those foods or deal with the consequences of my weekly weigh-in (I'm on Weight Watchers), and if I'm not then I walk away from them. One thing I do at the holidays when our office gets big boxes of Sees chocolates from our clients, is I will pick out one piece (preferably dark chocolate) and put it in a baggie. I save it aside until the last working day before Christmas, then I will eat that piece of candy and savor it as slowly as I can. Knowing that I'm not being totally deprived and can still enjoy a piece of candy helps me stay on plan. Report
For the most part I am "left alone" when it comes to my new regimen, but I do have to say when I was in "competition" with my husband's co-worker I was losing more rapidly. (I would just hate it if she lost more in a week than I did, lol.)

I do see the friendly "contest" as a great motivator! Report
It's really funny at our office. One week we all are health nuts, then we slip and don't eat well. Sometimes we grab what ever we can. We need to be the health nut week always. Report
I work in a small law office; there are six folks here, including the two attorneys. The lawyers are both quite fit and very supportive of my weight-loss efforts, as is the investigator. One of the other two couldn't care less, and the other (who is my friend, bless her heart) is very unsupportive ... walking into my office with foods I can't eat, telling me the delicious lunch she's had, that I used to enjoy but avoid now, and generally trying to sabotage my progress. Oh, well! I don't think she really means it; she just doesn't really understand how hard this is, because she hasn't tried, yet. She talks about it; but, she hasn't made the decision to change her life. When she does, I'll definitely support her! Report
I work out with friends from work a few times a week. We encourage each other through out the day. Report
I have just moved from a school environment (I was a teacher) to an office environment. Definately less morning teas from parents but everyone goes to the cafeteria for morning tea and lunch. Phew!!! Glad I take my own as I'm coeliac or I could see big temptation!!! Report
I had gastric bypass surgery but that did not prepare me for returning to an office that is unhealthy in the extreme. M&M's on the file cabinet, cookies, crackers and chips by the printer and scanner. It is a nightmare. Recently I went to an EFT practitioner (Emotional Freedome Technique or sometimes called Tapping). I was skeptical but am surprised that in the 10 days since that one session I have not had even one M&M! So there is hope for those of us working in unhealthy work environments! Report
Although it would be nice if co-workers were supportive to those who diet, it is probably more realistic to assume they will not be and not expect their support. It is hard to change your life AND be disappointed by other people. They may not be happy when you reach your goals either, so be happy for yourself and enjoy the support structure you have elsewhere, like here! Report
I have started bringing healthy treats (often homemade muffins or granola bars made with splenda, fruit, nuts, etc.) to share at our weekly staff meetings. Several co-workers really appreciate them. One young guy is especially happy that I bring healthy options. Not too many people bring things to share. (Except during the holidays (when congregation members "thank" us for our work with plates of candy & cookies.) I have found the healthiest choices at various restaurants we frequent for lunch. My co-workers have encouraged me and celebrate my reaching goal and maintaining the loss. I am blessed! Report
I would have to say that I am lucking. Where I work they are very support to what ever diet any of us has. We have a girl that can not have any gluten and everyone is very carryful about what the bring in when they do which isn't often. But everyone knows that on Tues and Thurs I leave for my lunch time Zumba class so if they plan on lunch outings they do it on days that I don't have to leave or decline the lunch. It is also nice that we have many different places around us that have very good healthy choice no matter what your diet may be. And we pick out the place we will order from or go to, and if one person says they don't like the place then we move on to the next. No way in our office is anyone going to ever feel like they have to eat something or at some place they don't want or to be left out because they have plans to work out.

I've worked at other office settings before and what I have now I know is not the normal and I love it and the girls I work with. Report
My office has a Live Well Work Well scheme, but in an effort to prove that it wasn't all about restrictions, the Healthy Living team handed out jam filled doughnuts to every member of staff. (Unfortunately the Healthy Living team and the Social Committee are the same people, so these are the same people who bring round free hot chocolate with marshmallows for the people who have to work over Christmas, the ones who arrange a basket of Easter goodies for each team, and the ones who send weekly newsletters reminding us to live healthily, while including recipes for tempting high-calorie/high-fat/high-sugar desserts.)

Everyone brings cakes to celebrate their birthdays/leaving day/promotion, but I have a dairy intolerance, so for my birthday I bring in (just enough for one each) vegan-dairy-wheat-and-nut-free inch-square cakes, and a large basket of fruit, instead. Irritatingly I can't seem to get many others interested in bringing in fruit instead of cakes.
I turn down all the other communal goodies, thinking about the germs helps if the dairy problem doesn't dissuade me. I've done it often enough that the Healthy Living team don't bother interrupting me to ask if I want anything :)

We have no cafe or gym, although there is a dedicated space for storing bikes. The only food available on site is a vending machine full of chocolate and crisps, there isn't even any pseudo-healthy options like breakfast bars. Report
Would love to get some healthy food in the vending machines here but a school makes money selling cookies and chips.... Report
In our office, it is mixed. The skinny ones bring in all the goodies but the ones who are trying to lose weight while being healthy stick together and are very supportive of each other so we do not have any issues with the food they bring in as we bring ours as well and they even enjoy some of it. Report
People are jealous of the success of others. Report
My coworkers help me because we plan to pack our lunch and always find time to walk after. We keep on each other. Report
I have no problems with my colleagues or food in the break room. My issue is that I frequently travel and am forced to eat restaurant food. In general, restaurant food has too much sodium, fat and calories. It can be difficult to find healthy alternatives in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Report
My job requires weekly travel so the office goodies are not the problem,however the snacks (vending machines-yuk!) and meals we grab when on the road can make healthy eating difficult. The evening meal can be especially tough when some want to drink and have dessert. It's easier when with a goup of co-workers that are "watching their waist". Report
There seems to be a contest at my work over which unit can bring not only the most food, but the food that has the highest caloric content and the least amount of nutrition.
I've started always having a piece of fruit or fresh vegetables available when a meeting is called -- and try to ignore the pleas "Just this once." Report
Last week I overheard one of my coworkers talking about trying to eat healthier, and another one teasing him in return and being generally not just unsupportive but downright destructive. I went over and told him I was proud that he was going to start eating better and if there was anything I could do to support him, just ask. The 'teasing' coworker shut up and seemed to get the point that we shouldn't be tearing one another down but encouraging! Report
Wherever you are if there are treats you have the option not to take them this is self-empowerment and it is great to have...It also nice to offer co-workers a treat and not feel like a bad person for doing so, they can graciously decline as they have been graciously offered.... Report
Our office is constantly full of food, but I'm one of the ones bringing the stuff from home I can't have. It always gets eaten. Luckily, I'm not one of the ones eating it. Out of sight, out of mind for me. Report
I work in an office that is not "healthy". After reading this blog, I more aware of just how unsupportive my environment is. However, our company has implemented a Wellness program & I happen to be the 'local rep'. I also happen to be the only one actively attempting to lose weight & have an overall healthy lifestyle. My co-workers will do those things mentioned ("You can eat ONE Twizzler...it won't ruin your diet" or "Molly, you need to cheat or else you're doomed to fail!").

My co-workers aren't supportive of my healthy choices & they're unresponsive to our company-wide Wellness program (which sort of falls on me because I'm the local rep). So, I'm getting hit with a double whammy! I'm just trying to lead by example & not fall to temptations... Report
There will be random days on which someone will bring in a homemade plate of scones or a bought package of cookies. There's no pressure to eat them other than their simple existence in the break room. (Which doesn't do much since I track before I eat and if I can't fit them into the day without giving up something else I want, I just don't have them.) Report
When I'm given something unhealthy (in-laws, siblings, friends, etc) I take it in to work... LOL Now, the thing is, I work with a bunch of nurses & CNAs - and most of them have no problems eating snacky foods.
When we have potlucks, I always bring healthy food (like our chili cookoff today - I made turkey/mushroom chili!) and my coworkers are always surprised that it's "good for you". But, my thought is - if I bring a healthy dish, at least I know there's one thing I can eat! Report
I work for a company that encourages wellness. They provide a counseling through a local medical office where a PA-C and a counselor come to the workplace to work with employees individually and through group support sessions. We schedule our individual meetings with the medical office, and we meet every couple of weeks with the PA-C to go over eating plans and weight loss (or gain). And the company pays us for time we spend in all those meetings. They also provide a Lunch & Learn series of meetings with topics such as men's health, women's health, living wills, etc. Report
I dump all my junk food in the break room at work, I personally never set foot in there except to dump food. I don't talk to my co workers, so it's their own business whether they choose to eat it or not. Report
Fortunately I work out of my home, so it's up to me to make those good choices.
But my daughter works at a hospital and it's a constant temptation from nurses and sometimes well meaning patients leaving gifts of candy etc. You would think the nurses would be more aware of the healthy way of living. But believe me some are in dire shape of weight loss. She tells me they have to resort to throwing food out sometimes to get it across to someone that their treats aren't wellcome. Report
This is kinda ironic that this is posted today. I recently moved to another building within my company. My old office had people who were constantly bringing in donuts, cookies, cake, sodas, etc. My new office is full of healthly eaters, and it is so much better to be around. We still do cake on b-days, but it's a treat instead of a daily diet!

Interestingly, this new office is MUCH more optimistic, happy, and relaxed. Just goes to show healthy eating and exercise makes for a better attitude and more happiness. Report
The most difficult position for me is when food is brought into the break room. You can't escape it. It is right there on the table. Thankfully often the idea of a bunch people reaching into a bowl or picking at a cake doesn't appeal to me.
I haven't dealt with unhealthy potlucks, but I like the idea of bringing something healthy.
I am fortunate I work with only 2 other people. And all of us are trying to lose weight. We share food between us if someone forgot something and the other has extra. We go to the cafeteria and eat at the same time. And sometimes we get food from the cafeteria if for some reason we forgot our lunch that day. No one pressures anyone else. We don''t have unhealthy food sitting out all day. Its just us and what we bring. It is helpful. I have worked with other jobs where they all want to go out and get something for lunch and it isn't healthy food. But even then there was no pressure to have the unhealthy food. I guess I have always been lucky but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I work as a cosmetologist and it is our job to make people feel beautiful so as a group, at least the places I worked, we support each other and don't pressure anyone. Report
I see this a lot at my work too. The good news is that everyone knows I'm a pretty strict vegetarian, so most of them work to help accommodate that or they're so confused about what I "can" eat that they just stay out of my eating business. I also work with a lot of people who are culturally vegetarians (mostly Indian descent), so that helps me too!

For those of you who struggle with food pushers (and don't have the "vegetarian crutch", especially at work, I've found that being vague about it can really help. You just say, "I have personal reasons for not eating that" or something along those lines & they usually can't argue that. For all they know, it could be a religious thing or a new health problem, and most workplaces won't legally allow people to probe any further because then they're crossing the lines of professionalism. Good article and topic! :) Report
My office constantly has office lunch parties with mostly unhealthy food followed by massive amounts of sweets. Everyone brings in a dish, with only one person (myself) bringing in a healthy option. The one option that rarely gets eaten. If we don't have lunch parties, then it's someone's birthday with a huge cake. There are candy dishes everywhere! And Fridays are "bakery goods Fridays." I can't escape! When I stayed on track last year to train for a half marathon, the president of the company actually made fun of me for it. There are only a handful of people that are truly supportive of what I'm trying to do with my health, while the others will compliment with those negative undertones. It's really disheartening. Report
I work out of many offices- some are healthy and some are well...not! Everywhere I go I always bring my lunch stocked with fruits and veggies to snack on. I do see at certain offices where I feel more pressured to order food because the drug rep is paying for it. They will usually order Olive Garden, TGI Fridays, etc. I usually try my best to skip it but every once in awhile I will order. You just have to make a plan and stick with it. That is why I track EVERYTHING on Spark:) Report
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