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Bad news: those office freebies could actually be costing you your health.
You may think the occasional free donut or handful of pretzels between meetings is harmless, but new research suggests that might not be the case. A study involving 5,222 employees across the U.S. says that foods typically found in offices are full of calories, sodium, and refined grains, which can derail an otherwise-healthy diet.
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Presenting his findings earlier this week at an annual conference held by the American Society for Nutrition, Onufrak said his study used data from a national household survey issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on foods that were purchased or found—in places such as an office kitchen or snack area—by Americans each week.
Onufrak and his researchers looked at what snacks and indulgent treats were purchased from vending machines and corporate cafeterias, or picked up in common areas where free food was available. They also kept an eye out for catering served at meetings or special social events held in workplaces.
More than 25 percent of those surveyed had snacked on food found in the office at least once, and those who snacked ate over 1,300 calories each week. The worst culprit? Free food. Over 70 percent of those calories came from food that didn’t cost anything at all.
“We were kind of surprised that so many of the foods were free,” Onufrak told the Boston Globe. He also wondered if those workers who happened upon free food (such as a dozen donuts near a coffee machine) didn’t consider what kind of caloric impact it would have.
Onufrak says that employers should utilize on-site wellness programs to start discussing nutrition in the workplace—and focus on stocking healthy options within cafeterias, vending machines, and the free snack counter to better serve employees.
At the very least, these new findings could be the reminder you need to skip that cookie the next time you get up to pour yourself a fresh coffee—the “free” treat simply isn't worth it.
Should You Be Taking Supplements? A Registered Dietitian Explains
Around 50% of Americans take a dietary supplement. Are we actually making ourselves healthier or just throwing our money away?
Wouldn&apost it be nice to just pop a pill and not worry about eating your vegetables? Unfortunately, it doesn&apost really work like that when it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements. Around 50% of Americans report taking some kind of dietary supplement, with about 30% taking a multivitamin. We&aposre also spending billions of dollars (around $40 billion in 2014) on supplements. That&aposs a pretty big investment to make, especially when you consider 90% of us don&apost eat enough fruits and vegetables. So, should you take a supplement? Here&aposs what I think about nutrients in pill form.
What Is the CICO Diet, and Can It Really Help You Lose Weight?
The weight loss plan has gained popularity on Reddit, Instagram, and other social media sites for its simple approach: Take in fewer calories than you burn. But is it a safe and effective way to slash pounds?
Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too, as long as you burn enough calories to make up for it? In a way, that’s the idea behind the current ⟊lories in, calories out' (CICO) diet trend, a twist on a time-tested principle of weight loss: As long as you burn more calories than you ingest, you will lose weight.
But some people are taking that as a license to live on junk food, as long as the math works out.
Check out the #CICO hashtag on Instagram, and you will see images of Pop Tarts, pie, potato chips, pizza, and poutine offered up as evidence that you can indulge and still shed pounds.
Meanwhile, Reddit users have posted thousands of messages about the diet, with threads like this one that begins with, “Was craving McDonald's breakfast this morning and indulged (because I know I can make it fit).”
McDonald’s was a favorite go-to for Jon Stock, a personal trainer in Brooklyn, New York, who admits he has used the CICO diet periodically for weight loss and maintenance, particularly when he thought dropping a few pounds would help with his exercise performance goals.
Convenience and quick results were two major reasons for using the approach, Stock says. “I would get to the point where I was so busy that I was running to McDonald’s and ordering food based on the amount of calories,” he explains. That approach helped him to lose weight but at the expense of having enough energy to work out. “You just feel taxed,” he says, attributing his lack of stamina to having prioritized calorie restriction over getting enough nutritious fuel to keep up with his desired level of activity.
"Those are chickens," said Crake. "Chicken parts. Just the breasts, on this one. They’ve got ones that specialize in drumsticks too, twelve to a growth unit." "But there aren’t any heads…" That’s the head in the middle," said the woman. "There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those." – Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
We teach children that "Old MacDonald had a farm," and that on that farm, he had a cow (moo moo), a goat (baa baa), a chicken (cluck cluck), and a pig (oink oink). The reality, most of us know, is that Old MacDonald was largely replaced long ago by massive operations run by multinational corporations that often don’t even bear the name "farm." Family farms were responsible for 90 percent of the United States’ chicken production until around the 1960s. Today, it is estimated that approximately 99 percent of the animals raised for slaughter in the US live on factory farms.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, families increasingly grew and produced less of their own food on small farms, and those operations were consolidated into the growing food industry, which began to apply manufacturing techniques to the raising of livestock so that the growing millions, then billions, could be fed fast and cheap. By the middle of the 20th century, factory farms were so ubiquitous that the "Old MacDonald" farms of our childhood imaginations were quickly becoming an endangered species.
In US law, factory farms are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs for short). In practice, factory farms are very large — four farms in the United States produce 80 percent of the cattle raised for slaughter and half of the chickens. They’re operations that raise livestock in highly confined, high-density conditions with more than 125,000 animals under one roof. The largest food production company in the United States is Tyson Foods, which reported a revenue of $32 billion in 2011. Tyson employs 115,000 people and has 400 operation centers in the United States. It works with nearly 7,000 farms who supply it with animals for the final stages of life, slaughter, and processing. The life cycle of an animal through large scale farming operations is generally: birth at a farm (most come from factories as defined by the EPA), movement to a feedlot for "finishing" (a highly confined "city" for animals), and finally, processing at a plant such as Tyson. In 2010, Tyson "processed" (slaughtered) an average of 42.3 million chickens, 143,000 cows, and nearly 390,000 pigs per week. The company makes its profit by processing animals in efficient and brutal circumstances. For example, in 1925, the average Tyson chicken lived approximately 112 days, weighed around 2.5 pounds at the time of slaughter, and had consumed about 4.7 pounds of grain per pound of its body weight. In 2010, the same chicken lived just 45 days, was slaughtered at an average weight of 5.63 pounds, and consumed just 1.92 pounds of grain per pound. Simply put, the animals live less than half as long, eat half as much and are more than double the size they were 100 years ago.
The efficiency of these operations has enabled them to produce an ever-increasing amount of animals for ballooning profits. The first few decades of the 20th century saw the introduction of vitamin supplements. Combined with artificial lighting, it allowed animals to be raised indoors (chickens will even lay eggs year round, now), and at increasing body weights. The advent of refrigeration meant that animal meat could be kept much longer, and transported farther distances, before going bad. A growing understanding of genetics led to the selective breeding of the strongest, healthiest birds. In the 1950s livestock vaccination became standard. Around the same time, the largest and most often-cited technological advance in factory farming came with the introduction of low-grade antibiotics into the chickens’ feed and water supply. Farmers were raising animals in such large quantities that disease could quickly and easily wipe out huge numbers of them the application of antibiotics, it was thought, would lessen some of that risk. It also meant they could be raised in far less sterile conditions. But there was also an unforeseen consequence: the animals quickly grew fatter. Antibiotics, it turns out, kill off the bacterium —which makes up the microbiome — found in the guts of all animals and helps digest carbohydrates. Unable to process the bacteria, the animal puts on weight, and fast. The cause of such rapid weight gain wasn’t understood until early 2013, but it became a standard method of fattening livestock in the 1950s. Today around 80 percent of all antibiotics produced in the US are used for livestock.
These are just a few of the ways in which factory farms are able to meet the ever-increasing demand for animal-based food. The availability of large quantities of cheap meat has unsurprisingly increased demand steeply. The average person in the US now eats about 270 pounds of meat a year. Beef consumption has gone down, but overall consumption — of fish, meat, poultry, and eggs — has continued to rise steadily. Over the past 100 years meat consumption has steadily grown in proportion to the rest of our diets, now composing roughly 15 percent of the calories in the average US citizen’s diet. Thanks to population growth and demand in developing nations, meat consumption globally is predicted to double by the year 2050. All of this comes at a very high cost, a cost which many experts say will be devastating.
Do ‘Cheat Meals’ Help or Hurt Your Diet?
You’re good about watching what you eat. But every now and then, you splurge on a meal that’s definitely not on any weight loss plan.
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Are ‘cheat meals’ a good thing or a bad thing? Our dietitians share their points of view:
Con: Cheaters never win
“With ‘cheat meals,’ the only thing you’re cheating is yourself,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE.
If you hope to lose 1 pound a week and burn 2,000 calories per day, you’ll have to cut 500 calories per day. That means consuming no more than 1,500 calories per day.
A cheat meal consisting of a double cheeseburger with fries and a milkshake can set you back over 2,000 calories.
“Once you’ve added in other meals and snacks, it literally cancels out half your hard work in meeting your calorie and exercise goals all week,” she says.
Pro (with a few caveats)
Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, is OK with cheat meals as a positive reward — as long as you offset the extra calories somewhere else in the day.
“You can exercise for a longer period of time or at greater intensity, for example,” she says.
Whether cheat meals help or hurt depends on the person, says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.
“If you feel less deprived by eating that piece of cake, or burger and fries, and don’t feel you have to order one of everything off the menu, it could lead to better long-term outcomes,” she says.
But know that indulging in “forbidden” foods can make you start to crave them. “And if you have a history of overeating or bingeing, cheat meals can trigger those behaviors,” she notes.
Gonna cheat? Be smart
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, recommends being strategic if you decide to cheat. “Don’t plan a cheat meal just to go nuts on your diet,” she says.
“Allow yourself to go off your diet for a special event. If you find you don’t feel like cheating, then don’t — don’t force it.”
Also, keep those cheat meal choices fairly healthy, adds Ms. Patton:
- Order a single cheeseburger instead of a double bacon cheeseburger.
- Share your French fries.
- Split a pasta primavera instead of ordering a whole fettuccine Alfredo.
How’s that diet working for you?
If you find you’ve created a pattern of cheat meals, “your diet is probably not livable,” says Ms. Taylor. Many diets are too strict.
Everything you eat needn’t be a dietitian’s daydream, she notes. Start with a foundation of fiber-rich produce, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats.
Then give yourself some flexibility:
- To maintain health, eat healthy food 80 percent of the time, and allow yourself 20 percent wiggle room (practicing portion control).
- To improve health, eat healthy foods 90 percent of the time, and allow yourself 10 percent wiggle room.
The bottom line: Don’t use food to reward, punish or comfort yourself. Strive for a healthy relationship with food, and you’ll enjoy a healthy weight — while also enjoying your meals.
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Skip the Fads: Why You Should Eat a Real-Food Diet
You’ve decided to try to lose weight and eat a healthier diet so you feel better and your joints don’t ache so much. Okay. Now what? There’s no shortage of diets and diet advice out there. What’s the best approach?
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We spoke to Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS, an internal medicine physician with special expertise in prevention of chronic diseases, for her advice.
Dr. Sukol has spent much of her career exploring the impact of what people eat on their health and well-being, including her own. She helps her patients and others find their own individual paths to sustainable ways to change their eating habits.
Understand the common strategy of most diets
“I believe that many diets have one particular strategy in common, which is to increase the amount of real food that people are eating and decrease the amount of manufactured calories, which includes stripped carbohydrates,” says Dr. Sukol.
Stripped carbohydrates have been processed in ways that remove the most nourishing parts. For example, to make white flour, the bran and germ are stripped out. Other stripped carbohydrates are white rice, corn starch and sugar.
“It’s not a coincidence that white flour, corn starch and powdered sugar look exactly the same,” says Dr. Sukol. “We’ve removed the original identity of those products, and all that’s left is a pile of white powder.”
What is real food anyway?
“Real food comes in 11 varieties,” says Dr. Sukol. These are fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry. “This is food that nourishes us,” she says.
That doesn’t mean that everyone will eat everything on the list. Some people have allergies (to nuts, for example), or certain intolerances (such as to lactose or gluten). And some people choose not to eat some foods, such as vegetarians (who don’t eat meat or fish) or vegans (who also avoid eggs and dairy).
But if you want to nourish yourself, those are the choices, and everything else is entertainment. I’m not saying you can’t eat entertaining items just be aware they don’t nourish you.
“I don’t deprive myself of all treats,” she says. “If I go somewhere and there’s a plate of brownies, I might eat one.” It’s about making personal choices. How well do you want to be nourished, and how much entertaining food do you require to not feel deprived?
How to set realistic food goals
If you are aiming to eat a more nourishing diet, don’t try to make a complete switch all at once. Attempting to achieve perfection is probably a recipe for failure.
Dr. Sukol recommends paying attention to how much stripped carbohydrates you eat for a week or two, and then deciding to lower it by a certain amount — perhaps 30%. And then try it. She also suggests replacing it with something else that you like.
And she doesn’t focus on calories and portion sizes. “Your brain can tell the difference between real food and entertainment,” she says. If you feed yourself food that nourishes you, you won’t feel as hungry. She encourages people to trust how they feel. “Your body is telling you something,” she says. “Listen.”
What does Dr. Sukol eat?
People often make assumptions about what Dr. Sukol eats, variously thinking she might be vegan or follow a paleo or Weight Watchers® diet. In one of her blog posts, she sets the record straight. Here is a shortened version:
Breakfast: I had a cup of black coffee, a bowl of gazpacho (cold vegetable soup), and some strawberries.
Lunch: I often have leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, like stew or vegetables. It usually contains some beans, tofu, chicken or fish. Or an avocado, sprinkled with salt, or a bowl of homemade soup and a couple of pieces of fruit. Afternoon snack consists of nuts (any and all kinds), a piece of fruit and a piece of dark chocolate. I keep a small knife and cutting board at work to slice up things like tomatoes and cucumbers.
Dinner: I might have salmon, cod, bean soup, eggs poached in tomato sauce, turkey meatballs or canned tuna. There is always a green salad and one or more vegetables, one of which is green. Salad can be just lettuce, olive oil and sprinkle of salt. There is the occasional sweet potato, quinoa, kasha or brown rice.
This article originally appeared in Cleveland Clinic Arthritis Advisor.
WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic: Understanding the findings
Last week the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that consumption of processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans (Group I ),” and that consumption of red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).” The report differentiates the two meats as follows:
- Processed meat – meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation
- Red meat – unprocessed mammalian muscle meat such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat meat
Consumption of processed meat was classified as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic after the IARC Working Group – comprised of 22 scientists from ten countries – evaluated over 800 studies. Conclusions were primarily based on the evidence for colorectal cancer. Data also showed positive associations between processed meat consumption and stomach cancer, and between red meat consumption and pancreatic and prostate cancer.
- Meat processing such as curing (e.g. by adding nitrates or nitrites) or smoking can lead to the formation of potentially cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals such as N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
- Meat also contains heme iron, which can facilitate production of carcinogenic NOCs.
- Cooking – especially high-temperature cooking including cooking meats over a flame (e.g., pan-frying, grilling, barbecuing) – can also produce carcinogenic chemicals, including heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAHs.
To help further explain the report findings we spoke with Kana Wu, a member of the IARC Monograph Working Group for this report and a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The IARC Working Group said red meat is “probably” carcinogenic, but several studies showed no clear association. Can you explain why it’s probably carcinogenic?
In large population studies, but not all of them, greater red meat consumption has been associated with higher risk of colorectal cancer. Although these studies were not entirely consistent, results of laboratory studies led the IARC working group to conclude that red meat is probably carcinogenic.
Some reports in the media, particularly those from the meat industry, promote red meat consumption as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Is this true?
While it is true that red meat has nutritional value – it is rich in protein, minerals and vitamins (e.g., vitamin B12) – many studies have also shown that high consumption of red meat can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, and may lead to higher risk of dying of those diseases (when compared to other good sources of protein, such as poultry, fish or legumes). Thus, much evidence suggests that an optimally healthy diet would be low in red meat.
The IARC/WHO classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, the same category as tobacco smoking and asbestos. Some media reports have indicated that eating bacon or hot dogs is as bad as smoking. Is this true?
It has been known for a while that high consumption of red or processed meat can adversely affect health, including raising risk of colorectal cancers and some other cancers. So the conclusions drawn by the IARC Working Group are consistent with what we already know. However, the way the media has reacted to last week’s IARC/WHO announcement has created a lot of confusion and this requires clarification:
IARC/WHO does not assess the size of risk
The International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) used clearly defined guidelines to identify hazards (qualitative evaluation), i.e. whether an agent can cause cancer, but IARC does not assess level or the magnitude of risk (quantative assessment). In other words, the IARC/WHO evaluates the evidence not risk. As stated by the Director of IARC Christopher Wild, “The IARC evaluations are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.” As an example, the US Dietary Guidelines Committee issued a review of diet and health earlier this year among the conclusions was that consumption of red meat should be low for both human and planet health.
Smoking vs. high consumption of processed meat
Even though smoking is in the same category as processed meat (Group 1 carcinogen), the magnitude or level of risk associated with smoking is considerably higher (e.g., for lung cancer about 20 fold or 2000% increased risk) from those associated with processed meat – an analysis of data from 10 studies, cited in the IARC report showed an 18 percent increased risk in colorectal cancer per 50g processed meat increase per day. To put this in perspective, according to the Global Disease Burden Project 2012, over 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to high processed meat intake vs. 1 million deaths per year attributable to tobacco smoke.
High consumption of red or processed meat also increases risk of other chronic diseases and mortality
It is important to keep in mind that the above estimates pertain to cancer deaths only. It is well known that besides increasing the risk of some cancers, high red and processed meat intake can also increase risk of other chronic and potentially life threatening diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes compared to other protein sources such as poultry, legumes and fish. Our group at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Medical School and others have also found higher rates of total mortality with higher intake of red or processed meat. In fact, according to 2013 data from the Global Burden of Disease Project, the number of total deaths (including deaths from cardiovascular disease or diabetes and colorectal cancers) attributable to a diet high in processed meat was 644,000.
Some people purchase “nitrate-free” processed meats, a fairly new food trend. Could that help make processed meat less carcinogenic?
So-called “nitrate-free” processed meats are often preserved with celery juice, a plant rich in nitrate. The source of nitrate added for meat preservation will likely not matter. Furthermore, processed meats can also contain other carcinogenic compounds such as PAHs which can be formed during smoking of meat (e.g. salami). Processed meats, particularly those containing red meat also contain heme iron, which can enhance the formation of carcinogenic compounds (NOCs) in the body. Until we know more about the exact mechanisms underlying the relationship between processed meat and cancers, it is best to treat those nitrate-free processed meats the same as any other processed meats and limit intake.
How about chicken or turkey hot dogs, or turkey bacon – are those safer to eat than bacon or hot dogs containing red meats such as beef or pork?
Chicken and turkey hot dogs and turkey bacon may also contain preservatives such as nitrates. However, those meats contain less heme iron than processed meats made from red meats. A good alternative is to replace red or processed meat with unprocessed, fresh chicken or turkey, which is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Also to be considered are nuts, peanuts, soy, and legumes, such as hummus.
Are processed meats made from so-called “organic” meats safer?
Processed meats made from so-called “organic meats” are generally treated with natural nitrate such as celery juice or smoked as well. At this point there is insufficient data to conclude whether those meats are safer than the “non-organic” meats.
The media has reported that 50g/day consumption of processed meat can risk for colorectal cancer from an average 5 percent lifetime risk to 6 percent. This does not sound like much of an increase in risk.
50g processed meat is equivalent to about 6 slices of bacon or one hot dog. The 5 percent to 6 percent increase in risk of colorectal cancer reported in the media is a population average, but this estimate does not take into account that for certain subgroups (e.g., those who are also obese, are physically inactive or consume diets high in sugar, saturated fat etc., or are more genetically susceptible) the absolute risk can be higher. As mentioned above, high consumption of red and processed meat is associated with higher risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, not just colorectal cancers and high processed meat consumption is estimated to account for about 644,000 deaths worldwide. Thus, in making dietary choices, it is important to consider all the consequences, not just risk of one disease.
Are there any specific types of processed meats that should be avoided more than others?
IARC evaluated consumption of total processed meat, not one specific type of meat, because data relating specific subtypes of processed and red meat to risk of cancers are currently limited. Therefore, it is not yet possible to draw a conclusion on whether specific types of meats are safer. Overall, it is best to limit consumption of any processed meat.
I heard that red meat production can affect the environment, is this true?
Dr. Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, recently addressed this topic.
How much red or processed meat, if any, can I eat? What do you recommend?
Studies have shown that the higher the intake of processed meat, the higher the risk of colorectal cancers and other chronic diseases (dose-response). This does not mean you have to cut out all red and processed meats from your diet. In our Healthy Eating Plate we suggest avoiding processed meat and consuming red meat occasionally at most. Ideally, we should be thinking of red meat as we do lobster, having it for a special occasion if we like it. This is how red meat is consumed in many traditional eating cultures, such as the Mediterranean diet. Other organizations have also recommended limiting consumption of red meat for better health, including the American Heart Association, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Cancer Society. For example, the WCRF recommends to limit intake of red meat to 500g per week and to avoid processed meat.
Confession time: Even though I eat a (mostly) healthy diet at home, I often find myself mindlessly drifting from M&M to Cheeto and back during a stressful day at work.
Snacks have become such a common office perk that one recent survey from Jobvite found millennial workers were more likely to get free food at work than they were to receive health care or retirement plans.
In our office, we have bagel Wednesdays, guacamole Thursdays and occasional pizza Fridays on top of the day-to-day snacks that fill our multiple snack drawers.
Just having those snacks available — and visible — could be the problem. Add in stress, multitasking, boredom and procrastination, and you have a perfect storm of office snackery.
“Oftentimes hunger is less about legitimate hunger and more about decisions based on psychological influences like stress, boredom, impulse, happiness and fatigue,” says nutritionist Keri Glassman. “When food is easily accessible, and also free, we are more likely to reach for it, and continue to overeat.”
Problem 1: Location, Location, Location
In one frequently cited study, researchers at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab gave secretaries containers of Hershey’s kisses and recorded how many they ate. When the candies were on the secretaries’ desks, they ate 48 percent more than they did if they were placed 2 meters away.
When the containers were see-through instead of opaque, they ate about 2 extra kisses per day.
So reducing snacking might be as easy as changing where and how the snacks are displayed. Google set out to hack its snacking problem with help from researchers from the Yale Center for Customer Insights. First, they targeted their most popular snack item: bulk M&Ms. Google had been giving them out self-serve in 4 oz cups. Switching to individual snack packets reduced the average serving by 58 percent, from 308 calories to 130.
Then they hid the M&Ms in opaque containers, while using glass jars to display healthier snacks like dried fruit and nuts. They found that in the New York office alone, employees ate 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms over seven weeks – equivalent to nine regular-sized packages of M&Ms for each of the office’s 2,000 workers.
Then they prominently displayed bottled water at eye level behind clear glass, and hid sugary sodas down below behind foggy glass. That helped water consumption rise 47 percent while sugary drinks dropped 7 percent.
And as with secretaries and chocolates, the Google study found location mattered. One drink station was 6.5 feet from the snack bar the other was 17.5 feet from the snack bar. The researchers found that people who used the beverage station closer to the snacks were 50 percent more likely to grab a snack with their drink. For men, the researchers said that would add up to about a pound of fat per year for each daily cup of coffee.
Problem 2: It’s FREE!
Next, we must acknowledge that special frenzy that happens around free food. Anyone who’s been near a Costco sample table understands this phenomenon.
Journalists know this especially well: We will volunteer for all kinds of ungodly shifts and Election Night duties if there is pizza involved.
But why is free food so tempting? We’re usually talking about a $1 snack pack here, not champagne and truffles. In other words, you’re not saving that much money.
But not having to pay for something removes one barrier to eating it, says Traci Mann, a University of Minnesota psychology professor and author of “Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again.”
Another factor: Nabbing those extra snacks might make you feel better if you think you don’t get paid enough, says Dr. Susan Albers, clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the New York Times best-selling “Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence.”
“Before you reach for the free snack, ask yourself why you are taking it,” says Albers, “If you don’t love it, leave it is my motto.”
Problem 3: You’re a Mess
Sitting at your desk for long stretches, you’re likely to encounter a range of emotions that could trigger snacking. Stress. Boredom. Procrastination.
In a 2012 study published in Health Psychology, students were more likely to cite boredom as a reason for eating than any other emotion. Work burnout is another significant trigger for emotional eating.
And because eating feels purposeful, it can be “a rock solid way” to avoid a task you’re dreading, Albers says. There’s even a special term for this: Procrastin-eating.
Grabbing a snack may even be a sneaky way to socialize if you’re feeling isolated or lonely. Earlier this year, the Washington Post conducted its own informal study of the office candy jar and found that people felt compelled to comment as they took the candy – even if they were saying they shouldn’t eat it, or that the candy wasn’t very good. They called this “The Kevin effect,” for the guy who had the candy jar on his desk.
A correlary to the Kevin effect: People are less likely to eat the candy if it’s on the boss’ desk.
The 21 Craziest Diets Ever &mdash Debunked
Just because a girl in your office has a cousin whose friend lost 10 pounds in four days with a diet doesn't mean her esoteric diet will be safe, effective, and sustainable for you. To put things in perspective, Cosmopolitan.com asked Charlie Seltzer, M.D., a weight-loss specialist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to debunk the Internet's craziest diets and rate them from 1 (try it!) to 10 (totally nuts).
1. Juice Cleanse
Rules: No solids. Some programs entail drinking six or so ready-to-drink fruit and vegetable juices throughout the day. There are lots of DIY iterations: Victoria's Secret angel Adriana Lima has said she sticks to an all-liquid diet before fashion shows. For nine days prior, she drinks protein shakes made from powdered egg and one gallon of water per day.
Rationale: Because this super low-calorie, produce-based diet prohibits all the solid foods you're used to eating, it helps you eat fewer calories without having to navigate tons of complicated rules. This creates a calorie deficit that promotes weight loss.
Reality: "It might sound cool to lose 10 pounds in three days, but weight you lose on a juice cleanse tends to be water weight from your muscles, not fat," Dr. Seltzer explains. "Afterward, your body won't look much different in the mirror, and you'll gain it all back from just looking at a bagel," he adds.
Crazy Scale: 11/10
2. The Charcoal Cleanse
Rules: You drink juice containing activated charcoal to your regular diet.
Rationale: Your body can't absorb activated charcoal, so it passes through your digestive system untouched. Because it clings to toxins in the body, it removes impurities like pesticides and any unhealthy stuff found in non-organic or processed foods. Advocates say it improves the skin, boosts digestion, and enhances organ functioning.
Reality: "You think you're taking toxins out of your body, but charcoal doesn't pass through your whole body &mdash just through your intestines, where it can bind to nutrients and suck those out," Seltzer explains. "Our bodies are pretty good at processing toxins, and your chances of dying from toxins in food are lower than your risk of dying from being obese. If you want to decrease toxins in your body, don't eat them in the first place by avoiding processed foods," he adds.
Crazy Scale: 12/10
3. Macrobiotic Diet
Rules: Designed to promote optimal health, you eat a vegan, whole-grain-based diet plus some beans and vegetables. Some versions allow fruits, fish, seeds, and nuts (but only once or twice a week) and strong spices are discouraged. So no animal products (including dairy or eggs) or processed foods.
Rationale: Brown rice and other whole grains contain the perfect balance of yin (stimulating) and yang (stagnating), so a diet largely based on these foods is supposed to promote wellbeing and longevity.
Reality: It's not sustainable and can cause some nutritional deficiencies. "Most people can't do it," Dr. Seltzer says. "The stress associated with trying to follow a diet like this can offset the benefits. We're omnivores and supposed to eat meat," he adds.
Crazy Scale: 6/10
4. The Baby Food Diet
Rules: Designed to promote weight loss, this diet entails eating upward of 16 jars of baby food per day instead of regular meals and snacks. You can eat one regular meal every day.
Rationale: It creates a calorie deficit that promotes weight loss, rids the body of toxins, and helps you breaks bad habits, according to Tracey Anderson, who's been credited with creating the program.
Reality: While baby food is minimally processed (pro!), "it's a gimmick. If you look at people who have healthy bodies, no one will tell you they eat a baby food diet. It's infinitely ridiculous."
Crazy Scale: Infinity/10
5. The Vision Diet
Rules: You eat everything while wearing blue-tinted glasses.
Rationale: Based on the idea that red/yellow-colored foods are the most palatable (think: meat, French fries, ripe produce, etc.), this diet is designed to make your food look less appetizing. In theory, this makes you eat less.
Reality: "It doesn't sound right to me," Dr. Seltzer says. "But if it makes people leaner, there's no downside." Except being seen in blue shades at brunch, lunch, and dinner.
Crazy Scale: 10/10
6. The Shangri-La Diet
Rules: You drink extra-light olive oil or flavorless sugar water between meals.
Rationale: Eating a variety of flavorful foods stimulates hunger and makes you gain weight. If you consume bland foods, you fend off hunger without inducing food cravings, so you end up eating less and losing weight.
Reality: "Not a bad idea," Dr. Seltzer says. "For some people, exposure to a greater variety of food stimulates the appetite. For others, though, eating the same thing every day makes you bored and crave more foods. Success would probably depend on the person. I wouldn't be offended if you tried eating bland foods at meals. But I'd use whey protein instead of olive oil between meals, because it will satisfy your appetite with fewer calories."
Crazy Scale: 3/10
7. The Clip-Your-Nose-While-You-Eat Diet
Rules: Cover your nose so you can't smell while you eat.
Rationale: It blunts your sense of taste, which helps you focus on your actual appetite and stop eating when you're full.
Reality: "Smell does drive appetite and food intake, but you're going to go out to dinner and cover your nose? No normal person will do that in the long run," Dr. Seltzer says.
Crazy Scale: 7/10
8. The Eight-Hour Diet
Rules: You only eat during a daily eight-hour window (i.e., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.)
Rationale: Intermittent fasting appears to moderate the circadian rhythm and ultimately boost metabolism to fend off weight gain, according to human and animal studies. Also, reducing the amount of time you spend eating can help you save up calories so you don't have to deprive yourself when you do get to indulge.
Reality: "There's no evidencethat eating breakfast or eating every three hours improves your metabolism, so for people who don't get hungry in the morning, this variation on fasting is actually maintainable," Dr. Seltzer says. "Just don't try it if it makes you hungry &mdash that's not a good way to live and it's not maintainable for you."
Crazy Scale: 1/10
9. Dessert With Breakfast Diet
Rules: Every morning, you eat a breakfast that's high in protein (i.e., about 45 grams, depending on your weight) and high in carbs (i.e., 60 grams) plus dessert, such as chocolate, a doughnut, a cookie, or cake.
Rationale: Extra protein and carbs fend off hunger, and eating treats in the morning can curb your sweet tooth later on.
Reality: "This is based on research, and it's solid," Dr. Seltzer says.
Crazy Scale: 1/10
10. The Ice Cream Cleanse
Rules: You eat five pints of special ice cream a day. (The brand-name version costs $199 for three days. Unlike Ben and Jerry's, this diet ice cream is made from coconut cream and honey.)
Rationale: It controls your calories for a deficit that produces weight loss. And you get to eat ice cream all day. (Don't ask questions.)
Reality: "Any calorie deficit will create weight loss &mdash but it can also cause a nutritional deficiency. Still: What do you do when you go out to dinner? You can't eat ice cream for the rest of your life. People are too concerned with getting weight off and not what happens after it comes off," Dr. Seltzer says.
Crazy Scale: 10/10
11. The Ice Diet
Rules: Eat a liter of ice every day to lose weight. (You let it melt in your mouth instead of chewing it.)
Rationale: Melting ice is hard work that burns calories.
Reality: "Mild dehydration blunts fat burning and stimulates hunger, and this would keep you hydrated," Dr. Seltzer says. "But I don't believe the calorie-burning effects from ice would be significant."
Crazy Scale: 8/10. "It's a good idea to drink more fluids, and anything that decreases your appetite is a good idea. But a liter of ice every day? Come on," Dr. Seltzer says.
12. Gluten-Free Diet (for Weight Loss)
Rules: No gluten-containing foods, which includes anything made with wheat, barley, or rye (such as breads, most baked goods, and many snack foods).
Rationale: When you avoid gluten, there is less you can eat overall, so you end up consuming fewer calories by default. Some experts say wheat contains an appetite-stimulating compound that encourages your body to produce insulin, which can cause you to store fat.
Reality: "Wheat does promote fat storage, but only when you eat too much of it," Dr. Seltzer explains. "But the problem is that many people who avoid gluten to lose weight end up adding gluten-free processed foods to their diets, which are full of sugar and can have twice as many calories as whatever you were eating before."
Crazy Scale: 10/10
13. Raw Food Diet
Rules: You can only eat uncooked plant-based foods.
Rationale: Foods lose their enzymes and become less nutritious when you cook them. Most raw, edible foods are low in calories and high in water and fiber, so you can fill up for relatively few calories and ultimately lose weight, according to clinical studies.
Reality: "This is very difficult to follow from lifestyle standpoint," Dr. Seltzer says. "You have to dedicate your life to do it. But there are more effective ways to lose fat and be healthy than avoiding everything processed. If you're looking at apple and Cheetos, eat the apple &mdash unless you want the Cheetos, in which case, eat the Cheetos, because if you start with the apple, you'll probably eat those Cheetos anyway."
Crazy Scale: 5/10
14. Master Cleanse
Rules: You drink salt water each morning a lime or lemon, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water concoction throughout the day and laxative tea at night.
Rationale: It's an extreme low-calorie diet with ingredients (cayenne) known to speed up metabolism.
Reality: "I'd rather you eat at McDonald's every day than do this," Dr. Seltzer says. "Force-feeding yourself a horrible-tasting cleanse isn't going to work in the long term, which will discourage you and separate you from the reality of what you need to do to lose weight and keep it off."
Crazy Scale: Infinity/10. "Don't do it," he says.
15. The Cookie Diet
Rules: You eat six to nine special 80- to 90-calorie cookies per day. (Brand namevarieties contain ingredients like beef protein hydrolysate and wheat bran.)
Rationale: The cookies provide you with essential nutrients, but control your overall intake to create a calorie deficit and subsequent weight loss.
Reality: "Anything that restricts calorie intake will cause weight loss in the short term," Dr. Seltzer says, "but anyone who thinks they are going to lose weight and keep it off by eating nine cookies a day for the rest of their lives is avoiding real problems." That's because when you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your metabolism slows down. When you go back to eating normal foods, you gain the weight right back.
Crazy Scale: 12/10
16. The Prayer Diet
Rules: You pray every day that you'll lose weight.
Rationale: God helps those who can't help themselves.
Reality: "If praying subconsciously enables you to eat less food or make healthier choices, do it," Dr. Seltzer says. "You're not going to do any physical or metabolic damage by praying."
Crazy Scale: 5/10 ("If you're not making any effort to make healthier choices," Dr. Seltzer says.)
17. The "What Would Jesus Eat?" Diet (aka The Maker's Diet or The Bible Diet)
Rules: This 40-day, multi-phase diet permits organic fruits, veggies, grains, fish with fins and scales, and meat and poultry. It prohibits pork products, processed foods, pastas and breads, and grains. In terms of timing, you eat breakfast 12 hours after a light, early dinner.
Rationale: Proponents say that humans are only designed to eat foods created by God, and that reverting back to a diet full of unadulterated foods improves your overall functioning, heightens concentration, enhances your mood, heals pain and inflammation, reduces the risk of cancer, and slows aging (although there's not much in the way of clinical data to back that up).
Reality: "If you can do it and like it and stick with it, then it's the best nutrition plan you have out there. Everyone should follow an all-organic nutritional plan, but practically, that's very hard," says Dr. Seltzer.
Crazy Scale: 1/10 for effectiveness, 5/10 for practicality
18. The Beverly Hills Diet
Rules: You start your day with one kind of fruit and eat as much of it as you want. Then, you can wait one hour and switch to eating another kind of fruit in unlimited quantities, or wait two hours and progress to other food groups. Then you can combine protein and fat or carbs and fat, but no carbs and protein together. You can't mix fruit with any other foods, and you can't eat any artificial foods. On the plus side: You don't count any calories and you can drink champagne with anything!
Rationale: Because the body stores unburned calories as fat, inefficient digestion is responsible for weight gain, according to some sources. Combining some foods and separating others helps your body fully digest your food. And complicated rules will ultimately make it difficult to mindlessly eat.
Reality: "There's no research that food combining does anything," Dr. Seltzer says. What experts do know: "Ounce-for-ounce, alcohol has more calories than protein or carbohydrates, and it's the only thing that simultaneously provides calories and stokes your appetite," Dr. Seltzer says.
Crazy Scale: 10/10
19. Cabbage Soup Diet
Rules: On this seven-day weight-loss diet, you can eat as much low-calorie cabbage-based soup as you want, plus small amounts of one or two other foods (like fruit or leafy greens in the beginning of the week, or beef and brown rice toward the end of the week).
Rationale: You get the nutrients you need from the veggies in the soup, and the sheer volume of it keeps you full. You get sick of the soup and limited options really quickly, so you end up eating less overall.
Reality: "You may lose weight from eating very few carbs, but you won't address any of your bad habits," Dr. Seltzer says. So when you return to your old diet, you'll miss all the foods you couldn't eat during your cabbage soup cleanse and end up eating larger quantities.
Crazy Scale: 10/10
20. Cotton Ball/Tissue Paper Diet
Rules: You eat up to five cotton balls (or the equivalent amount of tissue paper) dipped in orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie in one sitting.
Rationale: You fill your stomach without eating enough calories to gain weight.
Reality: "That sounds insane to me," Dr. Seltzer says. "I'm not a gastroenterologist, but I can't imagine that's good for the stomach or intestines."
Crazy Scale: 70/10
21. Fist Diet
Rules: At every meal, you fill your plate with the equivalent of one fistful of protein, one fistful of carbs, two fistfuls of vegetables, and three fingers worth of fat.
Rationale: It helps you eyeball food servings and eat a balanced, portion-controlled diet without counting calories.
Reality: "It's a practical, less complicated approach to food, and a good way to eat," Dr. Selzter says.
Crazy Scale: 1/10. "It sounds good for anyone who doesn't like to track food. Try it!" Dr. Selzter says.
3 of 5
If You&rsquore a Speed-Eater
The fallout: Gulping food may set you up for stomach troubles. &ldquoYou take in excess air, which can lead to bloating,&rdquo says Bonci. You also might not be chewing well. &ldquoSaliva begins to break food down, and too little time in the mouth leaves more work for the rest of the digestive tract. This may contribute to indigestion,&rdquo says Krieger. Finally, speed-eating doesn&rsquot give the brain time to catch up to the stomach it needs at least 20 minutes to get the message that your stomach is full. A recent study found that women who ate a meal in 30 minutes ate 10 percent fewer calories compared with those who wolfed one down in barely 10.
The fix: Try to slow down. Avoid finger foods, and instead choose items you have to put on a plate and eat with utensils, such as stir-fries and salads. Pause often, and drink water throughout meals.
If You Skip Breakfast
The fallout: You&rsquoll probably have a lousy morning, as well as a higher chance of overeating later on. &ldquoBlood sugar usually drops overnight, so your brain is running on empty until you eat in the morning,&rdquo says Krieger. Studies have shown that cognitive skills and memory improve once you&rsquove fueled your foggy morning brain. Recent research shows that breakfast skippers tend to eat more calories during the day than do people who don&rsquot skip. Eating breakfast may actually help you achieve and maintain weight loss.
The fix: Breakfast doesn&rsquot have to be a drawn-out affair, but try to eat about an hour or two after you get up. &ldquoAim for 250 to 400 calories, and include at least one serving of whole grains, a source of protein, and one serving of fruit,&rdquo says Gidus. If you&rsquore habitually short on time, stock the kitchen with easy-to-make breakfast foods, keep packets of oatmeal at the office, or place a standing order at a café so you can make a pickup on your way to work.