When there’s free food at the office, are you able to resist eating it? Numerous studies have found that if either comfort or health foods are available and free, people are more likely to indulge even when they’re not hungry.
"It's a behavioral thing because when things are within reach and free, it's a double whammy that's extremely hard to resist," Julie Devinsky, a clinical dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told CNBC. Some of these impulses derive from stress. A 2012 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that working women are more likely to binge-eat because of job-related worries.
One recent study even suggested that food is more tempting when it’s within arm’s reach, and Daily Meal staffers can somewhat unscientifically testify to findings like that. Because we work at a food publication, there’s almost always something around, and a staff member passing up free pizza, chips, or candy is just about as rare as a Sasquatch sighting. This could be blamed on editorial taste tests, or it could just be that if something’s there, we feel a professional obligation to at least try it.
“There’s the stuff I feel like I should try because we’re doing a taste test, but I always end up eating the free food,” one editor said. Even if we definitely don’t want something or know we won’t like it, many of us force the product down anyway, you know, in the name of journalism.
This can have negative outcomes, especially for people trying to maintain a wholesome diet. Companies tend to want us to try their products, not their produce — so it’s not often fruit, vegetables, or other perishable items are sent through the mail. And of course, junk food always looks better than any desk salad or sad sandwich waiting in the fridge.
“I don’t ever diet or watch my calories or whatever, so it’s usually not a problem, but during my three months trying to be vegan, the only time it was really hard to resist was when there was free cheese or pizza in the office,” another editor opined. While this staffer didn’t find dairy-less cheeses that off-putting, it’s safe to say we didn’t flock to the kitchen for the vegan cheese taste test the same way we did when Pizza Hut dropped off its Double Cheesy Crust Pan Pizza, which was glutenously greasy and super-stuffed with mozzarella cheese. Diet, who?
“It's just like a distraction from work for a bit. Even if I'm not hungry, I'll go eat whatever is there. Everyone else is eating it, and it's an excuse to get away from my desk!” another editor said. “Also I'm way more likely to eat it if it's near me. If I have to traverse the entire office to grab a snack, I'll probably just pass. But if it's in front of my face, I'm probably taking some free food.”
Why would someone pass up free grub? Even though it might not always be saving your gut, it’s nice for your wallet, especially in cities where one measly salad costs about $10. Lo and behold, there are certainly ways to save a few bucks for non-millionaires who want to make better-for-you choices. If you need help developing the willpower to say no to free office snacks, try these tips on how to eat healthy for cheap.