It’s all very well starting the New Year with good intentions, but I’m still working my way through the chocolate and cake mountain that mysteriously appeared over Christmas. I have a very strong food ethic: wasting it is just plain wrong, so throwing away perfectly good if distinctly unhealthy food is quite frankly never going to happen. I blame my parents (of course).
If I wasn’t self-employed, one option for reducing the temptation would be to take some of it into work. Yet I’ve just read that someone at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has declared war on the ‘workplace cake culture’. He said that for many people work is now the main place where they eat sugar and it’s contributing to obesity and poor oral health.
Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but doesn’t everyone know that eating excess sugar isn’t good for them? And yet we still do it. Why?
The RCS chappie suggested “managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions, and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays”. The sugar company Whitworths carried out a survey, which suggested that a quarter of office bakers were trying to impress their boss, while others were using cake to spark off an office romance. The Whitworths’ report also noted that some companies are even holding baking competitions – “by encouraging people to exchange recipes and cakes in this way, you can really bring a team together. It’s amazing what we can share over a cup of tea and slice of cake”. I blame the Great British Bake Off (of course).
You know the way some people say they only have to look at cake and they put on weight? Well, it seems there may be a scientific explanation that partly supports this. An article from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating says that the way we think about food can significantly affect the way our body processes it. If you’re feeling guilty about eating, part of your brain slows down your digestive system, diminishing the population of healthy gut bacteria, increasing the release of toxic by-products into the bloodstream, decreasing your calorie-burning efficiency, causing you to store more of your guilt-infused food as body fat. I fail to do justice to the argument in just one sentence, but the thoughts you have about the food you eat instantly become reality in your body via the central nervous system. I blame the hypothalamus (of course).
So it would seem that there are many fronts on which we can fight to change the cake culture. Part of it might be to stop feeling so guilty about every mouthful and accept that a little of what you fancy does you good. Part of it might be to be more imaginative about how we bring teams together, how we celebrate, how we try to attract attention at work. Part of it might be to think of alternative treats to cake and biscuits. The RCS believes that without getting too nanny state about, responsible employers should take the lead and ban evil treats from meetings. Their suggestion however of replacing them completely with fruit platters, nuts or cheese may be enough to make you choke on your hobnob.