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By Ian Chiswell
Rehabilitation Consultant

Research shows that the average diet only lasts nine days, with many people breaking it up to five times in this short period. Further studies have also shown that afternoon snacking is the main reason they break their diets and more specifically 4.12pm is the time of day that people are most likely to succumb by indulging on unhealthy foods.  But who or what is to blame?

The workplace is thought to be the worst place for overindulging on unhealthy snacks with boredom cited as the most common excuse for doing so.

Boredom is not the only reason however with stress also being recognised as a common factor that drives people to seek solace from unhealthy foods. Also, one in ten employees go as far as to blame colleagues for 'forcing' unhealthy snacks on them within the workplace.

The unhealthy snacks that reign supreme in the office are the 4 C’s - Chocolate, Cake, Crisps and Cookies, most of which are readily available in vending machines dotted around many offices. A lack of flavour in healthy meals is often cited as the reason why salty and/or sugary snacks are craved and it has been widely reported that seeing other people succumb makes it harder to curb our own cravings.

Nutritionists report that 4:12pm is the time of day most people succumb to their cravings because blood sugar levels are often low at this point in the day, which in turn causes a craving for sweet treats. It’s believed to be part of an unhealthy cycle which often starts with the classic toast and coffee breakfast, creating surges and dips in blood sugar levels which result in employees reaching for their next sugar fix.  This sugar rollercoaster continues throughout the day and can actually have serious negative implications for energy and productivity levels within office-based workforces.

So what is the answer?

It’s never easy to change eating habits, but here are a few simple suggestions to avoid that 4pm sugar quest.

  • Drink plenty of water through the day as hunger is often confused with thirst
  • Drink water rather than fizzy drinks – eight glasses of water a day will do just as much to boost energy levels as eight cups of coffee of or cans of coke
  • Pre-prepare foods and snacks the night before so you won’t be tempted to snack on high calorie foods available in the vending machines
  • Snack often but on low calorie snacks like berries and nuts instead of chocolate bars and biscuits
  • Switch to snacks that require a bit more work to consume, like an orange that requires peeling or nuts that require shells to be cracked e.g. pistachios. The slower you consume, the more quickly you will receive the signal from your body that you actually feel full so you don't overdo it. You'll therefore ultimately consume less.

It’s a common misconception that fat is our number one enemy but sugar is actually the bigger threat to health and weight in all work forces. Eating unhealthy snacks on a regular basis and not moving around or exercising enough, leaves us with excess sugar that the body turns into fat, which in turn can increase the likelihood of developing conditions like diabetes.  We know cases of diabetes are dramatically on the increase in the UK, the symptoms of which can be very difficult to manage and can detrimentally affect health in the long term.  To find out more about how to manage diabetes, download Diabetes and the workplace

For more information please see the QBE Rehabilitation team’s latest thoughts.