Food plays many roles in our society, but until my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I never realized just how much dietary restrictions can affect daily life. For many of us, food isn’t just about nutrition: It’s a coping mechanism, entertainment, socialization, even motivation.
And all that in the workplace alone!
Having a rough day? Here, eat some M&Ms.
Intense month for the department? The boss will provide a pizza lunch staff meeting.
New employee coming on board? Take her out to lunch.
Holidays approaching? Be sure to participate in the potluck, the cookie exchange, the department party and the institution party!
So how do you maintain a healthy diet and manage your gestational diabetes at work amid all the pressure to eat, and eat junk — preferably without being perceived as a whiner or pity case?
These are five strategies that have worked for me.
Be Upfront, But Be Brief
Health information is private, and your coworkers really don’t want to hear all the gory details of pregnancy side effects anyway. But sometimes a little sharing is in order. After my diagnosis, when coworkers would ask how I was feeling, I’d say, “Pretty good,” (even if that’s not 100 percent true), “but the gestational diabetes has been an adjustment.” Inevitably, the person will ask a couple questions and I’ll give them a quick and upbeat overview of what the disease means for my daily life, including pricking my finger multiple times a day and eating a careful diet on a strict schedule. They learn a bit and, more importantly, they are completely understanding when I need to munch on string cheese mid-meeting or when I decline an offered cookie.
Take Responsibility for Yourself
Recently, as a “reward,” my boss moved our bi-weekly staff meeting to the lunch hour and provided pizza for the whole team. It was a nice thought — and a dilemma at the same time. Pizza is something that my diabetes just can’t handle. I thought my options: I could complain that pizza isn’t very healthy. I could bring my own lunch to the meeting. I could ask for a special order. In the end, I wrote my boss a note and asked if she planned to order salad with the pizza. I said it was absolutely unnecessary if it wasn’t helpful for the group, but that I needed to plan ahead. She was more than willing to order a large salad with the pizza — and as it turned out, everyone had a serving (probably increasing everyone’s health for the day). I did bring a small container of peanuts and a yogurt to supplement the salad, but after two plates full, I had a great meal.
I work in an open shared space. The office stock of M&Ms is in my direct line of sight, three steps from my desk, all day, every day. So I’ve had to learn to overcome temptation. And really, nothing has been so successful in teaching me willpower as my gestational diabetes. In the past, when I was trying to lose weight or make healthy choices, I have struggled to turn down the “occasional” goodies. Now, I just know I can’t have them. To make it easier to say no, I always have a plan for what I will eat in a day. My meals, as well as my snacks, are planned, prepared and packed, so that when I’m hungry, there’s a healthy choice in arm’s reach. And I really have only gone for the M&Ms once or twice during hypoglycemic moments.
Find an Alternative
When the invitation first came to exchange holiday cookies at our next staff meeting, I was a little upset. I love baking, I love sharing, I love cookies. Would I have to skip out this year? The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to participate, though. Thanks to Google, it is easier than ever to find ideas and recipes these days. Diabetes magazine has a great article full of low-carb cookie ideas that I will be trying out this weekend, for example. (I’ll let you know how it goes.) Some will stay home for my indulgence and others will join the cookie exchange. Some of my coworkers will walk away with healthier-than-expected treats, and I’ll probably come home with a few things I can’t eat. Lucky for my family, who will get to enjoy all those traditional baked goods I’m not making this year.
Bow Out If You Must
“In a world where people are convinced that butter, sugar and fat are detrimental to their health and scorn the presence of carbs, gluten and cholesterol, one office dares to break down the walls of culinary prejudice … Don’t let the so-called ‘doctors’ and their s-called ‘advice’ talk you into a so-called ‘healthy lifestyle.’” That was the actual language from the actual invitation to our offices pre-Thanksgiving potluck and, while I know it was mostly tongue-in-cheek, it also a sign that this event would not be fun for me. I really try to participate in office social activities — largely because my natural inclination is to shy away — but this is one I outright skipped. I waved to my coworkers as I walked by, and I ate a very healthy, but very carb-conscious turkey sandwich for lunch at home with my husband. No one was offended and, frankly, I felt better than any of my coworkers for the rest of the afternoon.
Lest you think I’m an insufferable Pollyanna, I will admit, gestational diabetes can outright suck. When it does, I might scream into a pillow, whine to my husband or allow myself a quick and tearful pity party. But not at work. At work, I smile. I laugh about what a pain my dietary needs are. I say no thank you with grace. I celebrate the irony that a disease is actually making me healthier. And I focus on the fact that, in a few short months, I’ll have a beautiful reward in my baby girl.