Andrew's improperios pounding the vending machine as he swears in Aramaic rumble through out the office and, in my mind, the image of a troglodyte with leather and bone loincloths in my hand merges in my mind with that of Peter Flintstone screaming : "Vilma, open the door for me!" The affront, having dispensed a bottle of water on him instead of his non-negotiable 6 p.m. soda. I disown his behavior, I am ashamed as a species by such a primitive attitude towards food. "And we are rational beings?" I repeat loudly to myself, swaying my head. But my argument becomes hypocrisy just moments later, when iposited to befeatured from the upcoming season of The Walking Dead. As avid zombie of crap to take to my mouth, my own image, reflected in the glass of the same machine, disfigured as I desperately search for that 50 cent coin I had set aside for the inflated rice bag, hits me mercilessly. Hi, my name is Manuel García Garrido and I am addicted to snacks at work.
It's always the same story, or the same. I am in a hurry because I do not reach the closing of the edition, I have argued with a colleague, the boss has pulled my ears... Whatever, and I have to let go, do I smoke a cigarette or delight in a doughnut? I don't smoke, so I'm going to have to go get the doughnut. But, wow, the package brings two units... The two doughnuts fall, which become the living image of what is known as emotional food, a shortcut to regulate feelings of anxiety, stress (which can fatten as much as a cheeseburger), sadness or unease, and "one of the ways in the ones that start to generate a conflicting relationship with food," warns nutrition psychologist Itziar Digón.
Another affable disguise that hides a disturbing face from feeding is gratification (in my case: I've finished writing an article, sugar lump to the song!). Using it as a reward is not always wrong, because a legitimate function of food, although secondary, is that of enjoyment, comfort and hedonism; "the problem is to make it the only source of pleasure," Digón shades. We fall into certain springs and when we want to reward, relieve and be distracted we resort to snacks, and they are not usually very healthy. But it is not a custom that necessarily is born of the employees, some companies have been part of this because in the team meetings the staff is treated with trays of sweets after a job well done.
Another reason snacks are so welcome in the office is that the act of eating can become a safe conduct to postpone a complex task that generates laziness; we are a bit procrastinators and that supply break is the perfect excuse to leave a fiat assignment, although human resources expert Eva Collado believes that those who take advantage of that pause to sneak out are a minority. "Many times you work for goals, and if you waste time then you will have to finish the tasks at home. That comes from an absurd 'presentism' culture. There are people who spend eight hours sitting and doing nothing, and another who do twice as much in four." Of course, this is not my case and I wonder: why can't I stop eating at work?
The procession (biochemistry) goes inside
"There are many stimuli that lead us to eat that do not come from hunger. Our brain, thinking about food, recreates in advance the reward of pleasure it had the last time it was ingested." It is Dion's explanation for the habit of gobbling up without waiting to notice that physiological need, the reason one sometimes sees himself reading with fruit, with one hand on the mouse, and the other? Making sure you sink your teeth into that crispy chocolate bar and ream the wrapper.
Incomprehensible result of a biochemical process that evolution has fine-tuned for millennia to survive in environments far from my office. It turns out that food produces a cascading reaction of neurotransmitters like dopamine, a substance associated with learning rewards and secreted in large quantities when the achievement of something positive is anticipated. Some studies determine that it is not necessary to ingest that product in question, just to think that we are going to do it is enough to activate it. The same goes for Serotonin, which is linked to happiness. Carbohydrates increase their segregation, which makes us feel better and more cheerful, with some relief. Another important biochemical asset is cortisol, a hormone that releases the body in stressful situations, which also responds to low blood glucose levels and encourages us to consume sweets or baubles (as much as some fruits high in vitamins are most effective in regulating the substance).
But why do we become the sheep of The Simpsons when he tries the "tomaco" every time it's time for aperitif at work, especially when we have sweets and processed foods - and not the ones the nutritionists would eat? Dison sums up the answer in which we have whimsical mouths, palates made to the unmatched taste of industrial processes. "We've been clogged. They have made us like products with a lot of flavor, with crisp textures, with just the right touch of salt and sugar, with attractive palatabilitys, which attract attention. The mouth succumbs to powerful flavors," says Digón. It is an approach that has a chemical reinforcement with first and last name: monosodium glutamate (sounds of sicario), better known on the labels of products as additive E-621.
It is used to get umami, which could well be an exclamation of pleasure but meaning "tasty", in Japanese. It does not hook, but it has the ability to increase up to 40% the desire to repeat, so we return in search of the next dose even if we are satisfied. This flavor is often associated with foods high in salt, fat and added sugars, making it a bad coping companion. "The key is the curve of the taste, they are initially very explosive and then low, so the mouth says, 'Wow, there's nothing here anymore, give me more of this, and you can't stop eating, but it's not natural."
Sugar isn't the fuel you need
Now it all fits together. I don't even know why my body asks for it. But the worst thing is that Sometimes I resort to some snacks with the false belief that it will bring us energy and nutritional properties. A yawn, two... Heavy eyelids, muscle fatigue, I relax in the chair, Get up, take a walk. Yawn again, concentration is gone. You have no choice but to go for super-sugar edude and refill the tank. I failed.
Chocolate bars and any industrial pastries are composed of fast-absorbing sugars, i.e. most of their energy is not going to be used and ended up accumulating as fat. In contrast, the more complex, slow-absorbing carbohydrates further save their intake and are more gradual, while satiating. This is the case with red fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals. The problem, according to Itziar Digón's whimsical mouth concept, is that a few 'kikos' are fireworks while strawberries don't go from a yarn-fishing documentary on our palate, they can be boring. And if that adds social pressure...
A birthday, the communion of a son, a promotion, a new client... Or what is the same, ensaimadas, croissants, quesadas or baklaba freshly brought from Turkey (how to resist such an exotic and unique delicacy). You don't even wonder if you wanted to, itch a little and continue your tasks. How could you look the other way if it's so rich and free? Something similar happens with breakfast during business hours. At 8 a.m., at home, you've had your toast, your coffee, some cereal, but your mates come down at about 11.00 as a Hamelin flute player, and you follow them like a docile rat. 'A coffee - maybe the best I've had - and I get on', you convince yourself, but the Neapolitan doesn't take it from you... And you know it. "Because you're going to have breakfast, that thought implies that there's food and you have to eat, but maybe you don't need it. Before proceeding we have to ask ourselves if I simply want to have a relaxed conversation with other workers. That allows you to save a few calories," the psychologist recommends.
Companies prefer fruit, but 'vending' is still there
We spend a high percentage of our time at work, and the vices we acquire in it move to the rest of our lives. Overweight, compulsions and loss of control, pictures of anxiety... These are problems that result in lower productivity, increased chances of absenteeism and depression casualties. And that's not in the interest of companies, which "are putting the means to make employees' lives healthier," says Jaime de Nardiz, director of Cultural Transformation and Ranking at Great Places to Work, a consultant who builds a ranking of the best places to work. How? It offers health and power insurance that is done regular checks, also betting on well-being by encouraging the practice of exercise and, yes, by introducing healthy foods into the working environment. "The goals are for people to feel good and to strengthen the bonds between the people who share those common spaces," eva Collado sums up.
De Nardiz says Liberty Seguros pays a mileage to employees who go by bicycle to the office, "that personal time and habit depends on each one, but it influences the quality of the work it does, so they invest in that part". He also comments that several studies were conducted in the US linking the healthy diet and enjoying days of personal affairs to further advances in the company's innovation. The trend is to take care of theself and corporations are brainwashed so that their commitment is perceived in that laudable goal. There is a quid proquo, commitment to the company is called for, but it is vital to offer something different.
Workshops are even organized with chefs who teach cooking recipes, combine food to better take advantage of their properties and give nutritional tables to workers. "What we have seen is that the companies that had a vending machine have abandoned that concept because of the fruit and the next step is to reduce the sugar that soft drinks provide," explains De Nardiz. The company thus becomes the reincarnation of Pepito Grillo or Grandma crushes the work environment, albeit in a more subtle and sibilous way. It seems that the trend points to a future without baubles at work. It's your turn to hide them in the drawer and sneak them up so you don't feel the freak among your teammates.
Doctors recommend eating fresh, natural produce, and the company puts fruit at your fingertips. "He's taking the first step for you," says the expert, and "if you only see the fruit it helps you make healthier choices. We all want to begood and the fact that we have moved on to the 'healthy' also emphasizes your responsibility around your health," adds psychologist Itziar Digón.