In Part 1 of this series on how to beat office stress, we talked about breathing patterns.

Here’s my second easy tip for taking better care of yourself while working a desk job, and even a few ways management can help too!

Tip 2: Forget Good Food, Bad Food Lists

Wha??! That’s right, you heard me. It’s time to stop making mental lists of the foods that are good and the foods that are bad. Food isn’t moralistic.

It’s not the food that is bad for your body, it’s the amount that you eat and the reason behind why you are eating it (i.e. stress) that is what’s actually unhealthy for you.

Food isn’t the enemy. When you carefully make lists of what you should and shouldn’t eat, you are setting yourself up for failure.

What happens when you do eat one of those foods on your “naughty” list? You feel like you’ve done something wrong! And what do we do with people who do something wrong? We punish them, in this case, most often through deprivation from food later or over-exercising.

This is such an important point because it’s so common and the stress caused by this sort of relationship with food and with your body is far more detrimental than you might think.

So what to do instead?

It’s time to start seeing food as fuel. Fill your plate with the best quality, whole ingredient (unprocessed, preservative-free) foods that you can get your hands on. Yes, I said plate.

Employee tip: Eat from a plate as often as you can. Sit down at a table and commit to not multitasking while you enjoy your meal.

So often we eat on the go and barely pay any attention to the food that we eat. I realize that life is busier than ever, but the more often you can integrate this one tip into your daily life, the happier and more productive you will be.

Also, stop bullying yourself and feeling guilty about what you eat. If you are craving a candy bar, tune into what you are really craving. Sweet? Salty? Crunch? All of the above?

Try opting for a whole food option if possible like celery and peanut butter or Greek yogurt topped with nuts, fresh fruit, and/or dried fruit, not because candy bars are bad, but because these options will give you longer lasting energy and satiety.

If you really can’t accept anything less than a candy bar, find the highest quality candy bar you can (preferably with whole food ingredients) and allow yourself to enjoy it. Savor it. And then let it go.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the more you can begin giving yourself a break about eating what is right and wrong, the more you will naturally opt for healthier choice. Letting go of the guilt of not eating the right thing shifts your perspective on food, and clears a space for a whole new, healthier outlook on what you eat.

Management tip: Rather than focusing your efforts on telling employees what foods to avoid, inform them about what foods are going to give them the most energy and clarity for their day.

Host healthy cooking classes in the lunchroom and teach them how to prepare quick, healthy meals that taste good and satisfy those comfort food cravings.

Get more creative in the lunchroom with your healthy food options. Instead of the standard salad and steamed veggies, think hearty, veggie-filled soups and stews in the winter and smoothie bar “cocktail hour” on summer afternoons.

What small (but powerful) changes are you going to make based on what you just read, to begin changing your relationship with food?