For some people, by choice or circumstance, work is life, office is home, and desk is the dining table. For others, for whom work is just work, and office isn’t home, the desk is still often times the dining table. Whatever you do for a living, chances are that work has become a setting in which you eat. What effect does this have on your eating habits? Have you been eating way too many pizzas and donuts? Do you get so caught up in shop talk that you forget to enjoy the sandwich you brought for lunch? Do you fake healthy eating habits to avoid judgment by your colleagues? If you do, experiment with making a shift from eating “al desko” to eating al fresco.

Compare two work weeks. During the first one, go out to eat during your lunch-hour. During the second, stay in. Now, when I say “go out,” I don’t mean leaving one building just to enter another. I mean “outside.” Assuming it’s not the dead of winter, go on a reconnaissance mission to find your own al fresco eating spots. Come up with a mental map of such spots that are within the walking distance of your work place. Look for “nature spots” (for park benches and picnic tables). Look for “interest spots” (promenades or neighborhood basketball courts where, assuming public access, you could watch a pick up game). Also look for a place to “bum.” Maybe courthouse steps you could sit on while you eat, or an arc-way to hide in if it’s raining while you snack. Maybe a parking deck where, with a sandwich in hand, you could get a bigger picture of the city around you or, perhaps, a glimpse of the sky. Once you come up with this map of al fresco opportunities, go out for lunch for an entire week. Then, the following week, stay in, eat at your desk. Contrast and compare. Make habit-forming decisions.

Cars are another setting of our meals.  The impact of this setting on our eating can be quite deadly – from daily laps through nutritionally hazardous drive-through lanes to hands-free driving while eating.  While a car can be a major hub of distraction, it can also be a perfect sanctuary for mindfulness, if parked.  In fact, if you are trying to make a shift from eating al desko (see lesson 7 for details) to eating al fresco, a car is far more private than a park bench, unless you are double-parked on a main street.  Go for a brief drive during your next work lunch to find a quiet, scenic spot to park.  If the weather is good, lower the windows to get some air moving.  Pull the seat back for extra leg room, and mindfully, without rushing, have your lunch.  To make your eating experience more serene, and to simulate an even closer approximation of eating al fresco, look for a soundtrack with nature sounds (waves rolling in and out, distant thunderstorms, etc.).  Or record your own mindful eating script and play it back while you eat in the oasis of the car.

Enjoy the fresh air of your presence.