Q: I've always struggled with my weight, and after losing more than 80 pounds, I still have to watch what I eat. My problem is that within the past several months, every work function my team has had has revolved around food of some sort -- cakes, cookies, truffles, etc. At least once a week, someone brings baked goods, and there is candy around almost every corner. I've indulged on occasion, but I can't continue to participate in this overindulgence of food. It's unhealthy for me, both mentally and physically. And when I try to suggest alternatives, I get shot down. For example, my co-workers decided to buy a cake for my boss for Bosses' Day. I suggested flowers, but their reply was, "But she loves cake." I told one of my co-workers I would instead buy the boss flowers on my own. She seemed to understand, but because everyone else wanted cake, they got cake. How do I politely refrain from participating in these events?
A: First of all, good on you for taking care of yourself. Unfortunately, as you've learned, your health is usually no one's priority but your own.
When building teams and trying to brighten the drudgery of the workday, many office-mates turn to sweets for comfort and camaraderie. But co-workers watching their calories or blood-sugar levels might feel left out of carbohydrate-laden communion rites at the altars of the M&M's dispensers and birthday cakes.
You can resist the tractor beam of those ubiquitous candy bowls by scheduling regular breaks to indulge privately in your preferred healthful snacks: almonds, popcorn, nonfat Greek yogurt. Don't forget to keep your water bottle or tea mug topped off. And you could bring in a homemade treat yourself; no one has to know it contains applesauce instead of sugar and oil, or whipped tofu in lieu of eggs.
As for group celebrations, you're entitled to push for more inclusivity, but why not tweak your approach by requesting alternatives to supplement -- not replace -- the sweets. Some co-workers may even welcome a break from the cavalcade of confections -- especially a fruit tray that goes beyond pale melon chunks and tart off-season grapes.
Buying flowers for the boss was a fine compromise -- but next time, it might be simpler to chip in for the group gift, attend the presentation, and bring along something you can enjoy yourself. Yes, contributing to a gift that everyone but you gets to partake in can leave a bad taste in the mouth. But a gift should be what the recipient wants.
• Karla Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter: @KarlaAtWork
WASHINGTON POST-BLOOMBERG -- 07-17-13 0754ET