Lockdown eating: Have you got your own snack corner?

Comfort eating is a feature of work in FE – and Covid-19 seems to have increased our unhealthy foods, says Kirsty Walker
18th October 2020, 9:00am

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Lockdown eating: Have you got your own snack corner?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/lockdown-eating-have-you-got-your-own-snack-corner
Coronavirus: Has There Been More Comfort Eating In Your College Since Lockdown?

During lockdown I, like many others, changed my eating and drinking habits and, as a result, put on three pounds, which have stubbornly clung to me ever since. I always put a couple of pounds on over the summer when I'm off work and therefore not walking the equivalent of a Ben Nevis ascent in stairs every week, but they drop off like clockwork once I have returned to work and the idea of "lunch" is but a distant memory. This year, however, they have remained.

My office is a shrine to comfort eating. In residence, we have a diabetic, three slimmers, a vegan and me with my high cholesterol, which I have been attempting to rectify with healthy eating and exercise. Despite this, the office still looks like the backstage area of the Great British Bake Off. As I write this, there are eight doughnuts in the "snack cormer" of our kitchen, a gift from our line manager for our hard work. A workplace situated opposite Greggs is not conducive to healthy eating. 


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The snack table in our previous office was the stuff of legend. It was covered in cakes, biscuits, chocolates and the occasional optimistic bag of tangerines. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol during a staff development day where a local company came in to offer pin-prick tests and I thought I would get one to show off how healthy I was. A swift referral to the GP later and my days of eating well-done doughnuts were over.

Comfort eating in colleges

I decided that if I had to suffer so did everyone else, and I attempted to ban the snack table. I battled for five months to get it down to an acceptable level of, say, one packet of biscuits on a Friday. Then lockdown hit, our office was demolished and rebuilt, and Covid regulations meant no sharing of food. I thought I had won, with a helping hand from the global pandemic.

On the first day back, a giant hamper of sweets and biscuits appeared in the brand new kitchen. All my hard work undone by one grateful student. Now there are new cakes every day. In the time it has taken me to write this, the diabetic colleague has eaten two doughnuts. I have lost zero pounds, as if the cakes have been absorbed via osmosis. I have to look at them if I ever venture over to get my disappointing home-made sandwich from the fridge or make myself a cup of tea with milk which is basically water. My willpower has improved enormously, and my colleagues often comment on my mental fortitude, through mouthfuls of cream and pastry.

Stress eating is definitely a feature of this job, and lord knows I am an emotional eater. A quick blast of sugar when you have just been in back-to-back safeguarding meetings seems like a panacea, until you realise that your blood sugar will crash just before last lesson with a level 2 group who have been drinking energy drinks since 6am.

Of course, next month is my birthday, swiftly followed by Christmas, so I am expecting that the "snack corner" will take over the entire kitchen. I was considering a polite note asking for fruit or flowers rather than an early death from heart disease. What might be more effective is a Post-it saying, "Don't eat these - I have sneezed on them." Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Kirsty Walker teaches at a college in the North West of England

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