Q&A Wednesday: I Work In Fast Food And Want To Lose Weight! Help! - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Q&A Wednesday: I Work In Fast Food And Want To Lose Weight! Help!

junkfood

Don’t get me wrong, here – I most certainly don’t have all the answers… but it’s very rare that a loudmouth like me will have no answer…

Q: hi erika i love your blog but i have a question i work in the fast food industry(mcdonald’s) please don’t roll your eyes. lol! and i am a manager there i am 26 years old 4’11 and about 280 pounds so i know i am extremely overweight . i get ALL my meals free when i’m workin and i find it incredible hard to resist the food. i know to resist temptation i should not have it around me but this is my job for right now i have been employed for six years and make a good amount of money to provide for my household. what are some things i can do to start my weight loss journey? anything words you can offer would help. thanks in advance:)

I’m not even going to give the answer I want to give. I’m just going to remind myself that we live in a recession.

What I do have to contribute is whether or not you find it “hard to resist” the food because you’re literally only eating that hyper-processed and nutrient-devoid food, or if you’re stress eating because the restaurant industry is stressful and fast-paced. If you’re stress-eating simply because you’re on the job, and the fries and sweet bun are giving you a temporary release, then finding a more acceptable coping mechanism will help you cut the calories immensely.

Remind yourself that people choose to refuse the food from the restaurant they work at every day, and it’s time for you to start turning into one of them.

If it’s a money issue – subsisting on free food instead of stuff you have to pay for – then it’s a matter of priorities. The point where your [and your household's] health start to matter more than the most frivolous thing on your priority list is the point where you’ll start carving space in your budget for the fresh (or frozen) stuff. And until you get to that point, make it happen with those salads, girl. We all know they’re there. We saw ‘em in commercials where they tried to lure us veggie lovers in. Eat those instead of the fries and the McWhoppers.

That being said, I’m turning this over to y’all. There are brilliant folks who hang out in the comments section who are handling situations like this every day, and we all could stand to benefit from how you make it happen. Who’s going to help our girl out with some advice, here?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

18 Comments

  1. Jubilance

    September 21, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    McDonald’s was my very first job, when I was 16. I remember those free meals very well.

    My advice is to turn down the free meals, one meal at a time, one shift at a time. Employees still get a discount on everything else right? Opt for a grilled chicken salad. Opt for the grilled chicken sandwich, no bun. Opt for the apples instead of the fries. Opt to bring in your own healthy food – there’s no rule that says you MUST eat the food there.

    It will be hard, but it can be done. You have to take it one day at a time, one meal at a time.

  2. Reecie

    September 21, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    hmm. let me try. I worked at McDonald’s when I was in high school. and while I wasn’t really health conscious then I’m trying to think back as to what I would do now, if I still worked there.

    definitely not eat all my meals there. depending on the shifts, I’d probably make sure dinner was home cooked.

    bring fresh fruits, nuts. etc. for snacks in between the work day.

    only drink water, no sodas/coffee at all.

    take some time during my break to walk if possible (not sure where your store is located, but mine was near a dentist office that had a nice park/pond area). if you could even walk or bike to and from work that would be nice–maybe not feasible, esp with winter approaching depending on where you live.

    and of course take advantage of the salads, oatmeal, apple slices, fruit smoothies and whatnot that they do have there.

  3. KChloeee

    September 21, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    A few years ago, during my freshman year of high school through my sophomore of college I worked at a large, highly populated drugstore. I was surrounded my all of my fave snacks and could not resist, there where restaurants with great tasting food, ranging from pocket friendly to omg, it cost how much? every single working day I would walk on over to one of these places excited to try new food, and taste all that I could. After my first year there I gained a whopping 30 lbs! When I went to the doctor and the scale said 245 (I’m 5’11) I cried, I have never been that heavy in my life and I knew that I would no longer continue to be. I stayed at that job and lost 35 lbs within 4 months. I started exercising and eating healthier, often walking up and down the aisle searching for the more safer options of my fave snacks. I chose yogurt and a fruit cup over a muffin in the mornings, I had lean cuisine rather than chipotle for lunch, and I walked home/school from work every night. I get it, it’s hard to resist, but you have to put your health first, you do not want to get to a point where it will be physically impossible for you to stand for hours at work.

  4. Jewel

    September 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    That was a great answer Erika! One of the runner’s whose podcast I follow, brought her own food to work when she worked at McD’s in high school. I would suggest bringing her own food or finding more suitable work.

  5. Stefanie

    September 21, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Hello,
    I will admit, you do have a challenging situation on your hands, but the fact that you wrote to Erika asking for help lets me know that you can overcome this. So, you work at McDonald’s and most of the food their is processed/high fat/etc…but know that you are NOT McDonald’s. You only work there. Manage your health as good as you manage the restaurant (smile). Erika gave you some good tips and if I may add:

    (1) Pack whatever meals you need for the work day. Pack even more than you think so you won’t run out of food and feel tempted to grab some of that free Mickey Ds food.

    (2) I don’t work in the restaurant industry, but I do work in an office building where sweets are around me a good amount of the workday. It is hard (sometimes) to say no. But it is what you have to do if you are looking to change your lifestyle. And remember you are saying ‘no’ more to yourself, not to the people who offer you the food. And why are you saying ‘no’, because you have a goal to reach.

    (3) When you think of eating the Mickey Ds, maybe ask yourself ‘will this help me get closer to my goal?’ ‘What health benefits does this food offer me?’ (I saw someone else on this board provide that advice and I thought it was really cool)

    (4) If possible, if the temptation is great, step away and go outside for 5 or 10 min and recollect yourself. It may seem drastic, but you have been doing this for a while and every day will not be easy. So do what you need to do to get to your goal.

    (5) Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes made during this journey. Remember, every day is an opportunity to do better. If you do something you preferred not to do one day, don’t kick yourself down, just keep going and make better choices the next day or at the next meal.

    That’s all I really have now. I hope this information can be useful for you. God bless you on your journey!

  6. MMM

    September 21, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    I think you have to decide if you are ready to lose weight. Try to bring in your own meals when you work. Bring bananas or nuts to snack on instead of fries and cookies at your job.

    I know once I looked up the caloric value in my favorite fast food meals, I stopped getting it so often. I get fast food every other month or so.

  7. Tricia

    September 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    In considering my own struggles with resisting temptation to eat poorly I’ve learned how important it is to fill your environment with as many healthy choices as possible. That being said, my heart goes out to you! It’s tough but you can be healthy even while surrounded by Big Macs and french fries. Erika makes great points, including the choice of healthier options at McDonalds like the salads, the apple slices, the bottle of water, etc. Before you get to work, make a plan to choose the healthier (and free?) options instead of the ones you know aren’t good for you. Controlling your environment is helpful if you can control your environment. But if you can’t, walking into the challenging food environment with a plan of how to face the challenges may be what you need.

  8. Cherished

    September 21, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    She should definitely up her excercise routine. Drink only water not the sodas. Eat the kids meals with fruit for the side instead of fries and on other days bring snacks and lunch.

    Six years work experience and management experience does make for a great resume. She should explore other work options. At least find out what’s out there.

  9. Abenadiva

    September 21, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    One thing is to try and eat only the “meat” leave off the bread! That helps. Only drink the water… make sure to choose the apples and other healthy snacks. of course the fries are HARD TO RESIST… but just to start throw away the top bun! Then as you advance go bunless!

  10. PhDreezy

    September 21, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    I worked at McDonald’s for ten years, finally quitting in 2009, so I’m very familiar with this. Also, while working at McDonald’s, I gained around 70 pounds. While working there, I also became a vegetarian because I just wanted to stop eating their meat. McDonald’s is the devil. We all know that.

    However, I would charge this woman to begin to create healthy food options from the ingredients available at McDonald’s. As someone who used to be very familiar with the McD’s kitchen, I know how possible this is. Use the potatoes and the chicken and the onions to make a hash. Or get some apples and put them on the grill to caramelize them and then eat freshly grilled apples. Take the grapes and apples eat those as a snack with some peanuts instead of a sundae. Grill a piece of steak and then eat that with a side of McSkillet potatoes without the cheese and bagel sauce. If you can stay away from the creamy sauces, cheeses, fried foods, breads, sodas, flavored coffees, smoothies, ice cream, and shakes, you might be okay. Use McDonald’s as your test kitchen and create things. Make yourself a soup in the microwave using a bunch of veggies and then some grilled chicken. Or make a piece of grilled chicken and then top it with lettuce and tomato and eat it as a sandwich. You have lots of options.

    I used to make quesadillas and salads and all types of creations. Be creative to accomplish your goals. Also, before your shift, walk around the building a few times to do your floor plan and a walkthrough. Every little bit helps.

  11. Dina

    September 21, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    I did some time working in food service in restaurants that served mostly fried, unhealthy foods in my early 20s. What really helped me to remain healthy and even lose weight was to a) eat healthy meals whenever I wasn’t at work and b) choose the healthiest possible options at the restaurant. If I wanted to eat one of the burgers, I cut out eating the bun and turned burgers into meat + lettuce. I also packed my own snacks that were easy to eat while running around during my shift so I wasn’t as tempted to eat the fattening food at the restaurant as an obvious, go-to option. One thing that was extremely important was getting my workouts together. I tried to do all my exercise before work so that in the back of my mind I could always think to myself “Is it worth it to ruin all my work from this morning?” After awhile “no” became the obvious answer.

    One resource that’s available now that wasn’t as available back then is fast food calorie counts. Calorie counting can be helpful in that environment. If you know how many calories you need to eat to lose weight or even just want to set a number of calories to try to eat to lose weight, you can use the information available in the restaurant/online to determine how much of the food you can eat and still stay within your diet. That won’t necessarily make you healthier if you’re still choosing the processed or high calorie options, but it can help you lose weight.

  12. KalleyC

    September 21, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    I have not worked in the food industry, so I cannot give you advice to go about your day. I can give you words of encouragement though.

    I think it’s very brave of you to put yourself out there in order to make a change. I think just the first step is a powerful one. I wish you good luck on your journey and whatever decision that you make with will serve both you and your household.

  13. Kitty

    September 22, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    I know how you feel!

    I work at a grocery store and there are a lot of my favorite goodies for way cheap. Very tempting to pick up some hostess orange cupcakes. *sigh* Or grabbing a not so healthy quick meal for my 15 min break, which goes like lightning! But I found a few things to keep me from gaining weight and keep losing. Very similar to just about exact to what the others have said.

    1. Make your own meals for work/make healthy choices at work:
    grab a salad water and apple slices or other fruit. maybe even the oatmeal without all the additives. Eggs without the McMuffin. You can do it!

    2. Walk to work if you live close enough/find time at home to do at least a little exercise: 15 mins beats not doing it at all, right?

    3. Don’t beat yourself up! Remember we are human and we make mistakes. You can always do better the next time and learn from mistakes.

    4. Get support! there are a lot kind people on this site to help you with any questions, like this one. :)

    I know you can find cheap but good quality workout gear (dumbells, etc…) at Walmart and Target.

    Good luck! <3

  14. Starry

    September 22, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    I wonder if there are any other people who work with you and who also want to get healthier and lose weight? If so, perhaps you could all get together and decide what sort of things you guys could all eat from the McD’s menu to help you towards your goal. I guess there are other things you could do in this vein as well, such as set up a board of how you are all doing in terms of achieving your goals… things like that. It’s amazing what a little group effort can do to help you along and help you pass over the burger to a salad when you know there is someone nearby who supports you in your decision and is watching what you are doing too!

    Great suggestions from everyone else too and GOOD LUCK!!!

  15. seejanesweat

    September 23, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    This one is a tough one. I worked in fast food for years, Hardees, McDonalds and Burger King, and I ate the food and drank the sodas. At that time in my life I had a super high metabolism so I didn’t gain weight. I was also unaware of all the harm that that high calorie, high fat, high cholesterol food could do to my body. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. I was totally ignorant of the fact that I was digging my grave with my teeth by consuming such an unhealthy diet. That was over twenty years ago. Today we live in a different world. Today we have the internet which provides a bevy of information about how to live a healthier life. Today we have websites like BGGWL as well as other online communities where we can get educated about eating right. Today we have online communities that offer support in our weight loss journey. Take what you’ve learned from BGGWL and sites like that one to help you make better decisions about what you are putting in your body and what you’re doing to your body. Sure the food your employer is providing is free, but when your medical bills start to stack up because illnesses due to a poor diet, the money you’re saving now will pale in comparison in what you’ll spend on medical costs. I would suggest that you either start packing healthy foods to take with you to work, or chose healthier options like the salad or grilled chicken that McDonalds provides or do a combination of both and stay away from the sodas and sweeten tea. Drink the water. It’s good for you.

  16. Erica

    September 24, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    My first job in high school was at Woolworths 100 yrs ago :). The cooks “hooked” me up with cheeseburger platters regularly! It took me years to realize the toll reckless eating was doing to my body. Everyone has given great ideas. I offer words of encouragement. You were wonderfully and fearfully made. Honor and take care of your body and your body will take care of you! Read Erika’s blog and all related weight loss blogs to keep you on your mission. When you fill like cheating, read some words of encouragement! Walk! Be easy on yourself if you make mistakes. I have been at my goal weight many years now and I still trip up sometimes. IT DOESN’T GET EASIER BUT IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH IT! We’re rooting for you.

  17. Erica

    March 10, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    I know how you feel, because I work in the fast food industry as well. I would take advantage of the free meals as well if i were you. But my advice is:
    1. Don’t eat the burgers or fries. Instead choose something like a salad, a grilled chicken snack wrap with no sauce, a yogurt parfait. Or any of the healthier options that McDonald’s has been trying to promote.

    2. At least once or twice a week bring your own lunch? Even if you convert one meal a day to a non-fast food meal. That’s definitely going to help.

    3. Try exercising. This will definitely help you out with the weight loss too!

    All of these things will not only help you lose weight, but prevent you from suffering from major health risks. Good Luck!

  18. Mary

    March 25, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    I work at McDonald’s while I am studying at College and have found it difficult to loose weight while working here. When you diet normally you are tempted everyday but when you are working in a fast food place constantly you are tempted more or less every second of the hour until you finish you’re shift. Let’s say you have a bad shift you are so tempted to comfort eat out of frustration because it’s there and free. People on here are saying choose the healthier option but we have a point system here and all the healthier options are more points. I could only get a salad and a diet coke. We can’t choose water as they are high points. Unless you bring you’re own drink and snacks to fill you.

    Its not possible but it’s difficult. I know how you feel and I am looking to loose all my weight I need to loose soon.

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