Anna Hazare’s fast ended a week ago, and it made headlines everywhere—while it was on and when it ended. The 74-year-old has made fasts fashionable once again. Office-goers like ourselves may not quite have Hazare’s endurance and steadfastness, but most of us end up fasting often at our workplaces for varied reasons. However, our fasts generally go unhonoured and unsung, since they are mostly undertaken for pedestrian reasons. But some of these “office fasts” are worth reflecting upon.
Often, a fast is forced on us in office because we are late for lunch and the canteen has just shut down or run out of food, and there is no time to head out elsewhere for a meal. The most obvious culprits are meetings which have dragged on well past their appointed time. You will agree that we all look forward to our lunches, but what about our top brass? Do bosses who call these mid-morning meetings have appetites only for work, or have they headed out of home after extra-heavy breakfasts? There are useful methods of avoiding these forced fasts: You can leave the meeting for 15 minutes under some pretext, such as the unexpected arrival of a most important client or customer; you can have a deal on the side with the canteen to keep food for you beyond the official lunch hour, or you can get your wife or husband to SMS the boss repeatedly that your ulcers will begin playing up if you don’t have lunch on time.
We also undertake voluntary fasts in office, with simple but challenging objectives such as seriously losing weight, or just making up for the three extravagant helpings of the previous night’s cream dessert. Alas, these objectives are never achieved. When we don’t eat lunch in office, we end up feeling incredibly hungry, and therefore feast on assorted cookies and heavily sugared tea/coffee, which is the regular fare always on offer. These snacks may appear small, but when eaten in multiples or a number of times during the day, they add a zillion more calories than a proper meal. In addition, because of lack of proper nutrition, you end the day feeling miserable. The only solution we have to this vexing issue is never to undertake a voluntary fast in office or to follow a reasonably stringent diet on working days and nights.
Flavoured vodkas, an incredible range of beers, single malt whiskies and wines for the connoisseurs, and light breezers—for just about everyone—the time to witness and partake of glorious liquid fasts is at many late-evening official cocktail parties and similar events. When there is so much excellent and energizing liquid nourishment on offer, people cannot but help shun plain food at these office get-togethers. These are, of course, not strictly liquid fasts, because nuts and wafers, etc., are normally served alongside. The only two serious suggestions we have for office-goers who undertake this type of fast: Don’t fast-forward your intake, and don’t even attempt to drive back home yourself even if it’s not in the fast lane.
When there’s a gala dinner to honour a top boss or give out an award or some such celebratory event, you can consider undertaking an anticipatory fast in office during the day. Our advice is based on the simple truth that you can always eat dal and roti in your canteen another day, but lobster, smoked salmon and Lebanese aubergines are rare and expensive morsels. Therefore, you have to keep yourself ravenous enough for the big dinner. Before you undertake this fast, contact the person who has finalized the menu for the grand dinner, and ensure that the dishes on offer are really appealing to you. If you try hard enough with this person, some of your choices can actually get on to the menu. Drink some fruit juice during the day, to keep yourself going in a healthy sort of way. Look forward to the evening, and eat shamelessly at the dinner. That’s what free gourmet food is for.
Fast, fast, fast
If these words describe the rapid pace of your office lunch, pause right now and listen hard. A meal consumed so fast is even worse than a real fast, hence it finds mention here. You don’t get to taste the vegetables, you never relish their wonderful flavours, and you may miss out on some dishes altogether. Often, you will absent-mindedly eat too much because you are not observing your plate, you may even accidentally choke on something, and none of this is good for you at all. We recommend that you study and emulate the slow food movement which is becoming increasingly prevalent in many parts of the world. Take at least 45 minutes from your schedule to eat a well-chewed lunch, preferably in the company of some of your best workplace friends. You will see the immediate positive impact this has on the rest of your day.
This is one “fast” so many office-goers tend to miss, because we inevitably have a hectic start to our working day. Yet dietitians repeatedly tell us that breakfast is one meal we must never skip, because it is the predominant source of energy to power our entire day. We have some useful tips here. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual, which will give you all the time required to breakfast on cereals, toast and fruit. If you find this suggestion too preachy (we entirely understand), try quickly packing yourself some breakfast which you can eat at leisure en route to office, once you have boarded your Metro, autorickshaw or car. Of course, if none of this works for you, then go ahead and eat a very early lunch at your desk. At least you will not be fasting then.
Harish Bhat is chief operating officer—watches, Titan Industries Ltd. He admires all the theories of fasting, but is unable to implement them since he is in hopeless love with all the practices of eating.
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