As an unpaid intern, one of the most dreaded questions your parents can ask is what you had for dinner. Unfortunately, you really only have one of two options. Lie, and tell them you made a well-balanced meal for yourself with the free range chicken breasts and organic vegetables they so graciously purchased for you the last time you were home. Or, tell the truth – that you had a lovely smorgasbord of string cheese, princess fruit snacks, a handful of pretzels, the stale Goldfish you found in the back of your pantry and the mini snickers that are still left over from last year’s Halloween. If you pick option two, you’ll have to disguise the genuine excitement you experienced upon discovering those stale Goldfish among the empty granola bar boxes in the depths of your food closet.
Agreeing to be slave labor requires certain sacrifices. One of those concessions is a normal relationship with food. And so, eating becomes an extreme sport:
You Eat When You Can, Where You Can
As an intern, you are literally running around, non-stop, doing other people’s errands and making sure they get fed. As a result, “meal breaks,” are often nonexistent. So, if you want to eat, you’ve gotta be willing to take matters into your own hands. Eat whenever and wherever you can find the time. Don’t like eating while walking down the sidewalk? Buck up. Squeamish around half-eaten sheet cakes from a stranger’s office birthday party? Grab a fork. Too good to eat in a bathroom stall? Get over it. Your boss might be able to eliminate your lunch break, but he sure as hell can’t dictate what you do on the john.
Coffee Is Your God
If I could ingest coffee intravenously, I would. But for those of you insane people who don’t mainline coffee or “just don’t like the taste” (who are you morons by the way?), you might as well just move into your parents’ basement now. You’ve got no chance of survival. Literally. None. Forget steroids, java is an intern’s go-go juice. And, when you need to catch your breath as the rest of us are running down Fifth Ave after a FedEx truck carrying the package that stands between us and a real job, we’re not gonna stop and wait for you to catch up.
Free Food Is Something To Be Taken Seriously
You’ll be asked to do a lot of dumb and seemingly useless things as an intern. And very rarely will you be offered compensation in return. However, one of the unexpected perks of internships is that free food abounds. I don’t care if you like the free food, I don’t even care if it’s not real food (e.g., the 3,000 Peeps that got delivered to work a couple of weeks ago), you don’t say “no.” Not only is it bad manners, but remember, it’s free, you’re broke, and no matter how gross it is, let’s be honest, it’s still probably better for you than anything else you’ve consumed in the past week.
Food Becomes More Appealing Based On Its Ability to be Hidden
While the bathroom lunch break is a useful trick, it’s only one tool in your arsenal. If you are interning on a live TV show, or working the floor of the stock market, or shadowing in the NICU, disappearing, even for a minute, is not really an option. And so, prepackaged food becomes your best friend. Anything that can be stuck in a pocket and discreetly consumed while running from job to job, is key. Those 100 calorie packs? Clutch. Luna Bars? God’s gift to the unpaid intern. Fits perfectly in a pants pocket and comes in so many delicious flavors – you’ll almost forget you haven’t eaten a real meal in weeks. And while we’re on it, yes, it’s acceptable to squirrel a gummy bear or two in each cheek when no one is looking.
“Healthy” Is All Relative
When you’ve spent an entire 24-hour period eating nothing but things that are blue raspberry flavored, your standards for healthiness go way down. I mean, come on, a chocolate-covered granola bar is basically the exact same thing as kale. Right? Look at all that fiber…it’s gotta count for something. That fruit rollup – yep, fruit right there in the name. And, as long as it’s green, let’s just file it under vegetable.
Sure, some of these strategies are essential when you’re on the job. And, while you may be patting yourself on the back for these and even more inventive ways of staying full, let’s be clear about something. Your diet is a byproduct of the fact that you are over-tired, over-worked, and downright delusional. So, if you’re wondering whether you should feel ashamed of the fact that yellow starbursts are basically your spirit animal, the answer is yes. But only because everyone knows yellow starburst are the worst.