Nine years ago, when I became a Venice Nutrition Coach, I had the pleasure of working with one of my very first and most memorable clients, who we’ll call Sally. Sally walked daily and ate a “sensible” diet yet still struggled with an extra 30 pounds of body fat, major sugar cravings and low energy in the afternoon. As we delved a little deeper during her consultation and talked about lifestyle including her profession, it became very apparent that Sally’s poor habits at work were causing her to gain an extra 5-7 pounds each year. If she stayed at her current job and kept the same poor habits for even another few years….well you do the math! Even more shocking? As I continued to coach clients, male and female from all sorts of professions, I found that 80% of my clientele was sabotaging themselves everyday at their jobs. I realized that even though my client’s jobs differed, their challenges were essentially the same. Thus, the Is Your Job Making You Gain Weight List was born. Now it’s time to share the list with you and point out the common workplace pitfalls as well as real-life solutions to overcoming them for all of us struggling to be fit in the workplace. The result? A leaner, healthier, happier, more energetic YOU, in and out of the office!
So, do you work in a cubicle or at a desk job?
If the answer is YES, it’s time to find some creative ways to be healthier during your 9 to 5. How can a desk job be detrimental to your health? Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways. Remember back in high school or even college, when you could eat whatever you wanted but you were active enough to stay fit and lean? Fast forward 5 or 10 years. You’re now sitting behind a computer all day, a headset attached to your ear, with an extra 15 pounds of unwanted body fat stuck to your middle. How did this happen? The answer is simple. When you are sedentary or even less active than you were as a teen or young adult and your eating habits don’t improve to accommodate this lack of activity, your body starts to lay down fat cells and your metabolism slows. Sound familiar? If so, read on to learn what you can do about it.
1. Know that it all starts with your nutrition. In fact, that’s about 85% of the equation! Your Venice Nutrition meal plans have been specifically designed with your goals, body composition and health in mind and will stabilize your blood sugar so you can burn fat, build lean muscle and increase energy all day at work.
2. Plan and pack the night before. The morning rush is not the time to be packing your food for the workday, so take 15 minutes after dinner to pack your meals. Ask yourself, what time do I wake up in the morning? Can I eat my first meal before I leave the house? How many meals do I need to make it through the workday? For a lot of my clients, their breakdown goes something like this:
Meal 1 (one hour within waking) is breakfast before they leave the house for work
Meal 2 (3 hours or so later) is a balanced meal/snack that they’ve packed the night before, such as cottage cheese and fruit with nuts or a protein bar for example
Meal 3 (3 hours or so later) is lunch that they’ve packed the night before like a salad with grilled chicken or a turkey and cheese wrap
Meal 4 (3 or so hours later) is typically a snack packed the night before to hold them over until dinner at home such as a protein bar or Greek Yogurt Parfait for example
The key is to figure out your “game plan” so that packing the night before is fast, easy and hassle-free for the following work day.
3. Stack up on healthy staples that you can keep at work for emergencies. Let’s say 3 pm rolls around and it’s time to eat, your starving and you've forgotten your afternoon snack. Maybe you grab an extra cup of coffee or head to the vending machine. Sound familiar? You don’t need to if you have a couple of go-to’s stashed at the office. Here are a few simple meal ideas anyone can stash at work:
String cheese & fruit
Cottage cheese & fruit
Deli turkey, nuts and fruit
Protein powder, skim milk, fruit and nuts
If you don’t have a fridge at work, try stockpiling some protein bars (the easiest and most convenient option) or even protein powder in a protein shake cup (with a lid so you can quickly mix it with water) with some fruit and nuts on the side. You may want to invest in a small portable lunch cooler that you can keep at your desk to keep items like cottage cheese and fruit cold. The point is to always have a back up on hand so your always prepared.
4. Avoid your co-worker’s bad habits at work. Everyone has a co-worker who brings in brownies each week or keeps a bowl of M&M’s at her desk. If it’s possible, avoid wherever this food is stashed. For instance, one of my clients worked at a vet’s office as a receptionist and the dreaded “backroom” is full of leftover birthday cake, cookies and pizza from lunch. My client knows this and along with packing balanced meals to nosh on all day, she does her best to avoid the backroom so she can the avoid temptation. If your well meaning co-worker invites you to have some candy every time you visit her desk, let her know that you truly appreciate it and no thank you because you’re on a quest to eat healthier, particularly at work. Then ask her if she’d like a few of your delicious, perfectly dry roasted almonds in return. You may just find a new buddy to make healthy habits with at the office!
5. Beware of take out and dining out too often. I know how important it is that you socialize with your work peers and be a part of the gang. After all, who wants to be the co-worker who turns down every lunch invitation? A good rule of thumb is to plan to go out for lunch with co-workers no more than once a week. This way you are still socializing while not sabotaging your healthy efforts. The truth is, the more we eat out, the less control we have over what goes in our mouths. When you do go out to eat, it’s a good idea to scout out restaurants that offer balanced solutions or check out menus online ahead of time for healthy options. If your job relies on you taking clients out for lunch or you dine out more than once a week, it’s critical to do some research beforehand and find healthy options as well as know how to order correctly. For more information on dining out, please see Tips for Success #11 in your online manual under the Help/Support Tab.
6. Get up and get moving. If you sit at your desk for 8 hours a day without moving around much, you’re losing the precious opportunity to expend energy (not to mention ease aching muscles). Here’s what I did when I worked at a desk job. I made it a point to get out of my seat every 20-30 minutes to get a drink of water, use the restroom, answer the phone and move around a bit while I talk, use the wastebasket, stand up and stretch.... whatever! The point is, I was not sedentary, even though my actual job was. Another huge benefit of moving around is protecting your spinal cord and back muscles which take a beating at an office job. When you sit, your spine is compressed (another reason why so many Americans suffer from back pain- we’re putting in a lot of long hours at our desks these days). When you stand up or move around, you lengthen the spine. Mini stretches are also a good idea to keep your muscles fluid and loose. I know from experience that an injury can greatly deter your daily exercise routine, so avoiding injury while at work is a must.
9. Take advantage of your lunch break- it’s a perfect time to get moving. Pack your gym bag with a change of clothes and sneakers the night before (perhaps after you pack your meals). Then take a walk or hit the gym. It’s a great way to get your workout in before the day is over.
10. Pencil in your workouts. Just like you add any important appointments to your planner, add your workout to make it “official”. I know you’ve heard it before but it works! Adding exercise to your schedule makes it a priority and your always less likely to skip out on a scheduled appointment.
11. Overworked? It’s time to de-stress. If you are not aware of the negative effects stress can have on your health by now, it’s time to learn. Stress causes increased body fat (particularly in the abdominal area), increased risk of disease and obesity and over eating, just to name a few. For a full read up on stress, check out: Combating Stress and Depression, written by Mark MacDonald, located in the Inspirational Messages Section of your Education Tab. Or check out any of the blogs about stress in your Education Tab.
In the meantime, make an effort to de-stress. Book a massage, take some time out or lessen your workload if you need to. Years ago while running a nutrition consulting business, seeing 12 clients a day and training other nutrition coaches, I let my work “run” me. Now I’m in charge and I schedule time for me to unwind every day (for me, de-stressing means working out, reading and the regular myofascial release therapy I receive for my back and hips). The only time we seem to learn how detrimental stress is to our health is when it’s far too late and some of the damage is already done. My advice to you is to start de-stressing now and honor your body, mind and soul. It’s worth every minute.
12. And lastly, keep your goals close. When’s the last time you broke out the pen and paper and re-vamped your health goals? My clients who do this regularly are more likely to work hard at work to stick to their goals. Keep these reminders at work in plain sight….you’ll be amazed at how well they help to keep things in perspective….and keep you motivated.
So what ever happened to Sally? I’m happy to report that with the above adjustments, Sally and the rest of my clients were able to overcome their health challenges and reach their goals, even while at work. And if they did it, so can you!
Best of luck,
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef