woman eating in office at workBefore my career revolved around wellness, it revolved around marketing. I worked in an office, had access to dozens of restaurants for lunch and was 30 feet away from an incredibly likable coworker who always had a full bowl of chocolate sitting on his desk. Honest to God, I think every time someone grabbed a Hersey Kiss from his magic little cauldron of sugar, he reached into a desk drawer, grabbed another chocolate and replaced the Kiss with a smile on his face. He was like the Willy Wonka of the office. His name was actually Steve. He liked to be called Steve-O. Despite the fact that he spoke obnoxiously loud on the phone, and constantly talked with food in his mouth – we all liked him. And clearly had no problem swiping candy from his desk either…even when he wasn’t there.

I worked in a corporate environment through most of my 20s. I had absolutely no other responsibilities than to myself. Toward the end of my corporate marketing career, and the dawn of my wellness career, I started becoming more conscientious about what I put in my mouth. Up until then, I was a borderline couch potato with a bad chocolate habit and a love/hate relationship with the gym. I hated going, but loved being done. It’s funny, but things couldn’t be any more different than they are today. I could spend hours in the gym (if I had no responsibilities – which I do) creating new workouts.

Digressions aside, I learned how to take better care of myself while spending 40+ hours sitting behind a desk. I watched people around me struggle with their weight, often gaining several pounds the feverishly trying to lose it. I listened to their concerns about not having time to make it into the gym. As I became more aware of what I should/should not have been eating, I watched them eat the same bad food, too. 

I wasn’t a big person then and didn’t really need to lose weight, but I wanted to feel better. Like many of my co-workers, I felt tired throughout much of the mid-afternoon, lost motivation to do anything after work – particularly go to the gym. I decided to do a little experiment. Truth be told, the “little” experiment was a huge leap, but it worked. Here is what I learned – that worked for me, and still does – when I’m faced with taking care of my body while spending most of my time working.

1) Morning Joe: Whether you brew your own at home, or make it a ritual to stop by a Starbuck’s, coffee is a stimulant that can elevate our cortisol levels by 30%! There has been so much back and forth about the benefits of coffee that I’m not going to tell you to cut it out completely right now, but if you do drink coffee (or tea), drink a big glass of water beforehand, and try to have something in your stomach, too! Yes, this means, eat breakfast before you drink your caffeine. Research has shown that caffeine on an empty stomach puts your body on the fast track to weight gain.   

2) Eat Breakfast, Not Dessert: I like to use myself as an example because I was once a miserable mistake when it came to eating right. I would go to Starbuck’s and buy a venti coffee, add fake sugar, then buy a blueberry/cranberry roll. I still have no idea what I was thinking, but this was breakfast. A couple hundred calories of refined carbs at their best. It wasn’t healthy, and it certainly wasn’t far off from a blueberry muffin with a coffee either. The point is, unless your breakfast has some nutritional value (the above do not), it’s highly unlikely that your body will find any good use for it. 

Better ideas for breakfast would be:

  • A couple hard boiled eggs + a piece of fruit
  • Nut butter on a sprouted grain muffin
  • Yogurt (plain) + cinnamon, stevia and frozen berries

3) Avoid Candy Bowls, and other ‘incidental’ eating: 4 Hersey Kisses = just over 100 calories. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but add an extra 100 empty calories to your diet five days a week, and you’ll add another 7.5 pounds in a year. That’s called creeping obesity. I love chocolate, but I won’t/can’t eat it every day. I make ‘deals’ with myself and I suggest you do the same. It can be really simple, like “Fridays are grab chocolate-off-the-desk days.” 

4) You DO Have Time for Activity: You could very well be busy enough that you can’t workout each and every day. In fact, the notion is a bit of a novelty for working parents with small children. That said, you DO have time for activity. Activity is just movement. I once worked for a company that made the employees in my group (granted, it was the creative group) get up and play Hacky Sack twice a day for 15 minutes. No one twisted our arm, but everyone from the department got up and did it (skirts and all). I was a little freaked out when I first started working there because…well…who DOES that? But the blood was flowing, our minds were sharp and the group stayed incredibly productive. My Hacky skills also greatly improved. If your company isn’t that cool – find a stairwell, find a sidewalk or find some space where you can move for a while. Don’t worry about how many calories your burning, or if your stomach looks any flatter. Just start moving. 

For those of you who regularly choose happy hour over an hour of exercise – that will catch up with you. If you’re getting up every morning to go workout, that’s one thing, but if you’re not, make an effort to reset your priorities. 

5) Head Off the Post-Lunch Dip Before It Happens: If you’re really hungry or really tired within two hours of eating breakfast or lunch, chances are you didn’t get enough protein or fat – or you got too much refined carbohydrate. People who make a habit of eating sandwiches for lunch day in and day out are often victim of this pattern. You may be able to mentally muscle through the fatigue without eating anything else, but internally, your body is preparing for the worst. The post lunch dip, or blood sugar crash, sends your body into fight or flight. When this happens, your body stores fat. End of story. Cut back on refined carbohydrates. Don’t eat a “little” cookies for dessert. Steer clear of crappy fat free sugar-laden yogurts. Avoid big, doughy sandwiches. Opt for a healthy balance of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fat. A chopped salad (watch the dressing), tuna + pita or bowl of turkey chili are good options. 

Need help staying healthy in the workplace, or finding a good work/life balance. Contact me today.

Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here 

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