They lurk. They sneak. They conspire. Here’s how to avoid the myriad of traps at the office.
Oh, the pressures of the job. You manage to arrive on time every morning to impress your boss and colleagues with your dynamic ideas and relentless work ethic. You often stay late while still possessing an ideal personal life and—oh, don’t forget—making wise food choices and getting a killer workout in at the gym most days of the week.
Sounds impossible, right? Not really. Even with today’s career demands, just about anyone can fit health and wellbeing into his or her 9 to 5. Avoid the eight-hour stretch of bad decisions that do nothing for your waistline by making your office the perfect place to hone your healthy habits. You can start by steering clear of our top 10 workplace diet disasters.
1. Forgetting to Eat
We know it’s hard to believe, but not eating could make you gain weight. Skipping snacks and meals will slow down your metabolism, making you hungrier and more likely to overindulge later. Create a calendar alert to remind you when to eat. People that eat meals and snacks on a schedule eat 80 calories less per day than people that eat erratically. Find alerts on your computer calendar, phone apps or anywhere you can set alarms for yourself. If you prefer, set up separate alarms from your work calendar and just listen for the chime.
2. Slouching on Water
A healthy diet isn’t just about food. Even being slightly dehydrated can leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Thirst can also masquerade as hunger, making it harder for you to stick to your healthy eating plan. To avoid this, set a reminder on your calendar to pop up every 30 minutes. Every time the alarm sounds, have a few big gulps of water so that you’re properly hydrated. If you aren’t a water lover, try other non-caloric choices like flavored mineral water, herbal tea or black coffee.
3. Skipping Breakfast
You’ve heard it a million times: don’t skip the most important meal of the day. Breakfast kick- starts your body’s metabolism. Plus, it’s healthier to eat larger meals earlier in the day so you can burn them off while you are working.
4. Having Not-So-Fresh Breath
Ho-hum breath isn’t just uncomfortable for your coworkers, it’s bad for your waistline. Get minty. After you eat a light snack or drink your final cup of Joe, eat a mint, chew sugar-free spearmint gum or do a quick floss of those choppers. Mint gives the signal of doneness, so you are less likely to be snacking all day.
5. Being a “Celebration Sally”
If you’re reading this with a slight smirk on your face, then you know who you are. Unless it’s your job, attending each and every happy hour, entering most of the in-office cook-offs or planning the holiday feasts will only lead to fitness failure. It’s okay to celebrate office milestones with your peers but do so with a healthy mindset. Sing “Happy Birthday” as loudly as your lungs allow but politely decline that slice of cake. Enter a lean chili recipe, but skip the cornbread sides, and share healthy dishes at the potlucks.
6. Hanging out with the Wrong Crowd
Yes, the same rules from high school apply to the workplace for a variety of reasons. Spending most of your breaks and lunches with people who could care less about their wellness won’t be beneficial for you or the way you feel. Hang out with office workers with similar goals. Better yet, use the buddy system to exercise at lunchtime or after work. Working out with a friend comes with a side benefit—you’ll be more likely to do it. If not, you will be disappointing someone else by breaking an important appointment.
7. Not Exercising at Work
The hours of 9 to 5 don’t have to be deskbound. Get moving and use your imagination. Chuck the elevator and salute the steps. Walk (or even run) them for a few minutes since stair climbing burns more calories than most other forms of physical activity that you can do at the office. Conference call? Slip on your sneakers and walk while you talk. Twenty minutes of walking will burn calories, improve mental clarity and provide some fresh air. Keep a resistance band handy. Bands and balls are great for exercising in small spaces like cubicles. Check online for easy strengthening exercises and make the resistance ball your favorite seat every day. Having to balance yourself will help strengthen abdominal muscles, and it will feel good on your tush.
8. Cavorting at Candi’s Cubicle
Almost everyone can name a food-pusher at work. Whether it’s the receptionist who likes to bake or the sales rep that also helps her daughter sell Girl Scout cookies, unhealthy temptations are a part of the workplace. Be prepared to politely say, “No thanks” when you don’t want to eat something and move on. And stay clear of Candi’s cubicle, you know, the gal who always has a bowl of chocolate treats and sweets on her desk. Try to eat a healthy snack (100—200 calories or less) every couple of hours.
9. Frequenting the Vending Machine
If you really struggle with junk food or soda from the vending machines at work, commit to avoiding them altogether. Plan and pack healthy snacks like string cheese, apples, bananas, peanut butter packets and small amounts of nuts to nosh on, rather than making a tumultuous trip to that dreadful machine later.
10. Dissing Workplace Wellness Programs
CEO’s and presidents know that healthy employees mean less absenteeism, less medical costs, and more cash in the bank, so work health programs are more prevalent than ever. Take advantage of fitness classes, weight loss competitions, lifestyle coaching and more for optimum physical and mental health. Plus, by always keeping wellness on the mind, workplace diet disasters 1—9 are easier to avoid.
Story by Lisa Taranto Butler
Lisa Taranto Butler is triple-certified by the American Council on Exercise as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and lifestyle coach with a specialty certification in fitness nutrition. She is the owner of FitChix KC, a personal and corporate training business in south KC.