Working a desk job may seem like one of many weight gain traps waiting to happen, but just because you work a desk job doesn't mean that you have to gain weight. I've seen plenty of healthy people spend the majority of their days sitting at a desk. Soon to start a desk job myself, the thought of sitting all day actually scares me just slightly, however, I know that there are things that I can do to avoid this. Here are seven weight gain traps at work and how both you can avoid them.
1. Failing to Plan Exercise
Your exercise appointment should be planned, scheduled and penciled in just like a meeting with your boss would be. Find a time that works best for you and stick to it. For me, I know the only way I will not miss this appointment is if I schedule it in the morning. I like to start my day with a good workout; it sets the tone for my entire day. Whenever I try to plan my workouts in the afternoon, a project, a happy hour invitation or pure exhaustion tend to come up. While it might be hard to avoid hitting the snooze button in the morning, I find that if I lay out my clothes, prep my breakfast and coffee the night before and know exactly what kind of exercise I am going to do, after a few days, my body craves this heart pumping time. If you happen to enjoy working out in the evenings, fail proof your plan by packing your workout clothes the night before and bring them with you to work. That way, you're not even tempted to stay on the couch once you make it home after a long day. Failing to plan and stick to and exercise regimen, is one of the easiest weight gain traps that you can avoid.
2. Faling to Prep and Plan Healthy Meals and Snacks
You've heard it before: Failing to plan is planning to fail. It couldn't be more true. It's much easier to join in on the office delivery food, vending machine or those doughnuts that a coworker brought in if you don't have a healthy meal or snack on hand. Have you ever noticed that when you let yourself get too hungry, it's much harder to make a healthy decision? Take a few hours at the start of the week to prep a few healthy meals and snacks. A few of my favorites include making a large batch of grains like quinoa or brown rice to serve as the base for any lunch or dinner; throwing some black beans in the crockpot to eat on all week long like in a black bean bowl for lunch or black bean tacos for dinner; pre-chopped veggies for dipping in hummus or for tossing together a quick stir-fry for dinner; homemade protein bars for a healthy snack or post-workout recovery; or even overnight oats for an quick and easy breakfast. I also like to keep fresh fruit on hand; things like apples, bananas, grapes or berries make an easy lunch side or afternoon snack. By taking just a little bit of time to map out my week, I am sure to stay on track with my healthy eating goals, and you can be too!
3. Not Getting Enough Sleep
This one is tough because sometimes there really are just too few hours in the day. A deadline approaching, a new project assignment, parental duties, you name it: the busier we get, the less we tend to sleep; but actually, it should be just the opposite. Sleep is a miracle drug for the body. Chronic sleep deprivation alone can cause weight gain by altering the hormones that control and regulate your appetite, causing you to feel hungrier throughout the day. Aside from weight regulation, sleep provides many other benefits as well: sleep enhances your memory; ample sleep will help improve mood; sleep also enhances immune function, helping your body fight off not only acute sickness, but disease and chronic illness as well. Just like your exercise appointment, try your hardest to set and keep your appointment with Mr. Shut Eye. You will not only be more productive throughout the day, but you will also be better able to control your weight.
4. Dining out Frequently
You know how it goes: "Want to grab lunch?" "Hey, we're all going to happy hour this afternoon, you'll be there right?" "We just ordered three pizzas for lunch. They'll be here soon!" "Don't forget we have a business dinner tonight at 6." Dining out can really wreck havoc on your healthy eating goals, but again, going in with a plan will do wonders for your health. Keep a list of healthy restaurants nearby in your desk so that you can make the restaurant recommendation. Look at menus in advance so that you know exactly what you will order when you arrive. Don't be afraid to ask your server for healthy substitutions, after all, you are the paying customer. Usually, most servers are happy to meet any requests that you might have. Another suggestion is to eat something small before going or even order a broth-based soup or salad with a vinegar-based dressing. This way, you aren't tempted by the bread basket, chips and salsa or any other empty calorie item that is placed on your table. Dining out can be a part of a healthy lifestyle - if you have a plan in mind.
5. Eating when You're Not Hungry
"Doughnuts in the break room? But I just ate breakfast… Well, only one won't hurt." If you're anything like me, this conversation sounds pretty familiar to you too. It might be only one, but over time, a doughnut here, a piece of candy there, and the nachos at happy hour can really add up. This is where the importance of planning healthy meals and snacks comes in, as well as sticking to those plans. It's easy to eat when you're not hungry, especially when it's one of your favorite foods, but always keep your long-term goals in mind. Don't waste calories on foods that just happen to be in the break room on any particular day. If you wouldn't purchase it yourself, skip it. Whenever I am faced with this type of situation, I simply walk away: out of sight, out of mind, as the old saying goes. Give your brain a few minutes away from whatever the temptation, and soon, instead of feeling guilty, you will feel good about the healthy decision that you just made.
6. Skipping Meals
I see this one all too often. Your in a rush in the morning so you skip breakfast. It was an extremely busy day, leaving no time for lunch. And then you make it home in the evening STARVING. Ravenous, actually. And then you tell yourself that it's okay, "I haven't eaten anything today so I can eat whatever I want now." Unfortunately, there's no such thing as storing up calories for later - unless your goal is to gain weight that is. This type of eating behavior will cause your metabolism to slow to a snails pace, holding on to every single bite that you take in fear that tomorrow is going to go the same way. Instead, try eating something (even if it's small!) every 3-4 hours. This keeps your metabolism burning calories like a well-oiled machine, keeping your energy levels consistent and your thoughts clear.
7. Sitting for Too Long
Even if you work a desk job, there is such thing as sitting for too long. Your body has to work much harder while standing, burning many more calories than while sitting. However, standing isn't always possible when working a desk job. In order to combat a sedentary job, I like to set an alarm for the last five minutes of every hour. When my alarm goes off, I hop up from my chair and take a short stroll around the office whether it be to fill up my water bottle, use the restroom or simply get a breath of fresh air. This allows me to stretch out my legs, clear my mind, and return to my work rejuvenated and refocused. Not only will standing more often help prevent weight gain, it can also prevent many other health issues like back pain and lower extremity nerve damage. And did you know that there are even some studies that suggest that people work more efficiently while standing rather than sitting? Because of this, many people are also using standing desks now. Have you ever tried a standing desk? I certainly want to!
A healthy lifestyle should be enjoyed by all; regardless of how many hours you spend sitting at your desk. By avoiding the weight gain traps mentioned above, a healthy weight is obtainable. Always remember that small changes really do add up and that weight gain happens gradual, therefore, you have to be consistent in making healthy decisions. How do you prevent weight gain working a sedentary job?