Workin’ 9-5, what a way to make a living! We all have to do it at some point, but when do we have time to stay healthy? With the long days of meetings, customers/clients/co-workers, business calls, deadlines and projects, at the end of the day you’re exhausted, and being healthy is the last thing on your mind, let alone cooking or exercising. It’s easier to grab some fast food/take out, or pop something in the microwave and call it a day! Through my experience and weight loss journey (I’m about to keep it real), it’s about balance. I found that if you’re going to eat an unhealthy meal for dinner, try eating healthy before and during your work day to balance it out! Many times, it’s not that you are eating unhealthy food, it’s just that you are eating too much of it. Sitting at your desk for 8 plus hours, can take its toll on your body. Just think about it, the majority of your time is spent at work, or maybe sitting in your car in your commute to work! Do you see how you can get lost in the sauce and/or how the unhealthy cycle begins?
When I was working in the corporate world, eating became part of the job. While working in NYC, before work, I’d hop off the 2 train and head straight to the deli across the street from my office. Breakfast consisted of either 2 or 3 bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches or two/three toasted, everything bagels, loaded, and I mean LOADED, with cream cheese. If someone in the office brought in doughnuts, go ahead and tack on two or three of those on too. For lunch, if I wasn’t going out for a business lunch and/or out with co-workers, I’d walk back down to the deli, grab a sandwich (a footlong sub, extra everything), a full size bag of chips and my 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew. When I got home from work, I’d sit down, turn the TV on and think about what I would eat for dinner. This usually consisted of grabbing some fast food and/or leftovers from the fridge. Oh, and let’s not forget the late night snacking session before bedtime. Does any of this sound familiar? Notice how there is no mention of exercise… ANYWHERE?!?!?! This was my daily routine for MANY years!
Because of my unhealthy habits, I packed on the pounds. I wasn’t watching what I was consuming throughout the day. I didn’t care enough about my well-being. I just cared about doing my job. I was just going through the motions, not realizing the effects that it would later have on my body. One of my biggest excuses that I told myself for not exercising was that I didn’t have the time! I understand how we all get into ruts, but making a lifestyle choice is about staying consistent. You may not always have the time to exercise, but you DO have time to control your daily intake throughout your day.
So here are 7 tips to help you stay healthy during your work day.
THE LUNCH BOX
Yes, who doesn’t like to eat out? Lunch time is a way to break away from the office, sort of a “Get of Jail” free card. Going out with co-workers and/or business lunches can be great, but over time this can get pretty costly, and unwillingly you’ve packed on the pounds. Instead of heading for fast food, try saving some money and bring your lunch to work. I found what worked best, was to get a little “extra” of whatever I was preparing for dinner to insure that I would have enough leftover to bring for lunch the next day. That way, I knew that the food I was consuming was healthy, and I didn’t even have to spend more time during my day to make my lunch!! Simply put it in some tupperware the night before and VOILA! “Lunch is served!” Take your lunch to a park or some place quiet. Get some fresh air and enjoy some YOU time! You’ll feel refreshed and ready to go back to work with a smile!
SNACK TIME – AVOID THE TEMPTATION
This one’s a tough one. The snacks that your co-workers so conveniently place on their desk can add a few hundred calories to your lifestyle change if you’re not careful, and they can leave you with unwanted pounds if you help yourself on daily basis. Try bringing some fruits and veggies with you. And if you have to talk to that co-worker with the delicious snacks, by all means, walk around the desk and talk to them from the other side… Out of sight, out of mind!
WATER, WATER, and MORE WATER!
One of the biggest ways that people can gain weight is by drinking their calories! It’s so easy to walk over to the fridge and/or vending machine at work and grab a can of soda. You don’t even think that you’re slowly gaining weight because you’re just drinking as you go. You know what’s easier though?!? Walking over to that water cooler!! You should drink at least 8 to 10 glasses every day! This will help keep you hydrated and feeling FULL! Many foods are also good sources of water; fruits like oranges, grapefruit, grapes, watermelon, and apples can help keep you healthy and hydrated throughout the day. Around the 3 o’clock lull, many people feel sluggish and/or dehydrated. Bring a 16 ounce bottle of water to work and try to finish it by lunch, and then fill it up again and finish that by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., finish a third bottle. “Water does the body GOOD!”
ALL I WANT TO DO IS WALK! YES, MOVE!
Photo credit: Paul Bradbury
One of the most important things you can do during the day to stay healthy is to exercise. Walking during your lunch break is a great way to de-stress and relax. If you need some motivation, find a walking partner whom you can depend on for a daily walk – preferably someone who will drag your ass out of the office even if you claim to be too busy. If you really can’t get out during lunch, then park farther away than you normally do so you have a short walk to work in the morning and evening, or make it a habit to take the stairs instead of the elevator. “Get to steppin!”
BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS!
Another way to stay healthy at work is to avoid long stretches of long days. Occasionally, people focus on the task at hand and getting a project done, and we’re not aware of the impact it’s having on our health. This can effect your relationships and your mood swings. Know when to say, enough is enough. If you’re not careful, your long days will burn you out and can affect your immune system, as well as interfere with your sleep and ability to concentrate. Not to mention, late nights lead to later dinner times. You should really consume most of your calories, 3 hours before you go to bed. That means that your body has time to break down those calories before you just go to sleep and sit with them. Trust me, this will help!!
WHAT’S FOR DINNER? PLAN AHEAD
Make your meal plan in the beginning of the week or come up with alternatives when you’re just too tired to cook. That way you have a plan and you’re not going to eat crappy food. This also helps your wallet. I’ve found that when I go grocery shopping over the weekend and make a meal plan, I spend less money than when I go shopping the day of. When you have a day off, cook some healthy dishes in advance and throw them in the fridge so when you come home from work, exhausted, you can pop it in the microwave and Bon Appetite! Another great option is finding meals that you can put in the slow cooker. You can typically buy a slow cooker for under $50, and the meals you can make are amazing. Simply throw your ingredients in the cooker in the morning, set to low, let it cook for about 8 hours and then you’ll have a healthy, hot meal waiting for you when you get home!
HAVE SOME SELF CONTROL!
The most important way to stay healthy at work starts with self-awareness. Know yourself and know your limits and do the best you can to stay within those limits given your job. Know when to take breaks and know when to take a vacation. And get plenty of exercise, which helps you both physically and mentally, both at work and at home.