Work: A ‘Weighty’ Obstacle?

Do you work at a desk all day every day? If you spend most of your day stuck in an office, this can add extra challenges when you’re trying to lose or control your weight.

There’s the pesky vending machine downstairs, a birthday cake every other week, Mrs. Smith’s mum’s sister’s triple-chocolate baked goods every other day, and as for time to exercise – yeah right!

However, if you’re of the mindset that weight management at work is impossible, stop and think again. You just need to know how to tackle the obstacles that come along with an office job.

You can still get healthy and slim, even if you do work at a desk all day.

Bye bye birthday bash binges

If special occasions and birthdays at your office seem to roll around faster than you can say “no more chocolate cake,” then you need some strategies for dealing with them. While you can try resisting temptation altogether and refusing every slice of cake passed in your direction, do you really want to miss out while the rest of your colleagues socialise?

Try these tips instead:

  • Start your day of eating well by having a filling, high-fibre breakfast before you start work – or even at work if you’re running late. This will help you make wiser food choices throughout the day, and stabilise blood sugar and hunger levels.
  • Resist overindulging when cake is around. Have just one small portion – enough to enjoy the occasion, but not blow your diet. Don’t forget to take these extra calories into account.
  • If it takes just one taste for you to want to eat the whole cake, have a filling, low-calorie snack beforehand and avoid the birthday food. If you’re full already, it’s a lot easier to stick to your guns and say no.
  • Practise saying no and be prepared with some good excuses, such as, “It looks delicious, but I’ve just eaten,” “No thanks, I can’t eat gluten,” or “Thanks, but I’ll pass – I’m not a ‘cheesecake’ person.”
  • Don’t make food the focus of the celebration. Stand away from the food table and focus on the conversation!
  • If you’re in charge of the occasion, try bringing along healthy treats instead of the usual chocolate cake. You can guarantee you won’t be the only one pleased to see low-fat options. In fact, you might even start a new trend in your office.
Healthy morning tea ideas
Reduced-fat cheese and rice crackers
Fresh fruit platter
Rice crackers, veggie sticks and low-fat dip
Vietnamese fresh spring rolls (not fried!) with soy sauce for dipping
Low-fat mini muffins

Vanquish the vending machine

When 3pm rolls around, are you scrounging for coins to feed the vending machine? A chocolate bar will pick you up from the 3pm slump, right? While you might experience a temporary boost, you can bet your king-sized Mars Bar your energy levels will crash again quickly once the excess sugar leaves your blood stream.

If you’re genuinely hungry between meals, opt for a healthy snack. If you’re eating the right type of snack and don’t develop “snack amnesia”, you can incorporate a healthy snack into your day.

Try these strategies:

  • Eat a substantial breakfast and lunch to reduce your need for snacking throughout the day. Don’t use snacks to replace meals.
  • Bring a healthy, low-calorie snack to work with you. If you don’t plan in advance, you risk resorting to the vending machine when you start to feel peckish. Eating a healthy snack when the hunger pangs begin can quickly and quietly stop a blow out.
  • Keep your snack “out of sight, out of mind” such as in your desk drawer or in the office fridge. If you keep food on your desk, you can bet the more you look at it, the “hungrier” you’ll feel.
  • Track your snacks. Snack calories count and can add up over the day. Aim to “spend” about 150-200 calories per snack.
  • Choose wisely. Remember that chocolate or chips can waste up to 400 calories – and still leave you hungry! Choose foods that will make you feel full and satisfied, not craving more and more!
  • Don’t mistake thirst for hunger. Try having a drink of water instead of eating if you think you’re hungry. Wait for 10 minutes and see if you still feel hungry.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Just because a snack is “healthy” doesn’t mean you can eat it by the bucketload. Buy portion-controlled snacks, or serve only the amount you want to eat and put the rest away.
  • Are you actually hungry? If you are, go ahead and enjoy your snack. If you’re just bored or stuck on a difficult task, go for a walk or do something else, rather than eating to take your mind off the problem. Remember, food is for giving you energy and nutrients, not for solving your other problems.
Handy tip: How much food can you eat for less than 200 calories? You might be surprised!

Try half a punnet of strawberries, plus 100g no-fat vanilla yoghurt, plus 1 cup of air popped popcorn, plus a skim milk cappuccino – all of this is only 180 calories and less than 1g of fat!

Try some of these healthy snack ideas to stave off the 3pm munchies:

Healthy snack ideas
Flavoured rice crackers
Carrot, celery and capsicum sticks with 2 tablespoons of fat-free dressing to dip
Reduced-fat cheese and crackers
Tub of low-fat yoghurt
Fresh fruit
A low-fat muesli bar
Dried fruits and nuts
Toasted wholegrain bread spread with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese
A cup of hot microwave soup (non-creamy)
Homemade trail mix combinations, such as raw nuts,
sunflower seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, sultanas, dried cranberries

Fend off (too many) Friday drinks

The key word to remember for Friday after-work drinks is “moderation”. There’s no harm in having a beer or a glass of wine to wind down after a busy work week – the problem comes when you’re still out draining your (ninth) glass at 2 o’clock the next morning! You can guarantee your “healthy eating” motto will have truly flown out the window.

  • Offer to be the designated driver – This way you’re restricted to one drink, if any, and you’ve got a great response to peer pressure. No one can argue if you’re driving them home, right?
  • Before you leave your desk and head to the local watering hole, eat a filling snack. This means any alcohol you drink will be absorbed more slowly into your blood stream. It will also help you resist the unhealthy snacks that tend to accompany drinks.
  • Don’t forget that although they contain no fat, most alcoholic drinks contain at least 100 calories. These are empty calories, with no nutritional value at all. Keep these extra calories in mind when you’re counting your day’s calorie intake.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or diet soft drinks, and choose diet drinks as mixers.

Engage in easy exercise

If you work at a desk, you probably feel like you spend your whole life sitting down. To avoid this becoming true, the trick is to build more opportunities for exercise into your working day.

Try these quick tips:

  • Use the stairs rather than taking the lift
  • Get off the bus or train a few stops early, and walk the rest of the way to work
  • If you drive to work, park your car a five to ten minute walk away from the office
  • Keep your snacks in the office fridge, or even on another floor, rather than at your desk so you have to walk to get them
  • Offer to do the mid-morning coffee run and bypass the coffee shop just outside the office for another one a short walk away
  • Organise a lunchtime “power walk” with a co-worker or two (keep a pair of your sneakers in a desk drawer to change into)
  • Get your workplace involved in a stair climbing competition – try the National Heart Foundation of Australia for more information

If you’re worried about work getting in the way of your weight loss goals, just aim to eat carefully at work and make an effort to add a little extra exercise into your day. You might find your weight loss efforts are well rewarded when you have to buy a smaller sized suit!

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