Monthly Archives: January 2008

A month of The Office Diet

The Office Diet launched on 1st January and has been going strong since then. Many thanks to all those who’ve emailed me so far with feedback – it’s great to know what you like (or don’t!) about the site.

If you’re a new reader, you might like to browse:

I’d welcome even more views and comments to – especially if there’s something you’d particularly like me to write about.

And if you’re finding The Office Diet useful, why not spread the word to your friends and colleagues? What better excuse to abuse the “email all” function at work? 😉

Also, each post has buttons below to add it to your favourite social bookmarking site, and it’d be great to see people selecting their favourite pieces.

Good luck with your improving health, and thank you for reading so far! Look out for new posts in February, including the continuation of the “excuse-busting” series, articles on how to build and maintain new habits, more calorie counted recipes, reviews of diet magazines and sites, a Lent challenge and much more besides…


I’ve been fat all my life

Today’s excuse is “I’ve been fat all my life. How can I expect that to change now?”

Don’t try to dismiss this one lightly. It lies at the root of many serial dieters’ failed attempts to lose weight.

It can be incredibly difficult to change your life if you can’t envisage yourself in the new life which you want. Lots of successful dieters struggle to change their mental image of themselves – if you’ve been overweight for most of your life, the new slim you in the mirror can come as a surprise. I am still startled when new friends and acquaintances describe me as “slim” – though of course, I am, and they didn’t know me when I wasn’t!

Will losing weight mean changing who you are?

To change, you need to establish not only new eating habits but a new way of thinking about yourself. For some people, being overweight is a large part of their personality and self-image, and not always in a negative way. Especially for men, being “Big John” can be part of who they are. Or perhaps you’re known amongst friends as “fun”, or “bubbly” or “someone who makes the best cakes” and you’re worried that losing weight will change the way they think about you.

And if you’re like me, you’ve probably spent years telling yourself you’re happy with your weight. Perhaps your weight means you can confidently insist (to yourself, to others) “I don’t care what the world thinks. I’m happy with who I am.” Great! Good for you! But there may come a point when you decide that for health reasons, you want to lose some weight. If so, read on…

Working through your feelings about your weight

Step One:
Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed for at least five minutes. (Lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary.) Sit down with a piece of paper, and write answers to the following questions. Be as honest as you possibly can – no one will see this except you. Even if you think your answers are “wrong”, be honest about your feelings.

  • How I feel about my current weight
  • Why I want to lose weight
  • Why I’m afraid of losing weight

Step Two:
Look at what you’ve written and decide: Do I want to lose weight? It’s absolutely fine to decide not. But if you do want to – and your fears and your past are holding you back – then take another piece of paper and write “This is how I envisage my life in three years’ time.”

Include details of how you look, what you’re eating, your family and friends, and your day-to-day activities. Keep this piece of paper somewhere safe, and look over it every week (maybe at your weekly weigh-in, or first thing on Monday morning). Revise and add to it when necessary.

Step Three:
Each week, take the steps that lead you closer to that lifestyle. If you’re not sure where to start, try browsing the archives and the longer articles here on The Office Diet.


How to calorie-count a recipe – free spreadsheet to download

It’s great to cook from scratch – fun, healthy, and the meals you produce are likely to be much more nutrient-packed than ready meals or takeaways. Unless you’ve got a recipe book with calorie counts, though, you may have no idea how many calories or grams of fat are in your meal.

I’m a member of Weight Loss Resources, which has a great tool where you can enter your ingredients (from their vast database) and easily make a recipe. It is a paid-membership site, though, so I’ve created a free downloadable spreadsheet to let you calculate the calories in your favourite recipes.

It works for up to ten ingredients. You need to know the nutritional information for 100g of each ingredient – just look on the packet, or find the ingredient in a database such as Calorie Database (make sure you get the results for 100g).

Download the Calorie Counting Spreadsheet
Fill in the ingredients, and the number of portions the recipe makes, and the spreadsheet give you the calorie, fat, carb, protein and fibre count per portion. I’ve put in a couple of examples (potatoes and mince) to demonstrate how it works, so just delete those and replace with your own ingredients. Easy!

(You might also want to find out your recommended daily calorie intake.)


Sorry Miss, I forgot my gym kit…

Today, I was having a great morning. I got up early, had plenty of time for breakfast, made a healthy lunch, remembered my cereal bars, grabbed my gym bag and cycled into work.

Then I realised that whilst I had my gym bag, my gym kit was sitting on the floor of my bedroom. This ruled out my lunchtime workout: what could I do instead? Go round the shops? Sit at my desk? Ignore my planned, healthy lunch and join the guys in the office for pizza?

With a bit of encouragement from the friendly folk on the Weight Loss Resources forums, I decided I’d go to the gym anyway, and just walk on the treadmill. (I would normally recommend walking outside and enjoying the fresh air and the view, but I work in Brixton, South London…) Sounds dull, but it wasn’t; I enjoyed having time to just stroll along and let my thoughts drift. And of course I felt much better afterwards than I would have if I’d just sat at my desk blaming myself for being disorganised.

So, if you’ve had one of those “it’s all gone wrong!” moments today, don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Challenge yourself to find a way round it!


I can’t eat a healthy diet because I’m too busy

Today, we’ll tackle that popular excuse: “I can’t eat a healthy diet because I’m too busy to faff around preparing complicated meals.”

There’s a huge range of calorie-counted products available in shops, from sandwiches to ready-meals. These can be very useful if you’re in a real rush, but no-one needs to live on them to lose weight. Healthy, diet-friendly meals can be quick and easy to prepare.


Get up five minutes earlier – hardly a huge challenge! – and make a sandwich for lunch. Go for granary bread and low-fat fillings (ham, cream cheese, salad or prawns all work well.) Grab a couple of pieces of fruit and a cereal bar to go with it, either from home or from your stash of snacks at work.

If your lunches are starting to get monotonous, check out my lunch tips or the suggested lunches on the recipe pages.


Plenty of tasty, healthy, meals take only ten-fifteen minutes to prepare. Pasta is ideal: just make sure you weigh out your portion (50-80g dried weight, depending how many calories you’re eating). You don’t need to tip an artificially sweet shop-bought sauce over your pasta – try chopping onion and mushrooms, frying them with just a spray of low-fat oil, and adding a small tin of shop bought tomatoes. By the time the sauce is done, the pasta should have finished cooking.

Rice or noodles are also great options – especially with vegetable stir-fry. You can even buy ready-chopped veg, most supermarkets do a range of these.

I’ve got more detailed instructions for pasta with tomato, bacon and veg sauce and vegetable stir-fry with noodles on the recipe pages. – along with a few other quick and easy dinner ideas.

Excuse busted – now take action!

This weekend, take ten minutes to think about meals for next week, and write a shopping list. Stock up your cupboards so that you won’t come home starving on Monday and make a beeline for the nearest takeaway.


What’s your excuse?

I’m great at coming up with ways to wriggle out of commitments that I’ve made to myself. There’s a lot of popular excuses around, especially while the days are still short and dark and Christmas cheer and New Year resolve seems long banished.

Do any of these sound familiar?
“I can’t eat a healthier diet because …”

  • I’m too busy to faff around preparing complicated meals
  • I don’t like fruits/vegetables/“healthy” food
  • I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy diet foods

“I can’t lose weight because …”

  • I’ve been fat all my life. How can I expect that to change now?
  • I’ll have to buy new clothes
  • I’ll be hungry all the time

“I can’t exercise because …”

  • I’m too fat and unfit
  • I don’t have any time
  • I hate exercise and always have done.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of “excuse-busting” articles, showing you how to break through the mindset behind each of those excuses and giving practical tips on storming ahead with your new, healthier, lifestyle.

In the meantime, it’s important to acknowledge those excuses that have held you back in the past. Get a piece of paper and write down any reasons which you use to convince yourself that you don’t want to change, or which make you feel you can’t change.

For example, “I’ve tried diets before and they never work.” That was my excuse as a teenager.

When I was seventeen, I realised why diets had never worked for me: I’d start a new one every Monday then give up and turn to food as soon as I was bored or upset. And I saw dieting as something I should do rather than something I wanted to do.

But I realised I could turn this around. I wanted to lose weight for myself – because I knew I’d be healthier. I wanted to take care of my body by eating proper meals and nutritious food rather than constantly snacking on crisps and chocolate. And this time, I wasn’t expecting instant results. There was nothing wrong with the diets I’d tried before – just my attitude towards them.

Take a good hard look at your excuse. Can you find a way round it? Is it worth letting it hold you back from achieving the best you can for yourself?

All the articles in this series will be labelled “Excuse-busting” (you can click on the link in the side bar to see all the articles in this category).

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