Monthly Archives: February 2008

I’ll be hungry all the time

We all recognise that losing weight will involve some changes to the way we eat, but some people have strong associations between dieting and deprivation. Those who’re used to hearty meals (and who have the figure to match!) are often reluctant to “go on a diet” because they think it will mean living on salad: “I can’t lose weight because I’ll be hungry all the time.”

In fact, a healthy, sustainable diet should definitely not have you ready to gnaw your own arm off in hunger. The best way to lose weight is to cut back by 500-1000 calories a day, allowing you to lose 1-2lbs per week. The first few days may be harder as your body adjusts to less food, but you should only be feeling rather peckish before mealtimes, rather than suffering hours of hunger.

How to cut down on “expensive calorie” foods

Keep a food diary for a week and look for any obvious ways to reduce calories without unhealthy diet practices (such as skipping meals, or surviving on a single apple for lunch – you’ll be trading short-term gains for long-term yo-yo dieting.) This means cutting out foods which don’t fill you up and which “cost” a lot of calories.

Easy targets to zap from your diet are things like:

  • Bags of crisps: a packet of Doritos or Kettle Chips has 200 calories.
  • Chocolate bars: a standard mars bar has 260 calories – as much as many low-fat sandwiches.
  • Dessert: have a bowl of stewed fruit or fruit salad instead.
  • Shop-bought sandwiches: these often have 500-600 calories. You can cut this in half by buying from a low-calorie range, or by taking your own lunch into work (if the latter, you’ll save money too.)

Good “calorie bargain” foods to fill you up

There are plenty of things which are filling and “cheap” on calories. Some of my favourites are:

  • Apples: 50 cals for a small apple. If you tend to overeat in the evenings, try having one before dinner to take the edge off your appetite.
  • Cereal bars: a great mid-morning snack to fill the gap between breakfast and lunch. Also a good biscuit-substitute (many are quite sweet and some even have chocolate in…)
  • Crispbreads (such as Ryvitas): 30 cals a slice. Four of these seem just as filling as two thick slices of bread, but for far fewer calories.
  • Rice cakes: like crispbreads, about 30 calories a slice. Eat the flavoured ones plain for a quick snack if you’re starting to get hungry long before a meal is due.
  • Stir fries: I’m particularly fond of vegetable, prawns and noodles. This is really filling for about 400 calories.
  • This is the last post in the excuse-busting series. You’re out of reasons not to make those health-improving lifestyle changes that you’ve been putting off – good luck!

(Photo above by mdavidford)


Fun things to keep you healthy at your desk…


Trim your portion size, trim your waistline

Countless studies have shown that people given a smaller portion rate themselves as just as satisfied as the people who had a bigger one. The trick is to ensure your snack or meal looks filling. Even if you’re not convinced that you’ll be fooled so easily, try it – I’m always surprised how a perfectly adequate serving can look stingy on a huge plate. This article explains how the optical illusion works…

(And don’t feel “stupid” if your brain is fooled like this too: it’s been shown that even professional barstaff are awful at judging shots in a squat tumbler compared to a tall glass. And food nutrition experts serve themselves more ice-cream when given a bigger bowl.)

So what can you do to quickly and easily keep your portion sizes down?

Breakfast time

  • Use a smaller bowl for cereal. A 30g portion of cornflakes fills a soup bowl nicely. It’s much easier to pour too much if you have a huge bowl. In the photo, both bowls have identical 30g portions in. Spot the difference?
  • Drink juice from a short glass. The recommended 150mls (maybe 100+ calories) isn’t a lot.
  • If you’re having a bacon sandwich, eat it off a side plate, not a dinner plate – it’ll look much more satisfying!

In the office

  • If you must have a biscuit, take the smallest one!
  • At lunch time, fill half your plate or lunch box with fruit and vegetables.
  • Buy multipacks of crisps (that’s chips to our US readers). Not only does it work out cheaper, the bags inside these are invariably 10g smaller than those bought individually.

Dinner time

  • Use a smaller dinner plate for evening meals. An easy, tried-and-tested way to slash portions sizes.
  • Have a smaller glass of wine. If your wine glasses are like mine, they easily hold 175mls, not 125 – so that abstemious “one glass of wine” you’re drinking with dinner could really be nearer two…
  • If you get a takeaway, fill half your plate with something light (prawn crackers or a poppadom work well.)
  • When at a restaurant, demanding a small plate will frankly look a bit weird. Try splitting a meal with your partner. If you’re drinking wine, just half-fill your glass rather than keeping it topped up to the brim.

I hate exercise

A lot of us have very negative memories from our school-days; communal changing rooms, nasty comments, bullying, unflattering kit … it’s hardly surprising that some of us have the excuse “I hate exercise and always have done.” I spent my late teens being as inactive as possible because I’d hated the compulsory games sessions so much when I was younger.

But I now cycle seven miles a day and go to the gym most lunchtimes, and many other people who start out exercising to lose weight find they really miss it when they have a few inactive days.

If you don’t want to get hot and sweaty…

Exercise doesn’t have to mean a five mile run. You could go for a gentle walk locally (it counts even if it’s just to the shops and back), or a longer ramble in the countryside.

If you’re very out of shape, swimming is a great option. Go to the pool at quiet times, or for adult-only sessions if you’re not confident about your body (there’s nothing worse than having to run the gauntlet of shrieking kids from the changing room to the pool). Once you’re in the water, no-one will be able to see what shape you are! Also, swimming is great if you have joint problems that impact-based exercise (such as jogging) might exacerbate.

If you find exercise tedious…

Try thinking of activity rather than exercise. There might be some things you already enjoy which you could do more of:

  • Long walks exploring your neighbourhood with friends or family
  • Cycle rides down quiet country lanes
  • Playing football in your local park with the kids

Or there might be some more adventurous things which you’d love to have a go at. It’s not just kids who are allowed to have fun! Can you join a local trampolining club? Or take up a sport such as fencing or boxing; look out for beginners’ classes at bigger leisure centres. You just might find a whole new hobby…

(Photo above by Andy Field (Hubmedia))


New search box and archives page

Now that The Office Diet has over fifty pages, I’ve added a search box (glance up and to the right!) and I’ve changed the Archives page so that it shows the titles of all the previous short, daily posts. Check out the Articles page if you’re looking for more in-depth guides.

Hopefully all this’ll make it much easier to find what you’re after!

NB: Scroll down for today’s main post.


Stop workplace boredom and stress from ruining your diet

Mondays aren’t usually the cheeriest day in the office. Chances are that you’ve heard (or said) one of the following today:

  • “Yawn, I’m so bored.”
  • “Argh, I’m so stressed.”

Neither the tedium nor the pressure of work is going to disappear as easily as a handful of chocolates, though…

Beating boredom

Those of us with less than thrilling day-jobs inevitably find the clock dragging at times. Around three in the afternoon is often a low point; how can there still be two hours left to go?

At moments like this, a warm drink always seems a good idea (if only to kill five minutes standing by the kettle). And what better to go with a brimming mug than one of those cookies so kindly brought in by a colleague…

Instead of reaching for the snacks, though, try some of the following:

  • Tackle the backlog: crack on with all those non-urgent, non-important tasks that just keep getting put off
  • See if you can give a colleague a hand: offer to take on one of their more mundane tasks, and they’ll be hugely grateful.
  • Talk to your boss: if you’re consistently sitting around with nothing to do at work, it’s not good for your or your employer. Can you take on more responsibilities?
  • Look for a new job: drastic, but if your current role is one you could do in your sleep, it might be time to move on.

Stopping stress

Some of you doubtlessly gave a hollow, mirthless laugh as you skimmed past the above paragraphs. Maybe you wish your job was boring – as it is, you’re constantly rushing around, struggling to keep up with everything.

It can be very tempting to reach for the nearest source of chocolate on a bad day, or to “treat yourself” for successfully finishing a difficult task. Instead, try:

  • Delegate: maybe you’ve got a couple of colleagues who don’t have enough work and would welcome a chance to try something new.
  • Prioritise: what really needs to be done? The quickest way to get a task off your to-do list is to abandon it completely.
  • Talk to your boss: don’t struggle on in silence, if you consistently have too much work, or if the work is very intense and stressful.
  • Get some exercise: make a point of taking your full lunch break and leaving the office, perhaps for a brisk walk or quick gym session.

(Photo above by aindschie)

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