Monthly Archives: September 2008

How to leave work on time

Special announcement: For just three days (29th Sept – 1st Oct), the Dieting Basics ebook is just $5. The price will be going up to $12 on Thursday 2nd Oct so if you’ve been dithering about buying it, now’s a great time to get your copy! You can download a free sample of the ebook if you’re not sure what you’ll be getting for your money.

Working late at the office takes up that precious time you’d planned to use for a gym trip or a trip to the supermarket to stock up on healthy food. If you regularly find yourself staying well beyond your contracted hours, it’s time to think about some strategies for getting out of work on time.

Focus during the day

Be honest; when you end up staying late to finish something off, is it because you spent half the day chatting at the water cooler, reading non-work-related blogs and watching funny clips on You Tube?

It’s very easy to procrastinate over work – I found that it helps to tackle the big, tricky tasks in the morning and get them out of the way for the day. The big advantage to this is that you tend to end up “on a roll” – once you’ve finished that hard section of the annual report, you’ll find yourself blitzing through your emails.

Don’t feel guilty about leaving on time

Some workplaces have a culture of late hours; I was lucky in my last office that pretty much everyone left on time. Yes, perhaps your colleagues are working late because they’re dedicated and committed to the job. Or perhaps they’re working late because they’re inefficient, or they have an unexciting life outside work!

If you’ve worked efficiently during the day, you shouldn’t feel at all guilty about sticking to your contracted hours. If you do find that you have more work than you can fit into the day, the problem probably isn’t with you…

Talk to your line manager

When your workload is so heavy that you have to put in overtime just to keep up, you should alert your line manager. It may well be the case that some of your tasks can be passed on to other members of staff (who might even be bored because they don’t have enough to do) – or, alternatively, the company may want to hire someone new to take on part of your role.

“Dr Work” at the Guardian wrote this (and much more) in response to a reader who was constantly working late:

Get yourself a notebook and start keeping a note of how many hours you’re doing and what particular tasks are very time-consuming. Think about what you could delegate, and identify anything you’re struggling with. … Then make an appointment to see your line manager and raise your concerns.

There’s nothing wimpy about saying that you’re being given too much work, so don’t be afraid to be honest. Your line manager would far rather know about problems early on than leave you to struggle with an impossible workload for months.

Make plans with colleagues

Some of us end up working late day after day just because we’re used to it. A good way to break this habit is to schedule something immediately after work. If you feel bad about dashing off, it helps to involve colleagues: they’ll remind you to pack up and go!

How about getting together with a few friends at work, and playing a couple of games of badminton or tennis one evening a week? Or maybe you could find an exercise class at a nearby gym that you could all go to?


If your work is eating into your personal time, don’t just assume that this has to be the norm. Seize back your own hours, by making sure you can get through your workload in the day, and by planning an “exit strategy” to leave on time every night.

Further reading:
Claim back your lunch hour: 5 health reasons why, 6 ways to do it
Race through your work – and enjoy it! (an article I wrote for Dumb Little Man).

(Image above by gregturner.)


Motivational exercise quotes

Let’s face it, the most enthusiastic of us will occasionally have days when our planned jog, workout or aerobics class just doesn’t appeal. Sometimes, we need a bit of a motivation boost – and one of my favourite ways to get that is to turn to some of these great exercise quotes. If your fitness routine is flagging, try setting one of these as your screensaver or writing it on a post-it stuck to your monitor…

Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, “Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?”

– Peter Maher, Canadian marathon runner

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.

– Paul Dudley White

Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends.

– Thomas Jefferson

You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.

– Charles Buxton

Act as though and it shall be.
The seed you sow today will not produce crop till tomorrow. For this reason, your identity does not lie in your current results. This is not who you are. Your current results are who you were.

– James A. Ray

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.

– Leo Tolstoy

Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase.

– Joseph Pilates

Note: Since writing this post (which has become quite popular – thank you!) I’ve launched the site Diet Quotes, with a page full of motivational exercise quotes. So if you enjoyed the ones above, check that out too!

Need some motivation and help beyond just exercise quotes? Want to learn what exercises are best for beginners and for improvers? Check out my Dieting Basics ebook, which is packed with 88 pages of information, tips and advice on exercise, diet, nutrition and more.


Eat breakfast at work

If you find yourself skipping breakfast because you’re too rushed or not hungry enough first thing, why not eat the first meal of the day at work?

You might have to be a little sensitive to your office culture and customs here: I’ve worked in places where communal milk was bought for cereal, and places where eating breakfast at my desk would probably have raised some eyebrows (and some mutterings). Not everyone wants to hear you crunching and slurping your cereal, so if you work in close proximity to others, you might prefer to eat in the office break room or kitchen.


Cereal is probably the easiest breakfast to grab at work – you’ll want to keep:

  • A bottle of milk in the fridge (get skimmed, or semi-skimmed)
  • A box of cereal in your desk drawer

Most cereal boxes aren’t exactly shaped to fit into a small space, so you might want to decant your cereal into an airtight Tupperware container. This also has the advantage of keeping it fresh for longer.

Depending on how well equipped your work kitchen is, you might need to buy yourself a cheap bowl and spoon, too.

Toast or crumpets

Even if your kitchen doesn’t have a toaster, you could pick up a basic one for about £5 (try Woolworths or the Sainsbury’s Basic / Tesco Value ranges – they’ve got plenty aimed at students at the moment). Keep a loaf of bread or a packet of crumpets in your desk drawer, and a pot of low-fat spread in the fridge.

One word of warning – when you’re making breakfast, don’t get distracted by checking your email. The smell of burnt toast is unlikely to endear you to your colleagues.

‘Emergency’ breakfasts

You might not plan to regularly eat at work, but it’s still worth keeping a few long life items in your desk, for those inevitable days when the alarm doesn’t go off and the bus is late…

Mini, single-serving cereal boxes are a good option, along with long-life milk. You could also keep a box of breakfast bars on hand. Ideally, of course, you’ll have a few healthy snacks stashed away which could serve as an emergency breakfast.

On the clock

If you can, I’d suggest getting into the office ten minutes early in order to eat breakfast – otherwise, even if you’re working while eating, you may face some grumblings from colleagues or even your boss that you’re eating breakfast on company time.

Alternatively, knock ten minutes off your lunch break (and I hope you’re taking your full lunch hour at the moment).

Although eating breakfast at work isn’t practical for everyone, most of us can work out a way to manage it. If you’re finding yourself too rushed to eat at home in the morning, why not give it a go?

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(Image above by Bitter Girl )


Fill your plate

Today, I wanted to give you three little words that might help you to diet effectively: “Fill your plate”. If you’re thinking this is the last advice that you’d expect to see on a healthy-eating blog, then read on…

Have you ever been to a restaurant where they put your dessert in the centre of a giant white plate, with a chocolate or fruit sauce dribbled artistically over the mostly-blank china? It looks pretty – but if you’re anything like me, you might look at the size of your dessert and think hmm … is that all I get?

But if you had the same piece of sticky fudge chocolate cake in a café, on a much smaller plate, it’d probably look like a big serving.

Use a smaller plate

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but when you’re dieting, it helps to use a smaller plate. Study after study has shown that when eating from smaller plates or bowls, people are satisfied with less. If your plate looks full, you convince yourself that you’ve got a lot of food there.

Try eating a sandwich off a side plate, not a dinner plate. Pour your cereal into a smaller bowl.

Fill half your plate with vegetables

One easy way to make sure you’re getting enough fruit and veg is to fill half your pltae with vegetables at lunch and dinner. That might mean having salad and a sandwich for lunch, then chicken, potatoes and two or three different types of cooked veggies for dinner.

I wouldn’t advocate filling half your cereal bowl with carrots, but how about having a couple of pieces of fruit at breakfast time?

Don’t eat too little

The third reason I want to say “fill your plate” today is to encourage you not to try to starve yourself. In today’s rushed, instant-results world, we often wish that weight-loss could happen overnight. The reality, though, is that if you lose weight slowly, you’re much more likely to keep it off.

So don’t be afraid to fill your plate – and your stomach. Choose low-fat, high-fibre options that will fill you up without too many calories. Make sure you’re eating at least 1,100 calories per day.

The link to the free Dieting Basics ebook sample on Friday was broken for all the people receiving updates via email – my sincere apologies! If you click this link to the Dieting Basics sample, it should work (send hate mail to if it doesn’t…)

(Image above by sonicwalker)


Free sample of Dieting Basics ebook

It’s Friday, which means it’s a good day for a treat … so here’s one for all The Office Diet’s readers. I launched the Dieting Basics ebook on Wednesday, and today I’m offering you a free sample. It contains the following chapters from the ebook:

  • Introduction
  • The weight-loss secret
    • No-one is forcing food between your lips
    • Wake up thin?
    • It takes time
    • Staying motivated
  • Find your goal weight using the BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • Fats
    • Different types of fat
    • Why are saturated fats bad and unsaturated fats good?
    • What are trans fats and why are they so bad?
    • What foods are sources of “good” fats?
  • Exercise: Getting started, staying motivated, seeing improvements
    • Why do you need to exercise?
    • Getting started: exercise for beginners
    • Staying motivated: carrying on when it gets tough
    • Seeing improvements: stepping up your exercise

The sample of the Dieting Basics ebook is 16 pages long, and you’re very welcome to email it to your friends and colleagues, post a link to it on your website, or even upload it onto your own website to give to your readers. I hope you enjoy it – if you do, remember you can get the full ebook for $12, and I’ll guarantee your money back if you’re not 100% happy with it.

Click here to download your free Dieting Basics sample now.

If you’ve got any questions, just drop me an email –

(Image above by shoothead)


The Ideal Dieting Office

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if your workplace was geared up to support your healthy living efforts?

Instead of having a vending machine stuffed with chocolate and a dingy cupboard of a kitchen, the Ideal Dieting Office would have free fruit and vegetables, a sparkling clean fridge, a host of supportive colleagues and a boss who’d let you take a two-hour lunch break to go to the gym …

The Ideal Dieting Office might be a fantasy, but there are some ways to bring your workplace a little closer to being perfect. Here’s how:


The Ideal:
You walk into a sparkling clean kitchen. The cupboards are full of nice plates, bowls, mugs and cutlery. The fridge is huge and shiny, with a freezer compartment for frozen treats. The washing-up has always been done.

The Reality:
Okay, so your office has to make do with a rather poky little kitchen, and no-one’s seen fit to stock it with any crockery. The fridge is crammed with forgotten sandwiches and out-of-date ready meals. Whenever you try to leave something in there for more than a few hours, though, it inevitably goes missing…

What you can do:

  • Get those rubber gloves out, take a deep breath, and give the office fridge a good clean. Sure, it’s not quite in your job remit, but everyone will love you for it!
  • Label all the food you keep in the fridge – not just so other people don’t steal it, but so you don’t accidentally take theirs too.
  • Buy yourself a cheap plate, bowl, knife, spoon and fork to keep at work.


The Ideal:
Tempting seasonal fruit is always on offer – for free! Your enlightened boss believes that healthy workers are happy and productive workers, and makes a point of providing plenty of healthy snacks.

The Reality:
Your boss’s eye is firmly on the bottom line, and you know that any suggestion of freebies would not go down well. The only snack source near your office is the vending machine in the corridor – packed with crisps and chocolate bars.

What you can do:

  • Stock up on snacks. Stash some long-life favourites (cereal bars, rice cakes) in your desk drawer.
  • Bring a couple of pieces of fruit into work every day.
  • Get together with a colleague or two and take it in turns to bring some healthy snacks.


The Ideal:
You’re getting better results than ever at the gym, because your boss lets you take a two-hour lunch break to fit in a full session mid-day. And you and your office mates are performing so well, you’re allowed to leave work early to beat the traffic and make it home with plenty of time to cook dinner.

The Reality:
You’re lucky if you get a lunch break at all – usually you just grab a sandwich and eat it at your desk. You often end up working late, which means you tend to live on ready meals – at least it’s better than getting pizza delivered.

What you can do:

  • Make a point of taking your full lunch break and go for a walk: you’ll be much more productive in the afternoon.
  • If your employer allows flexitime, can you start half an hour earlier and take ninety minutes for lunch – allowing you to fit in a gym session?
  • Find some easy, quick recipes to cook in the evenings.


The Ideal:
You love your colleagues and see them all as good friends. They’re all really supportive about your diet, and several of them are trying to eat healthily too – so there’s plenty of encouragement in the office. When it’s someone’s birthday, the focus is on fun treats rather than slabs of cake – maybe you all watch a DVD at lunch time, or play some silly party games.

The Reality:
Most of your colleagues probably don’t know you exist. Those who do aren’t interested in your diet – or actively scoff about it. When cookies are going round, people act hurt if you don’t take one.

What you can do:

Good luck bringing your office a little closer to the ideal. There’ll never be a perfect time or situation in which to diet – so make the most of what you’ve got, and go for it now!

(Image above by tracyhunter.)