Category Archives for "Motivation"

You don’t need to feel the burn to feel the benefits

Do you feel that you should do more exercise, but hate the thought of spending hours in the gym? Do you want to be more active, but worry that you’ll need to shed those extra pounds first in order to have a chance of keeping up?

If you’re avoiding exercise because you see it as an “all or nothing”, start thinking instead about ways to make your current lifestyle just a bit more active. You don’t need to go to the gym three times a week to see health benefits.

Just get moving

Cranky Fitness had a great guest post from Drew Harvey of Diet Tired a few days ago. Drew wrote:

What constitutes the best form of exercise for weight loss? Here is a shocker: anything that gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

Although, as Drew points out, weight loss does depend on calories in being less than calories out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the best sort of exercise is the one that burns the most calories. After all, what do you think will have more benefits for your body in the long run: six months’ worth of daily half-hour walks, or two weeks of daily gym sessions followed by five and a half months where you’ve been completely put off exercising?

Something which “gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis” is something that fits easily around the rest of your life. I’m a big fan of:

  • Having an active commute (even if the only way to do that is to get off the bus a couple of stops early, or to park your car further from work).
  • Escaping from the office for your full lunch hour, and enjoying a relaxing walk – or working off some energy with a quick jog, cycle ride or gym session
  • Making activity something fun that involves friends or family members.

Exercise boosts willpower

It can be depressing to watch the numbers slowly tick round on the calorie-counter at the gym or on your heart rate monitor. When I’ve been sweating away from thirty minutes, it’s galling to be told I’ve only burnt as many calories as there are in a Wispa (one of my favourite types of chocolate bar…)

However, I know that exercise for me isn’t just about the calories I burn – it’s also about the calories I don’t eat. As Drew writes:

It is a well known fact that people eat healthier on days that they are active. By simply being active and consequently feeling good about yourself, you decrease your daily calorie intake through better food choices.

I’ve definitely seen the truth of this in my own attempts to live healthily. When I go to the gym, take a long walk, or commute by bike, I’m much more ready to resist that cookie or slice of cake – because I don’t want to undo all my hard work. And if I’m exercising, I know that I need to eat extra “good” food (protein, unrefined carbs) for sustained energy during my workout, instead of skimping on lunch then wasting calories on chocolate.

How will you get active?

Try to find some way of being active every day – even if it’s just a half-hour stroll after dinner, or a quick power walk during your lunch hour. You might find some of these articles useful for further inspiration:


Write down what you eat

As regular readers of The Office Diet will know, I’m a big advocate of food diaries – keeping a record of what you eat.

Something I’ve been thinking about over the past week is this post from You On A Diet: Lose Weight By Logging. Whenever I’ve successfully dieted, I’ve done it by writing down what I eat, and the calories. However, as I’m sure many of you will have found, weighing foods and working out calories can be a pain – especially when you’re busy.

Plus, if your goal is to eat more healthily – not necessarily to lose weight – then tracking calories is often unnecessary, and can lead you to concentrate too much on a number than on getting a balanced diet.

Just log what you eat … and lose weight?

You On A Diet explained that:

It started with a group of researchers who were going to conduct a study on a new diet plan. The first instruction they gave the participants was to keep a detailed food journal. The point was to gather information in order to have a good idea of what people were eating on their usual routine, then see what was going to have to change. But the subjects came back in two weeks and surprised the team: they had already lost weight!

I can definitely echo this in my own experience: writing things down invariably makes me think twice about having a second cookie or an unnecessary snack. I don’t need to make any efforts to deliberately restrict my food intake, and I certainly don’t go hungry – but I do find myself making more sensible choices.

For the past week, I’ve been logging everything I eat, with some vague health goals in mind (“eating at least five fruit and veg a day” , “drinking less alcohol” and “cutting down on sugar”). I found that:

  • I ate about the same amount, but made healthier choices. Rather than having a small sandwich and some chocolate at lunch time, I’d have a larger sandwich and skip the chocolate!
  • On days when I was out or busy, I made the effort to eat enough fruit and veg.
  • My chocoholic tendencies were noticeably diminished!

I’ve lost about half a pound, too, which is pretty good for me (I’m five foot two, and well within my “healthy” weight range, so I don’t tend to lose weight easily.)

Do try this at home

If you’ve been avoiding keeping a food diary because you can’t cope with all the faff of weighing things, counting calories and guesstimating restaurant meals – just keep a very simple log. Write down everything you eat, with portion sizes like “2 thick slices of bread” or “a small side salad”, rather than getting obsessive about grams and calories. You’ll almost certainly find that keeping the log vastly reduces your snacking urges, and helps you to concentrate on healthy choices.

It might also help to set specific goals or targets. Some great ones are:

  • Five fruit and veg each day
  • Six glasses of water per day
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Cutting down on sugary snacks
  • Only having certain foods (for me, chocolate!) on certain days

Check out one of my early posts on The Office Diet where you can download several different types of food diary template – the “Food and mood” one is particularly useful if you’re an emotional eater, as you can jot down notes on how you were feeling during the day.


Ways to distract yourself from snacking

Snacks are the downfall of many dieters. You plan healthy meals, you eat healthy meals … but you find yourself nibbling in between. That’s fine when the nibbles are fresh fruit and vegetables, but when you’re eating cookies, cake and chips, you’ll be getting all the nutritional baddies (saturated fat, refined sugar) with precious few goodies like vitamins, minerals, fibre…

So how can you distract yourself from the “bad” sort of snacking? Here’s what to do when the cookie jar is calling your name:

If you’re genuinely hungry, eat something healthy

Don’t suffer through hunger pangs when you’re trying to lose weight. If your stomach is rumbling, have a healthy snack. Fruit, crispbreads, a small sandwich, or even a handful of mixed dried fruit and nuts (go easy on this, though) are great options.

Not eating when you’re hungry can eventually lead your body into “starvation mode”, where it clings to fat as stubbornly as possible. And it can also lead you to binging when you finally do eat, because you’re so ravenous.

Get busy – race through your to-do list

If you’re not hungry, chances are you’re thinking about snacking because you’re bored. Most office-workers inevitably have the occasional time when the clock seems to be dragging v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y through the day.

Even if there’s nothing urgent in your in-tray, make a list of all those little nagging jobs you want to get done – then see how fast you can get through them! Set a timer, and challenge yourself.

Go for a walk

Sometimes, the urge to snack is a passing craving for some particular item. If you feel you really must have chocolate, or chips, or whatever your snack-food vice is, then go for a half-hour walk. By the time you’re back, you’ll probably have lost interest in the snack.

Of course, unless you have a very accommodating boss, it may not be possible to wander off for half-an-hour whenever the urge to snack arises. Instead, take a five minute break to walk to the water cooler, or spend some time making phone calls (you won’t want to eat and talk on the phone at the same time, so this is a good way to beat those cravings.)

Further reading

That “snacky mood” can be hard to beat, so here’s some more articles on The Office Diet which might help you conquer it:

For more tips, tricks and advice, make sure you’re getting free updates from The Office Diet – grab the RSS feed, or pop your email address into the box on the top right of this page to get each new post straight to your inbox.


What are you waiting for? Start your New Years’ resolution today

If you can put off a habit change / life change until a new year rolls around, that’s a sign that you just don’t have much motivation to make it happen. You may wish it would happen, but you don’t really want to do the work to get it (and that’s why you’ve been putting it off). You may have a whole new year ahead of you, but you’ve still got all the old desires that will keep you trapped in the place you’re at now.
Why Your Resolutions Never Change Anything (And The One Thing That Does), Dave Navarro

The above quote really struck me earlier in this week, especially when I read a piece by one of my fellow writers on Diet-Blog, suggesting that would-be-dieters should start right now and get ahead for the new year.

Do you want to make changes in your life, but think it’s not worth getting started till January? An awful lot of people go on diets at the start of the year (just look at Google Trends for the word ‘diet’ to see the peak every January). And lots of us take up impressive fitness regimes, try to overhaul our lives, start hunting for a new job in earnest …

… and all too often, this motivation fizzles out by mid-January.

You don’t need to wait until some arbitrary date to begin working on your goals.

All you need to do is:

  • Be clear about what it is you want to do (e.g. “eat five fruit and veg a day”)
  • Work out all the reasons you want to make this change
  • Write them down (you’ll be much more likely to succeed)
  • Figure out the first step – make it a little bit challenging, but not too daunting
  • Get started!

Not feeling motivated enough? Here are a few popular health/fitness related resolutions, and reasons to start on them today.

  • Losing weight – if you’re overweight, you could easily be 6lbs lighter by Christmas. You’ll have more energy, you’ll feel great about yourself, and you won’t be so tempted to have a complete pig-out at every Christmas party.
  • Eating more healthily – you’ll see the benefits every day with increased energy and zest for life, if you make an effort to cut out high-fat, high-sugar foods. And with Christmas just around the corner, you’ll want all the energy you can get…
  • Exercising regularly – why not get into good habits now? If you feel a bit down during the dark winter months, exercise is a great way to lift your mood. Regular exercise is even prescribed as a treatment for mild-moderate depression.
  • Quitting smoking – put the money you’re saving in a jar, and spend it in the January sales on a fantastic outfit, or that new gadget you wish you could afford. And, of course, you’ll be enjoying the benefits of clearer lungs long before Christmas begins.So what are you waiting for? Get ahead of the game, and start your New Years’ resolution today!If you want to know a bit more about me and about why I started The Office Diet, you might like to read an interview with me on the “Ditch Diets, Live Light” site.

Exercise: a treat, not a chore

Sometimes, we tend to see a lot of things that are bad for us as “treats”: things like chocolate, crisps, takeaways, lazy afternoons slumped on the sofa. I know I’m a bit prone to doing this too, but after an email from one of The Office Diet’s readers, I’m trying to rethink my attitude! Why shouldn’t I think of things that are good for me – like exercise – as treats too?

After all, I know that a trip to the gym is a real treat for me – when I was working full-time, it was a wonderful hour of freedom away from the office, and now that I’m studying, it makes a nice break from my desk. Going out for a leisurely walk with my boyfriend is also a treat, as is eating something delicious, homemade and packed with long-lasting energy, like pasta with a chunky vegetable sauce.

Here’s a few ways to think about your exercising as a treat, not a chore:

  • If you work from home during some or all of the week, treat yourself to a half-hour walk every morning and afternoon as a break. You might want to listen to your favourite music or podcast while you walk, or use it as “couple time” with your partner.
  • Pick a fun activity to do at the weekend – perhaps ice-skating, trampolining, rowing, skateboarding, or anything that you genuinely love to do. Set aside a morning or afternoon to indulge. If it’s something that brings out the big kid in you, so much the better!
  • Get some friends on board, and have a blast doing something active together. How about a game of Ultimate Frisbee in the park, or an afternoon at an adventure playground with your kids? I love Lazer Quest (my competitive spirit comes to the fore when I get to prowl around and shoot people in the dark…), and I’m keen to try Paintball some day.
  • Enjoy a long, chilled-out gym session: make some time for yourself, work off some energy on the machines, push yourself with the weights, and then take a long soak in the pool – or relax in the sauna – to wind down. Start viewing your workouts as “me time”, a chance to escape the computer, phone and pressures of daily life.

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Resist Hallowe’en treats

That little candy bar on the right looks innocent and innocuous, doesn’t it? But it just might be the scariest thing you have to face this Hallowe’en…

We’re getting into that time of year where all sorts of excuses for overindulgence are just round the corner. Hallowe’en is the first biggie; it’s almost synonymous with chocolate and sweets (candy) in many people’s minds, with ghosts and ghouls relegated to second place.

If people are already starting to bring packets of “spooky cupcakes” and “scary cookies” into the office, or if you’re tempted to stock up on packs of fun-sized bars well in advance of the big day, read on…

Don’t buy treats until the 30th

You really don’t need to buy mini chocolate bars a couple of weeks in advance. Wait until nearer the time; that way, the goodies are more likely to end up going to trick-or-treaters than going into your stomach…

Keep treats well out of reach

If you’ve already taken advantage of the supermarket offers on Hallowe’en snacks – or if you really do need to buy in advance – then keep the treats well out of reach. Leaving them lying around in the kitchen won’t do much to boost your willpower.

(This works for chocolates at all seasons, not just Hallowe’en! You might want to read one of The Office Diet’s earliest posts, Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach.)

Be ready to say “no thanks”

If your colleagues are constantly bringing in treats for the office, learn to say “no”. Yes, it’s hard if you feel like you’re missing out – but if you leave your share for someone else, they’ll probably enjoy it more (and without the guilt)! If you’re worried about offending someone, read How to refuse a cookie.

Beware of fun-sized bars

Of course, one teeny tiny little chocolate bar isn’t going to hurt your diet. Why, it doesn’t even have 100 calories. So it can’t really count …

This is dangerous thinking! I know from experience that those multi-bags of mini chocolate bars are likely to do more harm than one proper-sized bar from the corner shop. If you scoff four or five mini bars (which is easy to do), you’ve eaten far more chocolate than if you had one “real” bar.

If you’re staying in…

When you’re home on Hallowe’en, you’ll probably be expecting trick-or-treaters. Try to find something that occupies you, without being so absorbing that you can’t interrupt it to answer the doorbell to a gaggle of witches and ghosts. If you’re sitting around watching television, that basket of chocolate bars near the door will look all the more tempting.

One word of warning: although you might be tempted to give out something healthier (fruit, or home-baked non-additive-packed goodies), parents are very cautious about what their children accept from strangers. Pre-wrapped treats are always best.

If you’re going out…

For those attending a Hallowe’en party for adults, you’ll probably find that the fare on offer includes at least some healthy options, so follow the same guidelines you’d use at any buffet. Look out for seasonal non-chocolate treats like pumpkin soup. Go easy on Hallowe’en drinks – it’s hard to tell how strong punch is.

Have a great Hallowe’en – without anything scary happening to your diet! And make sure you continue getting tips from The Office Diet by adding our RSS feed to your reader, or by simply entering your email address on the top right of this page.

(Image above by TheTruthAbout…)