Category Archives for "Office life"

Exercise gear for your Christmas list?

The Times newspaper had an interesting list of Fitness products which you can use at work this week.

The USB stepper sounds intriguing; if you stop stepping, your keyboard and mouse stop working (I suspect that I would use this to avoid both exercise and work, however…)

Some of the gear could be a bit annoying to your colleagues (the wobble-board to stand on, for instance), depending on your office set up. The air desk mentioned, however, really caught my attention as a potentially great way to rig up your laptop alongside exercise equipment – not too office-friendly in many cases, I’d imagine, but could be ideal if you work from home and have a dusty exercise bike tucked away that you rarely use…

Ultimately, though, my view is that these items are little more than fun gizmos; of course, doing something is better than nothing, but for ideal results, you want to be doing exercise that leaves you out of breath and sweating — not a state likely to endear you to your colleagues!


Surviving the office Christmas party (with your diet intact)

Are you one of the lucky few who’s having a Christmas party at work this year? Maybe you wish you weren’t: many employers have cancelled company-paid-for events, in the current economic climate, and you might have been hoping that yours would be amongst them.

There’s plenty of advice on how to avoid making an idiot of yourself at the office party (which pretty much boils down to “don’t get hideously drunk”) – but how can you survive the office Christmas party with your diet reasonably intact?

Formal meal: make sensible choices

If the Christmas event at work is a formal meal out, you’ll almost certainly be asked for your food choices well ahead of time. This makes it easy for you to choose the healthier options.

  • Go for a salad or soup as a starter (studies show that eating soup at the start of a meal means you’ll consume fewer calories overall).
  • Choose a fish or vegetable heavy main course, rather than one involving large amounts of meat, cheese and/or cream.
  • Look for fruit-based options for dessert, or something light like meringue, instead of cheesecake, chocolate mousse or Christmas pud.

On the night itself, don’t feel obliged to clear your plate at each course. I find that chatting to my neighbour helps me to slow down my eating speed, and engaging people in conversation outside the workplace is a great way to get to know them better. You might find you’ve got more in common than you thought!

Buffet meal: fill up on proper foods

Buffet spreads nowadays tend to involve at least some vegetables and healthier options like breadsticks, hummous, wholegrain sandwiches etc – rather than just being a spread of crisps (chips to US readers), creamy dips, slices of quiche and so on.

Try to fill up on items that are “proper foods” – by that, I mean ones which would constitute a decent meal. Piling your plate with snacky foods makes it very easy to wolf down a lot of calories without filling up. Go for at least a couple of servings of vegetables, and try to get some lean protein too – if you just eat carbs, you’ll be hungry again well before the end of the night.

The main advantage to buffets from a dieting perspective is that you can choose whatever foods you want without anyone commenting on what you aren’t eating: trickier at a sit-down meal. And from the point of view of enjoying your work party, buffets are nice because you can circulate and chat to lots of different people – you won’t get stuck next to the office bore for a full three courses.

Go easy on the alcohol

My first response to office parties is often “ooh, free booze!” but this is not the healthiest way to approach such events…

Try to focus on the social aspects of the party – celebrating the year’s achievements alongside your colleagues, and having the chance to chat and enjoy yourself outside work. By all means indulge in the alcohol, but remember that it contains calories: about 100 in a small glass of wine, and over 200 in a pint of beer. Spirits and “lite” mixers are your best option, if available.

Alcohol also weakens your willpower and resolve, and makes you hungrier: not a great combination! Be particularly wary of snacking on salty foods like nuts, as these will make you thirstier and more likely to down that drink too fast.

Enjoy your office party! For more tips about dieting during December, make sure you’re getting free RSS updates – or just pop your email address in the box on the top right.


Office diet clubs and groups

Wish you didn’t have the day job? Convinced you’d do better if you could just get away from the pressures of work? Think again! You can make office life a positive influence when it comes to eating healthily and losing weight by joining – or starting – a workplace slimming group.

Here in the UK, Weight Watchers has announced a scheme to start clubs in workplaces, called, imaginatively enough “At Work”. (In the US, this has been going for a while.)

Advantages to an office diet group

The office can be full of temptations and pitfalls for the unwary dieter. Whether it’s the buffet at a meeting, the colleagues who (unwittingly or otherwise) sabotage your diet, or the effects of stress, it’s easy to pile on the pounds whilst at work.

Being part of a diet, health or weight-watching group, then, could make all the difference. Having the support and encouragement of workmates who share your goals can be a huge boost to motivation – very much needed when it comes to turning down a cookie during that mid-afternoon energy slump. And the occasional element of competition might not go amiss either; if you know you’re having a weigh-in on Monday, your office diet club might boost your self control even when you’re not at work over the weekend…

Some dieting groups like to use slimming as a way to donate to charity, perhaps with each member giving $1 or £1 each week that they lose weight, and paying a “penalty” of $2 or £2 for no loss or a gain.

As well as the support of colleagues, the plans used for work-based clubs are more likely to fit into your lifestyle — and the meetings can be easily arranged during a lunch-hour or straight after work.

The Weight Watchers AT WORK program is a group participation program designed to support the special weight loss needs and concerns of working people.
UFC – Classes – Healthy Living

Weight Watchers at Work is a respected, popular, successful campus program. Hundreds of UVM employees have successfully lost weight and reached their goals since the Weight Watchers at Work started five years ago. The convenience of having the weekly meetings on campus has enabled busy employees to take advantage of this successful program.
Weight Watchers at Work, The University of Vermont

(Possible) Disadvantages to an office diet group

So what are the drawbacks to dieting along with your office-mates? Usually, all will go well, but you might want to be prepared to deal with any problems that do arise. These might be:

  • Some people getting too competitive and being insensitive towards members of the group who haven’t lose weight.
  • Coworkers who are overweight but not in the group getting pressured to join. (They may have health issues that mean they can’t diet, or they may simply be happy with their size – either way, it’s not fair for an overzealous diet group to make them feel uncomfortable.)
  • Dieting talk taking over the office, and boring everyone else to tears!

In general, so long as the group members are sensitive towards one another and to other colleagues, it’s likely that an office diet group will be a supportive, fun and motivational experience for all involved. Many office dieters have commented that sharing something personal like weight concerns is a good way to feel closer to colleagues and to get to “really know” people.

Talk your boss into it

Could you get your employer on board, either with Weight Watchers or with a similar club-based plan? The Daily Telegraph (a national UK newspaper) notes that:

With 18 million working days lost annually to weight-related illnesses, there is an incentive for companies to join the NHS in tackling the obesity crisis.

The work-based weight loss clubs which require a fee (such as Weight Watchers) are great ones to encourage your boss to pay part or all of the costs for! If you do decide to go for this route, try getting together a few like-minded colleagues who can help you persuade the management team that healthier, fitter employees are happier and harder-working.

And if you do start a group, make sure you get all the others to bookmark The Office Diet. You can even sign up to free RSS updates and/or email updates (pop your address in the top right corner).


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.


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.)


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?

Don’t miss out on any posts from The Office Diet – get free updates by RSS or by email (enter your email address on the top right).

(Image above by Bitter Girl )

1 2 3 8