“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” - Tony Robbins
New Year’s Resolution: Workplace Weight Loss (When You Sit at a Desk All Day)
The number one New Year’s resolution? Losing weight. The hardest New Year’s Resolution to keep: losing weight. Why? It’s simple. If you sit at a desk all day, losing weight becomes all about restricting food and calories which makes us choose some drastic diet plan which makes us eat nothing which makes us hangry. Seen this movie before?
Let’s resolve not do that again this year. We’ve done hours of research to find simple steps you can take to get healthy (read: lose weight) while you work.
One of the most interesting research studies that we came across looked at how effective some of the most popular commercial diet plans are for long-term weight loss, an important metric because all weight loss plans are effective in the first three months; what you’re looking for is the efficacy of that diet at month 12. Programs to consider are Weight Watchers’ (participants achieved at least 2.6% greater weight loss than people who were not on a formal plan) Jenny Craig (people had at least 4.9% greater weight loss at 12 months) and Nutrisystem participants achieved at least 3.8% greater weight loss at 3 months. You can read the report here.
Four Steps to Successful Weight Loss Resolutions
Step One: Write down
If you have an office job (and even if you don’t) get a daily planner for your work life. You can create another calendar or use whatever app tickles your organizational fancy. The goal is to get organized about when, where, and how: when and where will you exercise and how you will eat during the day. This includes weekends or days off.
We are also going to recommend the ‘why’ exercise, so that you can get clarity about what is motivating you. Research has proven time and again that having a clear and deep understanding of your goal will boost your chances of succeeding long term.
Start by clearly stating your objective: I want to lose 20 pounds.
Ask “why.” Your answer might be: “So I can look and feel better.” Be sure to write it down.
Ask “why” again: “So I can have more self-confidence.”
Why? What would feeling more accomplished do? “So I can be more happy with myself and do things I know I’m capable of.”
Your own “why” exercise might be more detailed or take fewer “whys.” The point is to keep asking “why” until you arrive at your ultimate reason for pursuing your goal.
Step Two: Make a Plan to move your body and get schooled
If you are starting from zero, the best place to start is with 10,000 steps a day. Once you’ve been able to walk this amount daily for three weeks, you can add classes to your routine. We also found that it’s best to make this a daily habit. Committing to a daily habit gives you the structure you need to build a good base and train your brain to enjoy and expect the activity, just like eating ice cream every night (bad but oh so good).
10,000 Steps a day. Get a Fit Bit (for the frugal, start with eBay), iWatch, or use your phone (there are pedometer apps you can download) or use good old math skills and Google maps to calculate a route that gets you to your goal. This is one of the best articles that we found that explained how to calculate the number of steps in a mile. Remember that if you use your tech to track your steps, all your steps (to and from the water cooler, the printer, a walk around the office) get counted. It doesn’t matter how you get to 10,000, it only matters that you get there.
Before you join a gym, dabble a little. Most gyms will give you a week free trial or have free classes that you can attend. Try at least 3 or 4 before you buy into a plan. Why? Because you may find that you are more likely to go to the gym closer to your house in the morning before or after work versus the one by your office at lunch (or vice versa). So, play with the schedule and the location before you commit.
Do your research. Men and women lose weight differently. Women of a certain age (read over 35) lose weight differently than women over 40. So, while Keto may work when you’re 25, it may wreak havoc on your body at 45. There is mounting evidence that your hormones play a more significant role in weight loss and overall health for women. You can read a little more about it here.
Step Three: Prepare yourself mentally, physically and environmentally
“Stimulus control” is key to successful weight loss and better health habits. Right now, your environment is either set up for your success or failure (we’re betting on the latter). The sights, smells, tastes and organization of your workplace help you make good choices or make it likely that you will fail (think vending machines, pastries in the break room, a cafeteria that serves comfort food every day, etc.). The most exciting thing about this is that you can control many elements of your environment so that you no longer feel (or act) out of control when you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy on the job.
Bring your own lunch and snacks, protein snacks. Women’s Health (and this applies to the gentleman readers as well) recommends “turning a desk drawer into your healthy eating paradise [because it] can keep you out of the chips and cookies in the office vending machine, saving you tons of calories. Stock your personal snack machine with dried fruit, nuts, non-buttery popcorn, and tea.” Just remember portion control - no more than 2 snacks per day.
Drink, drink, drink your water. The American Council of Exercise recommends that active women (you’re walking 10,000 steps a day and exercising - this is you!) should be drinking at least 2.7 liters, or 91 ounces every day and men should be consuming 3.7 liters or 125 oz through various beverages (80%) or in food (20%). And, you should be doing this on weekends too. Why? Because sipping water throughout the workday can fight off fatigue, prevent dehydration headaches, and keep you from snacking when you're really thirsty, not hungry. The bonus? All that extra water will help you log more steps to the water fountain and the restroom!
Keep a pair of runners at work. Instead of taking that call at your desk, throw on your shoes and have that meeting while you’re walking outside (we’ve written about the benefits of walking meetings). Maybe you want to walk home or walk through a local park and eat your lunch outside. Keeping a pair of comfortable walking shoes at work means you’re ready to get moving.
Open up to someone about your struggles. Everyone, and we mean everyone, has tried to lose weight and get healthy. And they’ve also struggled. Now might be a good time to find a buddy that you can work out with or join a Facebook Group or even start your own.
Give yourself a pep-talk. Create a list of brags, and pin it somewhere you can see it when you hit a plateau (usually around weeks three or four). List compliments that you’ve received, how your clothes fit differently, how you’re sleeping better or perhaps how you’re more focused and are getting 2x the amount of work done before.
Give yourself a break. If you can’t get to 10,000 steps, get as far as you can. Didn’t get to the gym today? Do 20 minutes of strength training at home - sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks, etc. The important thing is that you get as far as you can every day; don’t give up and ‘start again’ tomorrow. Something is always better than nothing when you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy.
Keep a journal or a log of your journey. One of the most essential tools in your weight loss/get healthy arsenal is a journal. According to WebMD, “studies have shown that people who keep food journals are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. In fact, a researcher from one recent study says that people keeping a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. For the six-month study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, dieters kept food diaries, attended weekly group support meetings, and were encouraged to eat a healthy diet and be active.” Enough said.
Step Four: Adjust and refine
As your body changes, so should your food habits, your exercise habits, and your approach. Maybe walking is getting boring? Try running. Maybe start training for a 5k with a co-worker. Getting tired of eating ‘sad salad’ every day, borrow or buy a cookbook with an international flare. One of our favorites is Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. If you’ve reached your weight loss goal, now is a good time to direct that energy into another healthy lifestyle goal that supports your weight loss success — become proficient in a sport or study to get certified in nutrition or yoga or work toward a race or a competition of some kind. One of our favorite Tony Robbins quotes goes like this: no matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. Onward!