Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. His new book 5 Pounds is out now. Tweet him @harleypasternak.
It’s that time of year again. I’ll bet that among your 2016 resolutions are eating better and getting in shape. Perhaps you’re also determined to move forward at work. But therein often lies an inherent conflict.
Since there are only 24 hours in a day, achieving both goals while juggling a job — and perhaps a family — requires at the very least excellent time management skills. How can you eat a nutritious breakfast and still get the family out the door and you to work on time? How can you be more active while tethered to a computer for the workday? It’s not surprising that your personal and professional commitments can be at odds.
New Job, More Pounds?
A recent survey of about 3,000 fulltime employees found that 41 percent of them had packed on extra pounds since they began their current job. And it gets worse. Almost 60 percent gained more than 10 lbs. and 30 percent more than 20 lbs. Women were significantly more likely to have bulked up. Is that the price you have to pay for bringing in a paycheck and having a career? Absolutely not! Here’s how to beat the odds.
Even if you commute by car (or your job involves lots of driving), are deskbound and often eat at your desk, you can still integrate activity into your day. How?
-Make a point of regularly stretching your legs, whether it’s walking down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email or simply taking a five-minute break every hour.
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
-Park as far as possible from the entrance to your workplace or get off the bus the stop before and hoof it the rest of the way.
-Take a walk with a work buddy at lunchtime.
-Get yourself an activity monitor such as a Fitbit. Knowing that your steps are being counted is a powerful motivator to push yourself to hit your target. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how the multiple small actions above can add up, ideally reaching at least 10,000 steps a day.
Get Comfortable Politely Declining
What with coffee breaks, office parties, the fare in the lunchroom or local eatery, temptation lurks constantly in many workplaces. But you don’t need to go with the flow. If your job involves attending business lunches or traveling out of town, the opportunity to indulge in high-sugar, high-carb and high fat foods is even greater. Plus, if you work late, you may be too tired to cook when you get home, succumbing to the temptation of hitting the fast food drive by on the way. To cope:
-Don’t go to work on an empty stomach. If you can’t eat at home, whip up a smoothie and take it with you.
-Accept that a coffee break is just that — no doughnuts, bagels or other baked goods. Have plain coffee or tea (perhaps with milk and sweetener) and avoid liquid desserts such as sugary lattes.
-Always have a healthy snack with you so you’re not tempted to hit the vending machine, which almost certainly doesn’t have anything healthy in it. I suggest keeping some almonds in your desk or car, and some strained yogurt (like Siggi’s), a pre-made protein shake (like Core Power Light) or some hummus and veggies in your office fridge.
-Keep your taste buds occupied with some herbal tea or some sparkling water (I like smartwater sparkling).
-Learn to say, “no thank you,” or simply pass up treats your coworkers bring in or have at their desks.
-Brown-bag it whenever possible for the most control over the content of your lunch (and perhaps breakfast, too), as well as the portion size.
-When you order food in or for room service or dine out, specify exactly what should and shouldn’t be on your plate or in your order.
Manage Your Appetite
Eating three meals that boast enough lean protein, fiber and healthy fats enables you to stay in control of cravings. Ditto for a small mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack that contains both protein and fiber, like a low-fat string cheese and half an apple, for example. But other factors of which you may not be as aware play important roles in keeping you from falling prey to temptation, particularly to sweet or starchy foods, and staying on top of your game, work-wise.
-Avoid skipping any meal or eating lunch too late. Ideally, you should not go more than three hours (four at the most) between meals or snacks.
-When you’re stressed, meditating can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and even help achieve weight loss. You can practice mindfulness meditation silently at your desk for five or 10 minutes without anyone being the wiser.
-Getting enough sleep is critical to controlling your appetite. Skimp on shuteye and your levels of the hormone leptin plummet, so you don’t feel satisfied, even right after a meal. Meanwhile, levels of the hormone ghrelin soar, making you hungry even if you just ate.
-Avoid caffeine — in caffeinated soft drinks as well as coffee — after 3 pm. It can interfere with your sleep, prompting the hormonal responses above that play havoc with your appetite.
Exercise Your Options
Many forward-thinking companies realize that healthy, fit employees are more productive and happy. Some now offer on-site fitness programs; others provide a free or discounted gym membership.
Check to see if your company offers any such perks and get on board if they do. If such programs are not in place, it’s worth discussing with management. Perhaps the company will pay for a yoga teacher or fitness instructor to lead a class after hours. It never hurts to ask!
The bottom line is that if you’re firmly committed to getting fitter, healthier, and slimmer while on the job, it is possible with a little extra thinking. As a bonus, you’ll have that much more energy to devote to your job — and the rest of your life.
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