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Seven Tips for Staying Healthy at Work

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"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." —Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III

You worked like a dog for your new body. Every solid, toned inch is 100% you. But those Jabbas at the office, they just don't get it. They ooze from cubicle to cubicle, pizza-stained ties and pasty, unhealthy skin, happy to slurp sticky sodas and lead a life less extraordinary while you strive for more.

And they want you to come back into the fold! They want you to eat junk and spend leisure hours doing a whole lot of nothing. Don't do it! Unlike poor Michael Corleone, you don't have to be sucked back in. We've come up with a few tips to keep you fit at the office, despite the bad habits of your coworkers.

1. Head 'em off at the pass. The thing is, if someone brings in a box of bear claws, they're going to seem a lot more attractive if you're hungry. So eat that balanced breakfast and have those healthy snacks on hand for the time between meals.

2. Find food that stays fresh. The frustrating thing about healthy food is that it doesn't keep; so, unlike Oreos, which would keep in your desk well into the next eon, a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, and cottage cheese go bad quickly if not refrigerated. And if you do have a fridge at work, going there to get your healthy eats can be quite an ordeal when you have to walk past a caravan of crud sitting on the kitchen counter. So here are a few things you can keep at your desk that might last a little longer at room temperature:

  • Uncut fresh fruit
  • A handful of raw nuts (be careful with this one—less is more)
  • A tub of protein powder (just add water!)
  • A handful of whole grain cereal

That may not seem like much, but there are hundreds of variations of at least three of those.

3. Get the heck out of Dodge. It's 11 AM. You're sweating bullets. It's "Pizza Friday" and, in about one hour, the walking dead will be shuffling to the kitchen for multiple slices of gooey cheese and sausage on Chicago-style crust. Even if you stay in your cubicle, the savory scent will find you. How will you resist?

Well, when the going gets tough, the tough scram. At 11:50 AM, grab your good walking shoes and go for a stroll, have a picnic, go shopping, whatever. Just get out. That way you're avoiding the horror and getting a little cardio and vitamin D all in one fell swoop.

4. Hook up to a slow drip. You have the lunch and two snack times sorted out, but you never know when some supposed good Samaritan is going to swing by your office with a bowl of bite-sized Snickers, tempting you when you still have two hours until your next official eating time.

If this is a problem, parse out your snacks. The trick is, you have to plan out the size of said snack in advance. So after breakfast, set aside X amount of whatever and graze on that—but when you're done, you're done. That's the key.

The exception to this is raw, green veggies. It's really, really hard to eat too much broccoli or celery, so if that's your snack, eat yourself sick.

5. Give in to the dark side. What? What? WHAT? Never! Calm down. It's okay to be a little naughty sometimes. It keeps you sane, it makes a diet more palatable and, well, it tastes good. The key is moderation. First off, pick the amount of cheats you have in a week. For someone trying to lose weight, one or two is a good number. For those who have already reached their goals, more are okay.

When the pizza comes, if this is going to be one of your weekly cheats, get your piece, love it, lavish it, pray to it, build a monument around it, and eat it—but then you're done. That's it. That was your cheat. No more. No, not another "half piece" or "cut off little bite." Just be done. Same goes for the candy bowl. Eat your mini Almond Joy and then walk away. Birthday? Eat a small piece of cake. If they give you too much, cut it in half and dump half on someone else's plate, or pass it on until a smaller piece comes your way.

6. Back against the wall. Sometimes, there's an eventlunch with a client or an office partywhere all those "goodies" are unavoidable. When this happens, much of the above advice applies. Eat beforehand, use it as a cheat, etc.

If it's at the office, make yourself a conservative plate, picking foods you know are at least sort of reasonable. A pasta salad is probably a better call than marshmallow salad, for example. Once you've finished your plate, throw it in the trash and be done. Get a glass of water in your hands so they aren't tempted to wander into the M&M's bowl and relax.

If it's an outing, a few simple rules help with any restaurant experience. Choose a lean meat/protein. Eat half of whatever they serve. Choose salad or fruit instead of fries. Order water instead of Coke. You should be all right.

7. It's a matter of public record. Put your "Before" and "After" photos on your desk. When temptation calls, have a look. Remember how far you've come. Reaffirm that long-term happiness outweighs a temporary sugar rush.

It was hard work getting this far, so follow these few simple tips and it won't be for naught. The only thing you're going to get pulled into is a size 2 (or 30-inch waist) pair of jeans, you sexy beast you.

Five Stretches to Do at Your Desk
By Andrea Pesce

Sitting at a desk for long periods of time can cause muscular tension. You can prevent the buildup of stress in your muscles by taking a few minutes to stretch. Try these easy exercises when you need to reenergize, or throughout the day to keep your muscles relaxed:

  • Head Tilt. Put your right hand on your left shoulder. Tilt your ear right toward your right shoulder, but don't turn your head. Hold five seconds. Switch sides.
  • Neck Roll. Roll your head to the right, down to the front, then left. Do this slowly and smoothly, both directions.
  • Shoulder Circles. Make circles with your shouldersup, back, and down. Switch directions. Do at least five.
  • Side Stretch. Stretch your arms to the side, then clasp your hands overhead. Keep your head straight forward, but lean your upper body to the right side. You should feel this down your left side. Hold five seconds. Switch sides.
  • Back Release. Sit at the edge of your chair as tall as you can (be careful if it has wheels). Open your legs apart so your arms drop between them. Straighten your legs, so your heels are on the floor, but not your toes. Knees are relaxed and never locked. Bring chin to chest, and then roll down toward your feet, one vertebra at a time. You should feel this first in your neck, then upper back, middle back, and lower back. This should be done slowly, relaxing into each part of the back. Roll up just as slowly. This stretch should take at least 30 seconds.

Andrea Pesce is an occupational therapist, certified fitness trainer, climber, surfer, and adventure racer based in Los Angeles.

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