You spend about a quarter of your life each week at work. That’s a ton of time spent sitting. Maintaining that type of sedentary lifestyle isn’t doing your waistline any favors. In fact, a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that sitting for prolonged periods, even with exercise, correlates with a 10 percent higher risk of early death. Yeesh.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do at the office to both reverse the effects of an office lifestyle and lose weight at the same time. Follow these tips, and you could end up seriously whittling your waist—while getting paid to do it!
1. Never—Ever!—Power Up with Soda
It’s tempting to gulp down a diet soda to get over that mid-afternoon slump. But don’t do it! A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that adults who drank diet soda experienced a whopping 70 percent increase in weight circumference when compared with non-soda drinkers. Plus, aspartame is shown to raise glucose levels to a point where it’s converted into fat. You won’t believe what happens to your body when you give up diet soda.
2. Guzzle H20
Are you really hungry, or are you actually just thirsty? A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior suggests people inappropriately respond to thirst over 60 percent of the time by eating instead of drinking. Even if you’re not hankering for a thirst-quencher, preloading meals with plain ol’ calorie-free water can shave hundreds of calories from your daily intake. And if plain water sounds boring, you can add some practically calorie-free fresh citrus to create a health-boosting (and flavorful!) detox water. Plus, that glass of refreshing H2O does more than hydrate your body. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking 17 ounces of water increased the metabolic rate of participants by 30 percent. Add an extra 1.5 liters of water to your workday intake, and you could burn 17,400 calories a year!
3. Adapt Accordingly
Look, we know that not everyone has a 9-to-5 gig—and that, actually, night shift workers actually have it harder because they get hit with a whole different set of challenges when trying to lose weight. That’s why we came up with these 20 Weight Loss Tips for Night Shift Workers. There’s some extra-special advice in there that doesn’t apply to those of us with day jobs; #13 is particularly interesting!
4. Chew Gum
We typically don’t recommend chewing gum since it’s one of the 35 Things That Make You Bloat, but it can Chewing gum during the workday gives you more than fresh breath. A 2009 study published in Physiology & Behavior found that gum chewers were more alert and experienced reduced anxiety, stress and salivary cortisol—a stress hormone that increases fat cells, leading to increased fat retention, especially around the belly area.
5. Take the Stairs
This is an obvious one, but you may be surprised how much weight you can lose by doing it. You have a file you need to deliver to the 15th floor, but your office is on the 10th. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, and you’ll burn twice as many calories as you do walking. According to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, a 150-pound person could lose about 6 pounds per year just by climbing up two flights of stairs every day! Bump that up to six, and you could drop 18 pounds without ever hitting the gym.
6. Sit on a Stability Ball
Swapping out your desk chair for a stability ball will help you strengthen your core and burn more calories at the same time. According to Jill Koegel, RD, a sports-certified registered dietitian, sitting on one of those big sports balls during your workday can burn up to an extra 100 calories a day. If you work 300 days in a year, that could add up to an extra 30,000 calories—or about 8.5 pounds!
7. Convert to a Standing Desk
Did you know that you burn more calories just by standing? It’s true! According to Koegel, standing burns around 50 more calories per hour than if you’re just sitting at your desk. That can add up almost 7 pounds of extra weight lost a year, all while you’re at work. Plus, standing has numerous benefits for your core strength, posture and even your mental health: It’s even shown to make you more productive. Bring on that promotion!
8. Swap Out Your Morning Coffee for Green Tea
Coffee might give you a caffeine jolt in the morning, but green tea can supply less jittery energy—and plenty of fat-burning qualities. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found teas—including green teas—contain catechins that boost fat oxidation. Plus, Taiwanese researchers found that the 1,100 people they studied over 10 years who drank green tea had 20 percent less body fat than others who didn’t drink it. Tea is so powerful for weight loss and general health that we’ve made it the centerpiece of our new The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost more than 4 inches from their waists!
9. Bring Your Lunch —Every Day
Think you know how many calories are in that fast-food meal you grabbed during your lunch hour? Think again: A 2013 study published in BMJ found that the average takeout meal ordered by adults contained an average of 836 calories. Calorie counts listed on menus help, but the study showed adults underestimated the number of calories by about 175 per meal. That can add up to a serious amount of weight each year.
Instead, spend part of your weekend meal-prepping for the week ahead. Opting for even a 500-calorie meal during your lunch break can save you more than 300 calories over the average grab-and-go meal—a difference of 1,500 calories for a five-day workweek. Work an average of 50 weeks a year and that’s 75,000 fewer calories consumed, or about 21.5 pounds a year!
10. Balance Your Salad
“Big salads” a popular lunchtime choice, but don’t just fill up with a bunch of greens that will make you hungry again by your 3 p.m. meeting. For a salad to be filling, it needs protein (chicken, eggs, deli meat) and fiber (beans, avocado). To maximize flavor, pair sweet (tomatoes, apples) with sharp (onion, olives) and savory (meat, cheese). Plus, a salad needs crunch; nuts and raw bell peppers are your best bets. Consult these 20 Awesome Recipes for Mason Jar Salads for some awesome, easy-to-make ideas you can bring from home.
11. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
Remember the Boy Scout motto about always being prepared? At 40 or older, you most likely have more things demanding your time and attention than ever before. To make it easier to eat lower calories and avoid stuffing your face when you’re starving, always keep your desk, car, and purse stashed with healthy snacks. Raw almonds and bananas are two of the easiest, but you can get more ideas with these 20 Healthy Snack Ideas Under $1. And whatever you do, do not hit up any vending machines!
12. Stash Some Chia Seeds, Too
Since you only need a sprinkling (a tablespoon at most, if you’re being aggressive!), a packet of chia seeds can last forever—and be an easy way to instantly add nutrition to your at-desk breakfasts or lunches. “Chia seeds are chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3s, fiber, protein and calcium,” says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta. “Chia seeds are easily absorbed by the body, so they’re very nourishing and satiating.”
13. Keep the Sweets Out of Sight
Out of sight, out of mouth? Simply reorganizing your pantry’s “top hits” could translate into serious calorie savings, according to researchers at Google. A study, conducted at the search engine’s New York office dubbed “Project M&M” found that placing chocolate candies in opaque containers as opposed to glass ones, and giving healthier snacks more prominent shelf space, curbed M&M consumption by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks. A similar study published in the Journal of Marketing found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones. For more easy ways to effortlessly up your willpower, check out these 40 Tips for Motivation—That Actually Work!
14. Schedule Your Workout Sessions
If other people can see when your calendar is free or busy, go ahead and block out certain times for either early morning, lunchtime, or after-hours potential workout sessions. Even if you haven’t signed up for the class yet, this will help deter coworkers (particularly those in different time zones) from thinking that a 5 p.m. conference call (4 p.m. their time!) is totally cool. And then go ahead and actually treat your appointments like a real meeting and get your butt to the gym!
15. Seek Out Someone to Be Healthy With You
It’s a heck of a lot easier to turn down a cupcake for Mary Jo’s birthday if you have another healthy-minded coworker holding you accountable. Otherwise, you may look around at everyone else stuffing themselves with sugar and feel like you should, too; after all, a 2014 review study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people tend to conform to “eating norms” in social settings. If all else fails, you and your calorie-counting friend can split that cupcake!
16. Take a 2-Minute Walk Every Hour
You think you may walk a lot at work, but very rarely is anyone walking through their office for more than 20 seconds. Try timing yourself the first couple of times you walk for one minute (so that it’s a two-minute round-trip back to your desk) to develop a couple options for your “walking routes.” Here’s why it’s worth a try: A recent study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that a two-minute walk every hour can offset the effects of too much sitting, one of the 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat.
17. Always Eat Lunch at Lunchtime
Spanish researchers found that obese women who ate their lunch after 3 p.m. lost 25 percent less weight than those who ate their lunch earlier in the day. Even though both groups ate the same foods and the same amount of calories, the early bird diners lost five pounds more. Scientists believe that waiting to eat until you’re starving may spark cravings for more food later in the day.
18. Keep Track of Your Food and Drink Intake
It can sound tedious, but what’s one more to-do on your list of desk duties? If you aren’t great about journaling your diet once you’re home, just fill in the blanks at work the next day. A study from Tulane University found that people who used phone apps for weight loss reported shedding more pounds and feeling more motivated to make healthy changes than people using traditional fitness trackers.
19. Squeeze in Tiny Workouts
That mom of three who also teaches spin class and always looks fanfreakintastic? Awesome. But that’s not attainable for everyone, which can leave you feeling frustrated that you can’t be a workout god or goddess, too. The good news: You only need 2 and a half minutes to boost your metabolism and start burning calories, too. Research printed in the journal Physiological Reports showed that people who did five 30-second bursts of max-effort cycling, followed by 4 minutes of rest, burned 200 extra calories that day and boosted their metabolism for the next 24-48 hours. It’s highly unlikely you have a stationary bike handy at your place of work, but a similar result could be achieved by running up the stairs and doing jumping jacks.
20. Analyze if You’re Comforting Yourself With Food
Whether you stuff yourself when you get home from work because you hate your job or you slip out for a fattening “coffee” drink after your boss laid into you about something minor, be sure to take stock of how your job makes you respond with food. In an Orlando Health survey of more than a thousand respondents, only 10 percent of people listed their psychological well-being as part of their weight loss journey. The problem? Not being in tune with your emotions and their connection to food is why nearly 66 percent of people gain weight back after losing it. “Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise,” neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health Diane Robinson, Ph.D. said in a press release. “But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”