Having worked in an office environment for a total of 2 years, I know how tough it is to keep to a training and diet plan. When you’re out of the house for 10 hours a day, it can be hard to organise, prepare, and stick to your diet and training each day, let alone for a whole week. I’m going to touch upon the common problems with keeping healthy whilst in an office environment, my experiences, and how you can overcome these problems.
I remember my first job out of uni, getting up at 6:30 to catch the 7am train to London, being at my desk from 8am until 6:30pm (on a good day), dragging myself to the gym after work, finishing by around 8 to be home by 9, then having to cook dinner and prep for the next day. This could even be considered a short day for some, but at that time it was exhausting for me. I went through some great stages with my training, so I know it can be done. And I also went through a lot of bad stages, and I want to tell you how to avoid the bad stages.
The barriers we face in an office
There were so many reasons why I would be drawn away from my health regime when I had a desk job. I’m going to list the top issues I faced, or my clients tell me they face, and later give solutions to these problems.
One of the worst is social drinking. Working in London, you are expected to have a few drinks with your co-workers or clients a couple of nights a week, and often in meetings that occur out of the office. Not only will this increase your calorie intake for that day, you’ll be more likely to binge on junk food after a few drinks, and any chance of heading to the gym will be out the window. I’m all for team building and networking, but this doesn’t have to always be at the pub.
Another barrier was peer pressure. Not only to go out on these after work beers, but with the meals and snacks you eat at work. When I would prepare a healthy meal and eat it for lunch, I would often get ridiculed for my food choices. If you ate anything that wasn’t a Tesco meal deal, you were a freak “Ah mate you’ve got chicken and rice again for lunch, doesn’t that get boring?”. Dieting is boring, you restrict the foods that taste good, there’s no way around it. I have clients that loose masses of weight who I’m so proud of and they tell me their colleagues still make jokes at them for having healthy lunches. Whenever you go against the norm in a group, you will receive negativity, first they’ll ask why you do it, then they’ll ask how you did it.
Touching on meal deals, another problem is availability and cost of food. Depending on where you are working, a standard meal deal would be between £3-4 for a sandwich, crisps and drink, and believe me, I indulged many a time. When you’ve prepared nothing and head to the shop, it’s so easy to grab a cheap meal deal. They’re always at the front of the store, easy to choose, why even look anywhere else. The same goes for breakfasts. If you’re late or need that extra 5 minutes in bed, its easy to nip into a shop and grab something quick and very unhealthy. But at the same time, it’s very easy to NOT do this if you follow my tips.
Boredom eating also plays a massive role I feel in an office environment. Sitting at that screen for at least 8 hours a day, and Janice hands you a packet of rich tea biscuits. At first you say, “oh go on, just one”, which always turns into 2, which turns into 4, which turns into “oh who cares lets just eat crap for the rest of the day”. And again, I’ve been there myself, but I’m going to tell you how to avoid that one too.
Social drinking is almost a necessity in an office environment. In order to stay on a health regime, you just have to choose your drinking times and choose the right drinks. If possible, I would say cut out alcohol completely, but in reality this won’t happen. Limit your drinking sessions to just one night in the working week, and choose that night in advance. You know its Sarah’s leaving do on Thursday, so you tell yourself that’s the night you’ll go out for a few drinks. Or it could be that evening meeting with the client who’s gonna secure you a £100,000 contract for work, obviously you want to lure him in with a few drinks. Choose your drinking night in advance and say NO to any other invites. There’s no need to get completely sloshed on a work night. Staying for a few hours and having a few drinks is enough to say you attended and you won’t have complete FOMO.
Swapping your drinks is also a great way to cut calories and stay as healthy as possible. The average pint of beer could have up to 250 calories in it, therefore drinking just 2 beers uses up 1/5 of your daily calorie intake. By swapping to neat spirits or spirits with low calorie mixers, that can cut your alcohol calorie intake down to about 20% (neat spirits hold around 50 calories in them). So get on the Whiskeys or G&T’s to keep your calories low!
I mentioned pressure from co-workers to eat unhealthily. The best advice I can give if you feel pressured to snack at work or feel your co-workers can’t cope with your new health regime, is fuck ‘em. Just because they can’t stick to a health regime, can’t turn down that birthday cake, can’t say no to drinks and can’t say yes to any kind of exercise plan, shouldn’t mean you give in to their bullying, and that’s what it is, bullying. Just suck it up, keep to the plan, you’ll be the one who’s laughing in a few months time.
Lunch can be hard at work. You’re stressed, need to get something quick and want something that’s cheap. Meal deals are easy and can be eaten at your desk. My best bit of advice for having a healthy lunch is to prepare the night before. Make a big dinner and take some in the next day. Most of you cook your own dinner, it’s so easy to just cook a little extra and bring the leftovers in for the next days lunch (as long as you’re making healthy dinners!). Simple, healthy lunch sorted every day with no need to leave the office.
If on the odd occasion you forget your pack lunch and have to head to a shop, the meal deals shouldn’t be your excuse. Most of the time if you walk another 2 meters past the sandwich section, you’ll see a cooked meat section. Grab one of the cold meat packs, then just pick a vegetable or rice side and again, simple healthy lunch. The meat might cost £3 and the veg pack/rice might be £1, so you’re getting a healthy lunch for the same price as the meal deal! By following these guidelines there’s really no excuse for having an unhealthy lunch at work.
If you’re struggling for breakfast ideas, all you need is the breakfast of champions, good old-fashioned porridge. Whoever says porridge has too many carbs is an idiot, you need energy to fuel you through the working day. If you buy a pack of oats and leave it in your desk, there’s breakfast sorted for about a month. If you haven’t got a microwave, suck it up and have it cold. Get adding any fruit you want and maybe some honey if you’re feeling saucy. With a pack of oats under your desk, there’s no reason to have an unhealthy breakfast. Don’t forget Janice with her biscuits. As well as oats under your desk, have some emergency fruit or healthy snacks too. When you refuse those biscuits and see everyone else enjoying themselves, you can at least tuck into some guilt free fruit or health bars you bought.
I’ve given solutions to all the common problems in the office but here’s some extra tips that’ll keep you on track. Join a gym close to work. After a long day at work and an hour’s commute either by car or on the dreaded London Underground, the last thing you want to do is workout. If your gym’s a few minutes walk from your work, you’ll be much more likely to get it done. Plus it gives a little time for rush hour to die down.
The next best habit to get into is training before work. I know what you’re thinking, as if your 6:30 alarm isn’t early enough. Try for just one week training before work. The first session will feel like hell and your workout will be terrible, but the next will seem easier, and once you’ve managed the third, you’re in the routine. This gets it out the way and as cliché as it sounds, sets you up for the day. You’ll feel more energised, and it means that your evening will be free to meet with friends, go to Sarah’s leaving do, or just relax at home. Getting an earlier train also skips rush hour, so there’s that too.
Another successful way of sneaking a workout in is to turn your commute into a workout. I’m not a cardio bunny so don’t have experience doing this myself, but often I heard colleagues saying they were cycling or running home from work. If this seems way to far to take on, set it as a goal “Within 2 months I want to be able to run home from work”. It’ll give you something to work towards in your training.
By following these simple tips, hopefully you can make some changes to your training and eating habits and get a little closer to where you want to be. Find a sustainable training routine, don’t go from 0 to 5 workouts a week as it’s just not feasible. Start with a reasonable 3 workouts per week, plan ahead, prep your meals, organise your social time, fuck the haters, and you’ll hit your goals in no time.