When I switched from a fast-paced retail job into an office role, the last thing I expected was for my health to take a beating. I guess I should have seen it coming: I went from running around after customers to languishing in a swivel chair, my only exercise coming from my fingers tapping away at the keyboard.
The scary thing is, I didn’t even realise what was happening. It started off with a little treat after a stressful morning, then another after a long day. Somehow it became a habit, until I woke up one morning and realised that I had gained thirteen pounds. I’ve always been pretty slim, so this was a big wake-up call!
Thankfully, turning to a plant-based diet helped me to get my weight under control. So I’ve decided to pass on my tried-and-tested secrets for living a healthy lifestyle while working at a sedentary office job. You can thank me later.
#1: Pack A Lunch
Before we start, I want you to do something for me. You’re not going to like it. Just trust me, okay?
Take a deep breath, log into your bank account and take a look at your transactions over the last month.
How many of those were made during your lunch hour? Add it all up. Include all the little snacks too, and the coffee you buy every morning at the train station. It’s a lot, right?
Bringing your own lunch to work as much as possible will save you a ridiculous amount of money. Plus, it’s way better for you! I like to make an extra serving of food for dinner the night before, and pop it into a Tupperware container for a fuss-free lunch that you can just grab in the morning. You could also make a huge batch of soup or chilli on the weekend and portion it out for the week.
You’ll be surprised at how much time you save, too – your lunch break will feel so much longer without the endless queues to buy food. If you work in central London or another big city, you’ll know what I’m talking about!
#2: Exercise Regularly
Speaking of lunch breaks, utilise yours wisely. I make it a habit to get out of the office and stretch my legs in the fresh air – a brisk 20 minute walk will do wonders for your mindset! Where I live, we get an hour-long break during every eight hour day. I aim to spend half an hour eating lunch and chatting with colleagues, and the other half out walking and listening to music or a good podcast. I do see people out running during their lunch break and I always admire them, but I’m not quite at that level! Plus, I don’t want to mess up my makeup.
It’s definitely a good idea to squeeze in some form of exercise on a regular basis. I actually don’t mind the gym (most of the time!) so I try to go two or three times a week, either before or after work. It helps to compensate for the huge amount of time I spent sitting on my butt at the computer! It doesn’t matter what you do – swimming, basketball, dancing – as long as you’re moving your body. Grab your sneakers and let’s go!
#3: Avoid Unhealthy Snacks
If I could only give you one piece of advice, it would be this: stay away from the vending machine. I repeat, stay away from the vending machine! This magical box of treats was my downfall when I first started working in an office. It was just there, all the time, shining like a beacon of hope in a fog of paperclips and files. There’s never anything healthy in there, either – it’s full of energy drinks and sugar-laden snacks. Way too tempting on a slow afternoon!
If you fall victim to cravings, think ahead and whip up some energy balls or homemade granola bars to get you through the day. Eating due to boredom is another barrier on the road to a healthy lifestyle, so be mindful about what you’re consuming. Next time you find yourself reaching in your pocket for loose change, ask yourself whether you’re really hungry. I think you’ll be surprised!
#4: Get Enough Sleep
I love sleeping, and I don’t care who knows it. If I don’t get a solid eight hours every night, I’m a cranky mess. So my healthy routine actually starts the night before, when I begin winding down to go to bed. Think warm mugs of herbal tea, fresh clean sheets, a flickering candle. Admit it, your inner grandma is rejoicing right now.
Seriously, it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep. One of my previous jobs required me to be in the office at 6.30am, and I often didn’t get to bed until gone 2am! It’s no coincidence that my skin was at its absolute worst during that time, and I could barely function at work.
It may take a little while to get into a good sleeping routine, but don’t give up! Work out what time you need to be up in the morning, and then count backwards nine hours. That’s when you need to start getting ready for bed. Put on your pyjamas, switch off from all technology, brush your teeth and dim the lights. I like to get engrossed in a good book until I can hardly keep my eyes open! Everyone is different, so find out what works for you and make it part of your nightly routine. Sweet dreams!
#5: Stretch Your Legs
Occasionally I’ll get so engrossed in my work that before I know it, the day is gone and I’ve spent the whole time sitting in a chair! Somehow, I don’t think that’s what our bodies are meant to do. So I’ve figured out a few sneaky ways to squeeze in a little activity on a regular basis without having to compromise my productivity.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that you’re a human, right? So it makes sense that you have certain, ahem, bodily functions that need to be attended to. I’ve found that by positioning my desk as far away from the bathroom as possible and making sure to drink a ton of water throughout the day, I’m hopping up one or twice an hour without even thinking! I also connected my computer to a printer on another level of the building – that way, whenever I need to print something I’m also taking a little stroll at the same time. Figure out a few little hacks like this for your own office, and I guarantee your colleagues will be wondering why you look so perky all of a sudden!
#6: Say No To Coffee
So many people genuinely believe that they can’t start their day without some form of caffeine. They can’t think, they can’t make conversation; they can’t do anything productive without that first cup of coffee. I used to be one of those people! But contrary to popular belief, coffee doesn’t actually make you feel good. I have a separate post dedicated to the negative effects of caffeine coming very soon – I’m sure Starbucks are shaking in their boots right now (ha!)
So, what should you be sipping on at work? My advice is, avoid the coffee machine and become a slave to the water filter! I like to bring in a reusable bottle and constantly refill it during the day. You can even buy one with a little compartment to hold fruit, if you prefer the taste of flavoured water. If your bottle holds 500ml, aim to drink three or four while you’re at the office. You’ll be in the bathroom more than usual, but it’s so worth it – you’ll feel awake, refreshed and clear-headed.
A fresh green smoothie in the morning is the perfect way to start your day – ask your manager to purchase an office blender (Nutribullets are great and inexpensive!) and keep the communal fridge stocked with chopped fruits and vegetables. Herbal tea is also good, particularly if you choose flavours like calming chamomile or zingy ginger.
A little hydration now will majorly pay off later – say goodbye to dull skin, tired eyes and dark circles. What’s not to love?
#7: Practice Good Posture
I admit, this is probably the area that I struggle with most. I often find myself hunched over my desk, leading to an aching back and stiff shoulders. I do try to sit up straight, but throughout the day I gradually sink lower and lower until I’m practically resting my chest on the keyboard. Please tell me I’m not the only one?
If you have a Health and Safety department in your office, request an inspection of your desk and chair. They’ll be able to spot things that you never would have noticed yourself – the distance from the computer screen to your face, for example, and whether it’s lined up optimally for your vision. Some workplaces will even supply you with a standing desk – if you fancy burning an extra 50 calories an hour and improving your core strength, definitely look into getting one!
Good posture often feels unnatural at first, but when you get used to it you’ll wonder how you ever worked any other way. Now, time to go take my own advice…
#8: Resist Office Treats
Sometimes I could swear that my co-workers are deliberately trying to sabotage me. Why else would they bring in delicious treats (sometimes they’re even vegan!) and then leave them right by my desk? Don’t try to tell me they’re being kind – they’re evil, I tell you!
Studies have shown that we’re highly likely to be influenced by the diets of our co-workers. Good news if you work in a health-conscious office; bad news if the people around you enjoy snacking on sugary treats!
There are a few ways around this problem. Make sure you sit as far away as possible from the designated snack table (every office has one!) Face the other way, if possible – if you can’t see it, you’re less likely to think about it.
I touched on this topic earlier, but preparing delicious, healthy snacks will also make it easier to resist temptation. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sampling these delicious treats once in a while! Food is amazing, and you should never feel guilty about eating. But I want to feel my best, and I just don’t feel great when I’m snacking on cakes and biscuits every day!
Another alternative is to make the treats yourself! You really can’t go wrong – there are so many delicious, healthy recipes online. If you’re vegan, you can enjoy the looks on your co-workers faces when you tell them that the delicious cake they’re enjoying is completely free from animal products! *smiles smugly*
#9: Eat Breakfast
Wait, don’t panic! I promise you won’t have to wake up earlier. If you’re rolling out of bed in the morning and heading to work without stopping to fuel your body, you don’t know what you’re missing!
It’s a fact: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. But not just any breakfast – biscuits and chocolate don’t count! Opt for wholegrain toast, oats or a tofu breakfast burrito to keep you full and energised all morning and stop yourself reaching for sugary snacks before lunch.
Prepping your food the night before will save you a lot of time and energy. I don’t know about you, but everything is a bit more of a struggle when I first wake up. It’s much easier to have everything laid out and ready for me! Some of my favourite breakfasts include overnight oats with berries, avocado on toast and coconut yoghurt with sliced banana. They’re portable, so if you don’t have time to eat before you leave the house you can just grab them and go!
If you have an office kitchen, you can also leave a tub of yoghurt in the fridge along with fruit and a loaf of bread. That way, you always have something on hand. As a wise person once said, ‘There is never a sadness that can’t be cured with breakfast food!’
#10: Stress Less
Have you ever had an incredibly stressful, demanding job? If so, you’ll know the immense toll that it takes on your entire body. Your heart races, your shoulders are tense and you feel sick with anxiety from the minute you walk in.
That was me, just a few years ago. It took me a while to realise that I wasn’t happy, and that no amount of money could make up for the feeling of dread that enveloped me as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning.
If you’re feeling this way, you need to get yourself out of that situation – whatever it takes. I ended up handing in my notice without any job prospects lined up, and I was lucky enough to find an amazing new role in a completely different part of the city. I couldn’t be happier!
I refuse to give tips on how to deal with stress and pressure in the workplace. Don’t settle! There are companies out there that actually care about your health and personal life. I found one, and as a result I’m more creative and productive than ever. That said, if your stress comes from putting too much pressure on yourself then I recommend taking a step back and reassessing. I’m completely guilty of being too hard on myself, but I also know how to recognise the warning signs. Trust me, you’re doing better than you think!
No job is worth your health and happiness. There’s always something better out there – sometimes it takes a leap of faith, but I’m living proof that a little blind courage now and again will lead to great things!
If this list seems overwhelming, don’t stress! Simply try your best to incorporate one or two of these steps each month. In less than a year, you’ll be breezing through them! Once something becomes a habit, you won’t need to think twice about it. Plus I can guarantee that you’ll be feeling so good, you’ll want to keep going!
Don’t resign yourself to a life of mediocre health just because you happen to work in an office. With a little effort you can maintain a lifestyle that will keep you looking and feeling good for years to come.
You got this!