Losing Weight on the Job

Try these seven tricks to sneak in some exercise during the work day
Published November 5, 2015

We probably don't need to tell you how tough it is to lose weight when you sit at a desk all day, five days a week. Chances are you aren't eating very healthily at work, either. What's a weight-conscious person to do?

9-to-5 weight-loss strategies
The solution is to make the most of your desk's diet potential. We surveyed weight-loss experts who've done it. Here are the tricks they believe work best.

Snack wisely
A lot of people snack while they sit at the computer. If you're one of them, be prepared. Keep healthy options handy so you don't rush off for an emergency visit to the vending machine. Bring fresh fruit, veggies and salsa to work. One smart suggestion: Keep snacks not at your desk, but stowed away in a file cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind. If that strategy doesn't work for you, only bring the amount you want to eat each day.

Drink up
As with healthy foods, keep enough water at your desk and you'll easily drink your six 8-ounces glasses by the end of the day. Keep a bottle or glass full of fresh water next to your computer at all times.

Plan lunch
Schedule your meal to protect against cravings. Try eating half of your lunch at 11:30; then, when the mid-afternoon munchies hit, eat the other half. Also, try to bring your lunch from home — that way, you can control your portions and keep track of exactly how many calories you consume.

Portion patrol
In this age of "supersizing," pre-packing your meals in containers will help you eat reasonable servings. "Get to know true serving sizes, and plan meals with that in mind," says Jean Anliker, director of the Nutrition Education Program at the University of Massachusetts. A good guide to follow: One ounce of food is about the size of the average thumb, 2-3 ounces is about the size of a palm, and a cup is about the size of a fist.

"Even if it's just 10 minutes of exercise at a time," says Leanne Wagner, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles, "get up and move whenever possible."

Here are some quick fitness ideas:

  • Eat your lunch at a park a few blocks away, and walk there instead of driving.
  • Walking to a colleague's desk rather than e-mailing or calling.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park as far away from the front door as possible.
  • Include exercise breaks in your calendar. Treat them just as you would any other appointment — you have to be there!
  • Place your wastepaper basket far away from your desk so you'll have to move to throw away garbage.
  • Place your phone out of reach so you'll have to stretch or even get up to answer it.

​Exercise during off hours
Get in exercise before and after work to offset all that sedentary time at your computer. "If you don't live too far, think about walking to work," suggests Wagner. "And if that's not possible, instead of spending an extra hour sitting in traffic, find a gym near your office and go there instead. Once you're done exercising, rush hour will be over and you'll still be home at the same time."

Work out with friends
Get your co-workers in on the weight-loss game. That way, you can encourage each other throughout the day, have healthy lunches together and exercise together on breaks. Try organizing an at-work exercise or weight-loss group. See if your company is willing to give you space and even funds for equipment (mats, weights, etc.).