Ways to be Healthy at the Office (From Someone who Works in an actual Office)

Are you healthy yet?


I, for one, am sick and tired of these dumb suggestions that health writers give me about “how to lose weight at the office.” Here’s what I always read, and what I always subsequently think:


1.) Take a walk break every 15 minutes!


Really? Am I the only one who gets herself into 3-hour long time warps while working on a project that needs to be done yesterday? I’m not paying attention that closely to the clock, and I’m certainly not going to set any alarms and disturb coworkers. No.


2.) Say yes to that birthday cake – but just a little bit!


If you work in a busy office, you don’t have a conference room, you have a birthday cake room. When I worked in the development offices at Children’s Hospital, there was cake all the freaking time, sometimes twice a day. Not to mention the leftover event/board meeting food, chocolates sent from donors, and random doughnuts from other well-meaning office diet saboteurs. I get that you think that denying myself cake will just lead me into prolonged depressed fat-kid evening when I eat an entire Kroger sheet cake by myself in front of the TV, but what I need is a personal policy in regards to office food, not an excuse.


3.) Keep running shoes at your desk and walk during your lunch breaks.  


I’d rather eat on my lunch break, if I have one at all. Plus, lots of bosses don’t take kindly to their well-kempt employee turning into a smelly, sweaty, sunburnt mess every afternoon. And who wants to keep their gym shoes in the place they sit all day?


The people who write these suggestions and then shake their heads when you just can’t meet them are on staff at health magazines, working away at their standing desks, going to company-provided power yoga at noon, and perfectly adjusted into seeing (and maybe smelling) each other’s sweat. So why are we listening to them? And what should we really do?




Here’s a few things that I’ve found helpful:


1.) Go grocery shopping for office snacks, and office snacks only.


And fill up a reusable grocery bag with them. If you go grab some things for the office on your regular shopping trip, you’ll most certainly get a box of 100-calorie packs of junk food and assume that’ll be enough. It won’t be. Get apples, bananas, oranges, pretzels, pistachios, and yogurt, and have one in your hand every time you sing happy birthday to a coworker. Don’t eat the cake, but have a personal policy that you just don’t eat junk food in the office. Eat it at home with people you love.


2.) Water.


Drink like a fish. Get a 20 oz. water bottle and go to town. If you drink warm water, you’ll not only be hydrated but feel full and you’ll have to go to the bathroom more, which takes care of those “walk breaks every 15 minutes” without even having to think of it. Simple.


3.) When you do get to stand, stand on two feet.  


I’m a textbook collapser, meaning I habitually find the nearest doorway/chair/table/fish tank and lean on it when I’m talking to anyone in the office, which just makes me more anxious to get back to my chair. Standing with your weight balanced on both feet sends another message to your brain: I’m present. I’m here. I’m totally aware that I’m making my body stand right now.


So those are office health suggestions from someone who actually works in an office and understands the limitations.


But let’s say that you’re not just the average person who works at the average office and wants to maintain an average level of health. Those stupid health magazine opinions are still probably not going to work for you, because they’re still both impractical and meek. Here’s what to do if you want to own it:


1.) Research charities and offer to put together a corporate relay team for the marathon or half marathon in your nearest city.


You’ll look like the hero, the go-getter, the initiator, the philanthropist – without having to do much at all except fill out some paperwork and ask everyone how their training is going. An added bonus is that people will avoid talking to you until after the race out of guilt that they didn’t finish their long run last weekend, meaning you get more work done.


2.) Out with the rolly chair, in with the stabilization ball.  


You get a stronger core and the designation of office health nut, the conference room gets an extra chair. It’s a win/win.


3.) If you’re facilitating a meeting, ask everyone to stand instead of sit.


Believe me, people will be grateful. Just because they’re used to sitting at meetings doesn’t mean they enjoy it. Give it a try, and see how much more productive the meeting feels – and how quickly people will wrap up their usually-long-winded statements.


So there it is – office health suggestions from an office health nut. Happy Friday!

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