Weight loss starts in the kitchen and in the gym, but carrying healthy habits over to your workspace will help you avoid trips to the office vending machine and other bad habits that can sabotage your goals.
The first step: get organized at work so your surroundings support your health goals, says Dorothy Breininger, a professional organizer who lost 75 pounds and wrote the book “Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff: Lose Weight by Decluttering Your Life.”
“Having an organized desk or office reduces stress, raises your reputation at work, and can help you lose weight,” Breininger says.
Here are five surprising weight loss tips on how to get organized at work to help you drop those extra pounds:
1. Simplify and Streamline Your Desk.
Research shows an organized environment helps you make healthy choices.
For example, a recent study in the journal Psychological Science found workers in a neat space were more likely to snack on an apple than candy. That’s because clutter on your desk acts as a trigger that can stress you out, Breininger says.
“When you have triggers, you eat,” she says. “By removing triggers, you can shed pounds.”
Start by decluttering your desk and office space, tossing garbage and filing paperwork you need to keep. Clear your desk and create a “catch-it space” for incoming clutter, Inc.com recommends. In the catch-it space, include a tray for documents, a box to hold other items and a trash can.
2. Store Supplies to Encourage Movement.
Sitting for too long has been linked to excess weight and other health problems.
“Truly, about an hour is the longest anybody should be sitting still,” says Ellen Goldman, a wellness coach for business professionals.
You can set an alert on your phone or calendar to remind you to get up and move. Also, arrange your office so that supplies you need are stored out of arm’s reach, says professional organizer Jill Annis. For example, put folders or paperclips in a high cupboard away from your desk to force yourself to get up periodically. You will be surprised how quickly these repeat trips can add up to help you burn extra calories throughout the day.
Really want a challenge? Consider adding a standing desk, which can be adjusted for working while sitting or standing up.
“Alternating between sitting and standing is a great way to get your blood flowing and get some movement as you work,” Annis says.
Gradually you will be able to stand for a longer period of time as you get used to working upright.
3. Keep Papers Under Control.
As papers flow into your workspace every day, they can quickly pile up. Use Breininger’s TAPP system to keep yours from devolving into clutter that will make you want to reach for the donuts your coworker brought.
With the TAPP system, every piece of paper falls into one of these categories: toss it, act on in, pass it on to someone else, or pile for storage.
“When your desk is decluttered from paper, you can then focus on your body clutter,” Breininger says.
4. Stock Up on Healthy Snacks.
Get rid of junk food and stock your workspace with healthy snacks stored in clear containers at arm’s reach. Your snacks should be “mini meals” that contain protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, Goldman says.
Try veggies and hummus with whole grain crackers, or string cheese with fruit, she recommends.
The goal: to keep your blood sugar steady to avoid crashes that send you reaching for sweets. If you don’t have access to a an office fridge, buy a small cooler to store healthy foods by your desk. Choose snacks with healthy fats to give your brain a boost. Try eating a scoop of peanut butter or a handful of almonds instead of a bag of chips. If you are still having trouble staving off hunger, try chewing gum which simulates eating and trick your brain into feeling full temporarily.
While you are at it, make a point to drink more water. A recent study found that drinking just 17 ounces of water can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent–yet another reason to leave the diet soda behind.
5. Organize Workday Tasks and Breaks.
It’s common to work nonstop for hours, then grab a coffee—loaded with cream and sugar, of course—as a reward. Instead, organize your workday into chunks with planned breaks in between.
For example, Breininger used to keep hand weights in her desk drawer and use breaks to do a few sets of simple exercises.
During your breaks, do something that refreshes you, such as going for a short walk, stretching or reading. You can also hold “walking meetings” with colleagues instead of holding them in windowless conference rooms.
These micro-breaks are great stress relievers, and in turn will keep you from stress eating. When it comes to work, mental health and weight loss tend to go hand-in-hand.
6. Make Room For Desk Exercise.
Now that you have decluttered your cubicle, you should have more room to add a few small pieces of exercise equipment that can help you stay more active throughout the day.
Find a place for a pair of resistance bands or some light dumbbells. Having these items on hand will help you stay more active. If you still don’t have room, there are a number of stretches and movements that you can do simply using your desk chair as support.