The Curious Case of the Overweight Office Worker: Three Strategies to Burn Fat While You Work
I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and envision what the day in the life of the 9-to-5 office worker looks like.
Ok. Ready? Go!
Now, I’m sure that most of us shared a similar vision:
The alarm strikes.
Quickly hop in the shower, get dressed, run out the door and maneuver your way through a tight subway car, bus, or rush hour traffic.
Forty minutes later – arrive at the office, get coffee, sit at your desk and prepare for the next 8-9 hours of the day.
“Got to be productive. Got to stay focused. No time for distractions.”
“Go! Go! GO!”
Intense, isn’t it?
Well, as a 9-to-5 warrior myself, I can attest that this – or some variation of it – is close enough to the madness that occasionally accompanies a busy workweek. And yes, at times, it can get ugly.
Which brings me to something that’s been on my mind lately. Something that the day-to-day office worker has been struggling with for years. Something that may be causing you much frustration.
That something is what I like to refer to as the dark side of corporate life, or in simpler terms: the reason why your workplace is making you FAT.
You see, weight gain and a busy lifestyle have long been considered partners in crime. In fact, with so much to juggle in a single day, focusing on your body and health typically takes a back seat to the responsibilities that are placed before you. As a consequence your health and physique take a hit as you slowly spiral down the rabbit hole of eternal weight gain.
And by no means do we ever plan for it to be this way. On the contrary – we start the day off with high expectations:
“Today’s going to be a good day. Going to eat right. Going to hit the gym. Going to finish the day strong.”
But, in reality, our day looks more like this:
Snacking on pastries. Sitting in front of our computer screens for three hours straight. Grabbing some lunch with coworkers and succumbing to calorie-dense foods. Sitting for three more hours. Going home, sitting on the couch, watching three hours of [insert favorite show here]. And finally: sleep.
Everything seems right with the world until you wake up the next day and feel horrible for not eating better, for not walking more, for not sticking to your original plan of staying clear of any indulgences or temptations that add inches to your waistline.
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the problem with the common weight gain tied to a sedentary office life is not the snacks that are placed before you. No, those things are delicious, and not the devil. The problem lies in the restrictions that we place on ourselves.
But that all ends today. And in this article I will show you how to turn the office into your own personal fat-burning domain by:
- Eating what you love without packing on the weight.
- Setting up your body for fat loss each single morning.
- Performing quick and simple bodyweight exercises to rev up your metabolism and encourage lean muscle growth.
The Real Reason Why The Office is Making You Fat
To begin, here’s a little bit of data to chew on:
The average American spends 1700 hours per year at work. That’s about 90,000 hours over their entire lifetime.
Yikes! That’s a large chunk of time. Which, surprisingly, pales in comparison to other countries.
But why should this matter to you?
Well, with most of our days spent behind a desk, we are usually treated to an ideal work environment. Which, in the grand scheme of things, can be seen as the formula for success.
The Formula For Success
Comfortable office space + increased focus / high quality work = SUCCESS!
You’ll probably be rolling in a whole lot of mullah after following this bulletproof strategy.
But yet, there’s one slight…
…one BIG problem with this formula.
You see, being treated to a comfortable and highly productive environment means that for the next eight hours you are glued to your chair or wandering the halls, eating whatever catches your eyes or nose.
“Well, I don’t work in a big corporate office, so I have nothing worry about.”
Not so fast, Kemosabe.
In a study conducted by Career Builder among 3,022 full time workers across different industries, 55% felt that they were overweight, with 39% saying that they gained weight at their current job and some individuals putting on more than 20 pounds.
So despite your industry, chances are that those long work shifts, corporate lunches, and happy hours are going to make it a little bit more difficult to obtain that desired six pack.
“But I don’t want to be the odd person out. I don’t want to be the weirdo that always sticks to the celery sticks during corporate lunches.”
Well, the fact is this: you don’t have to settle for strictly greens and veggies. Yes, these are beneficial and recommended for good health and fat loss. But why limit yourself to the foods which you enjoy least. By strategically indulging in your favorite foods – as I will show you below – you will begin to notice a decline in body fat.
How To Burn Fat While You Work
So how do you survive your work day without packing on the weight?
Easy. Simply implement the following to each work day:
- Intermittent Fasting
- 10% Rule
- Simple Office Workouts
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a huge topic in itself. So instead of digging through all the details, we will focus on its core principles, which should help you burn fat during your working hours.
Now, the first time I heard about IF I was a bit skeptical. Anything featuring the word “fasting” in it’s name sounded like an uncomfortable starvation diet. One which would also result in a loss of muscle.
Not cool. Not cool at all.
However, upon further investigation and finally applying it myself, I became a believer. It was as if the heavens opened up and the fat loss gods shined their light down upon me. It was glorious.
But what exactly is it?
Intermittent fasting is the process of setting an allotted period of time where you avoid eating anything (fasting), which is then followed by a period of food consumption. In fact, you’re already doing this every night while you sleep. It isn’t until the alarm strikes and you dig into your morning breakfast that you break this fasting period (break-fast, get it?).
However, by extending this fasting period beyond your initial wake up time – skipping breakfast altogether – your body does the following:
- Extends the production of growth hormone, which is essential for building muscle and burning fat.
- Reduces the amount of ghrelin that is released. Ghrelin (not to be confused with gremlin because that would be scary) is the hunger hormone. Every time you begin to crave food, yep, that’s ghrelin talking. By reducing production of ghrelin you will be less hungry during the day.
- Increases insulin sensitivity which can also help you gain muscle and lose fat.
A shorter feeding window also decreases the likelihood that you will overeat.
How to add IF to your day:
Intermittent fasting does not work best at a specific part of the day. It works best at a time of the day that suits you. Of course, this is just as long as you’re able to fit an allowed fasting time within your day. With that said, our recommendation is a few hours before bedtime or a few hours after you wake up.
How long should you fast?
This is all up to you, but try to go no less than 14 hours. A good fasting strategy to follow is the 16/8 rule, made popular by Martin Berkhan of Leangains. His recommendation was to fast for 16 hours a day and spending the remaining 8 hours of the day eating.
Here’s an example:
– Last meal on Monday night was at 9PM which indicates the start of your fasting period
– Skip breakfast the next day (easier than it sounds)
– End fast at 1 PM Tuesday afternoon
Now, while this might sound crazy or seem impossible for some, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get used to this style of (not) eating. Also, by incorporating IF into your day, you should see a surge in energy, increased focus and cognitive function, and all this without the lingering hunger pangs.
The problem is not the excess food placed around you, nor is it the happy hours, office parties and so on. The real problem is your approach to these things.
I must admit it can be difficult to keep your urges at bay when a coworker brings in doughnuts from “DOUG” (best doughnut shop in Brooklyn). Refusing a dulce de leche doughnut can be considered a crime against humanity.
“But remember, I’m trying to lose fat, not gain more of it.”
Well, a single doughnut, cookie, slice of pizza or pie will not ruin your diet. It’s when we overindulge in these foods that things begin to get nuts.
So instead of stressing over it, why not implement the 10% rule.
The 10% rule simply states that you’re daily indulgences can consist of 10% of absolutely whatever your heart desires. This can be a combination of any macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrate) a day.
However, for some, this might be a little bit easier said than done. Once we get a small taste, we have to go all in. If this is the case, then why don’t you substitute an office snack for something else that relieves that sweet tooth, such as nuts, greek yogurt or the occasional protein bar. Just make sure that they fit your macronutrients allotment for the day.
***I would be careful on which bars you choose. Some contain way too much sugar, which is the equivalent of eating a candy bar. I tend to stick with Quest or BioTrust bars. Or, if you want to mix things up, BioTrust cookies are also the bomb. YUM!***
“How about happy hour drinks?”
Well, alcohol is a little trickier…sort of. There are days when you already have after work drinks planned and other days are spontaneous. Here’s how to plan for both:
Planned drinking days:
Eat lots of protein during the day and save most of your carbohydrates for those final drinking hours. Protein helps you to stay satiated longer, which will help curb any appetite for junk food during the night.
Unplanned drinking days:
Drink at most two drinks and make sure they are not mixed with any soda or juices. You want to cut the amount of carbohydrates and sugar, so straight drinks are your best bet.
So, with all this being said, eliminating the foods you love altogether will only make you crave them even further, thus creating a lose-lose situation. Intermittent Fasting plus the 10% rule will help you overcome these cravings by satisfying your desire for them.
Next up – we get physical.
Many of us spend 54% of our waking hours sitting down.
And if you made it this far (congratulations) then you know that’s a bad thing.
Well, time spent being sedentary has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and chronic disease.
It also leads to poor posture, which does not bode well for your sexiness and overall health.
But we gots you covered, yo.
Which is why the final part to combating “The Office/Body Fat Epidemic” is to get up and move.
To begin, I want you to make a minor adjustment to your morning schedule. This change will help you to start your day focused and ready to tackle anything that’s thrown your way. I want you to… stretch.
Yep,..stretch. That’s it. And if you read our article on dynamic stretching then your probably aware of how important it can be.
So, what I want you to do is set the alarm clock to go off fifteen minutes earlier and perform the following:
- Foam Rolling x 5 minutes
- Wall ankle mobilization x 10
- Lateral lunges x 8
- Plank 30 seconds
- Bent over thoracic extension x 10
- Arm swings x 10
- Glute bridge x 8
- Scap push-up x 8
- Inchworm x 5
You’re now ready to jump-start your day.
Below you’ll find several exercises designed to stimulate fat loss and muscle growth. And if you’re worried about looking dumb, don’t be. You’ll be surprised at the motivation this creates among your fellow co-workers.
Perfect for building strength and endurance. While standing, lean your back flush against a wall and lower yourself with your knees and legs out until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
Perform as many push-ups as possible for a total of 3 sets.
Using a sturdy chair, sit at the edge and hold the edge of the seat at each of your sides. Push yourself off the seat and extend your legs about two steps in front of you. Proceed to lower yourself off the seat until you are at a 90 degree angle. Push yourself back up by extending your arms to the starting position. Repeat this for 10-15 reps.
Extend your left leg about two steps away from your body and lower until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Bring your left back in and then perform with your right. Perform this for 10 reps per leg.
You can do this one anywhere throughout the day, including, but not limited to, waiting on line for your burrito at Chipotle.
Raise your heels for 5 seconds and then lower back down to the ground. You do not need to use weights or a platform as pictured below. Perform this for 10 reps or more.
Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair. Brace yourself by holding onto the edge of each side of the chair. Lift you legs up into your chest and repeat. Perform this for 10-15 reps
The Rise of a New Worker
Don’t allow the cube or desk to be the anchor that holds you back from obtaining a lean and healthy physique. While financial security is a necessity, what good is that hard earned cash if your health prevents you from making good use of it?
By following the strategies mentioned in this article you will be well on your way to living a healthier, stronger, and rewarding life.
Now it’s your turn.
What changes have you made to get in shape around your working hours? Are there any struggles which are preventing you from achieving fat loss? If so, what are they and how can we help you further? Please leave a comment below.
Tan WJ, Wong TK. Singapore Med J. 2014 “Demographic profile, clinical characteristics, motivations and weight loss outcomes of patients in a nonsurgical weight management programme”
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