10 Tips For Battling Cubicle Weight Gain

Cubicle induced weight gain is a plague, and nobody notices

It’s easy to underestimate how bad sitting all day is for you (whether or not you’re in a cube). I know it surprised me a little at first. I am pretty active in my off time and have always been able to stay in respectable shape. However, sitting in a cube on my posterior for 8hrs a day put me to the test.

The weight creeps on so slowly you hardly notice. One day you’ll see yourself in the mirror from the side, or notice your belt is harder to tighten to the third notch than normal. It means you’re getting fatter, which can be pretty frustrating. Sitting in a cube full time does that, even if you try and eat ‘healthy’. There is hope, however. Even people with somewhat slow metabolisms can fight the good fight with enough discipline. It’s hard to do when sitting all day, but not impossible.

Please note this is not intended to get anyone ripped, it’s just to try and offset sitting all day long.

Easiest Ways to Fight Office Weight Gain

1.) Avoid the office candy jars

These one-stop shops to belly fat are scattered around every office.  They taunt you with their ease of access and small portion size. Jars on your coworkers desks filled with chocolate delights like M&M’s, mini candy bars, or peanut butter cups.  You name it, it’s on someone’s desk begging for you to eat it. These little sons of bitches are chocolate covered fat traps.

“Oh, no problem, it’s just a few M&M’s, not a big deal”, you think. Two or three little handfuls quickly turns into an extra 500-1000 calories of junk.

The enemy of cubicle weight gain, the candy dish.

These are the worst if you’re a stress eater. Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated? Visit the candy jar next door and engorge yourself as needed. It’s just that easy, and that’s what makes these things so damn dangerous. Personally, these are a weakness of mine and I have to consciously battle the urge to dump a bunch of peanut M&M’s in my face. I’m convinced the people who have these candy stations are devil people that feed off suffering of others.

I tend to avoid them by keeping my mind distracted when I walk by them, and by looking straight ahead instead of at them. It sounds really stupid and simple, but it works for me. If I see them, I think about them. If I think about them, suddenly I want to eat them. But, if I look away and keep my mind occupied by thinking of a song or task, then I tend not to notice them.

2.) Avoid the office retirement/birthday/dip/fiesta/whatever parties

Another fast track to cubicle weight gain, the office party.

We all like to be social in the office, after all we spend 40+hours a week with our coworkers so it’s hard not to be. Office parties make for nice little breaks where everyone is pretty carefree for a few minutes. They are pleasant, but they also lull you into a false sense of security. These get togethers are typically riddled with junk food. Cakes, cookies, pop, candy, cheeses etc.

The worst offenders are the theme parties where everyone brings their favorite junk food of that theme. Cookies, dips, candy etc.  This encourages the whole office to add something to the mix.

“Tasty treat Thursdays”
“Muffin Mondays”
“Fettuccine Alfredo Fridays”

Like pigs to a trough, we descend upon the break room to get our fill. Well, maybe not for that last one. Maybe that’s just my office?

I’m not saying you should turn yourself into the office outcast and avoid all social events. Just avoid hovering around the junk food table. Go in, say a few words to the person / people of the hour, make some light conversation and see your way out. My office has one of these parties every two weeks it seems like. It’s really easy to plow through 1000 calories of junk at these shindigs without even trying, suddenly that’s .5 lbs per month of fat you are socking away.

Think of these things as ‘get fat’ parties and try not to party too hard.

3.) Get off your rear for your lunch break

We all love a nice relaxing lunch break. Who doesn’t like to sit and let their mind clear for an hour. It seems harmless, but that’s just MORE SITTING, which is the last thing your body needs. Do what I do – eat lunch at your desk while working and use the break for some much needed physical activity time.

Most office buildings are located in office parks or downtown areas. Get up, go outside and walk for an hour. I do one big loop around all of downtown. It clears my mind better than sitting at a lunch table and is infinitely more refreshing.  A lot of corporate buildings have gyms now too, so go in there and move some weight around.

The key here is to get up and do something, anything.  Don’t just sit more.

4.) Move around once / hr for ~5-10 minutes

office stretching

I know, you’re so entranced in work that the time flies by (or you’re so bored you space out for long periods of time). Either way, get up every hour and move around. Stretch out, walk up and down some stairs, do some squats. It really doesn’t matter, the point is your butt leaves that chair and you get some movement in.

Regular movements it key to preventing chronic injuries, and developing poor posture and muscle imablanaces.  Never forget that.

5.) Take the stairs

Fight cubicle weight gain with office stairs

Pretty self-explanatory. While your lazy and less enlightened colleagues huddle in the elevator, you hop on the stairs and fly. If you aren’t used to it, stair climbing is surprisingly taxing at first. Once you get acclimated, it will be a breeze to climb and you’ll find yourself enjoy the solitude of the stairwell while you head to the office.

If you work on a relatively low floor (I am on the 4th), then you can actually beat the elevator up. Win / Win!

6.) Exercise at home

You’re home, you’re tired and you want to sit (more sitting, seriously?) – I get it. However, this is an awful decision. Go on some fast paced walks around the neighborhood or hit the gym for a bit. Don’t just go home and vegetate more. What you do is less important than doing something, anything. Run around the backyard with your kids for an hour. Just get the blood flowing and the heart pumping a little.

Long walks and weight lifting are my go-to sessions. I also like to actively stretch while we watch TV. I figure I’m not doing anything but staring at a screen, might as well loosen up.

7.) Dare to be different — Don’t eat out for lunch

sack lunch

There are multiple reasons for this. First, it’s expensive. If you want to achieve financial independence, pack your own lunches. It’s cheaper and the quality of food is much higher.

Second, even so-called ‘healthy’ fast foods are typically loaded with salt, sugar and/or fat that you never would have suspected. Fast food lunches are typically low protein, low fiber, and high in junk you don’t need since you already sit for 8 hours a day surrounded by candy and parties.

Some people might look at you sideways for pulling out your sack lunch. Who cares what they think?  They can spend $50 a week (that’s $200/month) eating low quality, stomach bloating foods. You are smarter than that, and you are better than that.

Don’t have time to pack your lunch? That’s a ridiculously poor excuse. Get up 5 minutes earlier and live a better life because of it.

8.) Pack light, but filling foods for lunch

This goes hand-in-hand with number 7, but don’t cram nutritionally void / heavy foods for lunch. These will bog you down and tire you. It also makes it harder to get up and go for walks, or to move around that 10 minutes / hour. You won’t feel like it. Not to mention, heavy foods are generally higher calorie – something that a cubicle dweller does not need more of.

Eating high fiber / protein foods is key. They will keep your hunger at bay, which makes it easier to fight the urge to say, “Yeah get me a snickers” when Cindy makes her hourly vending machine run.

This segues to…

9.) Don’t partake in office snack runs

Come about 2pm everyone in the office who had unfulfilling chicken nugget lunches will get hungry as their unstable blood sugar drops and they crave more food. “Want anything from the vending machine?” they’ll innocently ask everyone in shouting distance. They’re trying to be nice, and they’re also trying to sabotage you to they feel better about themselves.

Often times the snackers run in packs. This herd mentality makes them all feel better about cramming their face with salty and sweet delicacies throughout the afternoon. If other people are doing it with you, it’s not so bad, right? Wrong, it’s a poor decision and you should limit your involvement. Those 200-500 calorie snacks add up quick.

10.) Avoid getting wrapped up in generic office culture

This one may need some explaining. Typical corporate-cubicle-hell office ethos states that everyone should sit quietly at their cube and accept their fate. The only time you move is to go to the bathroom or discuss coworker gossip over the cubicle wall. You eat when asked or told so you don’t make anyone feel bad for snacking by themselves. You want to blend in and be the grey suit wearing yes-person.

Instead of that, try being yourself, and taking care of yourself. Being concerned about what other people think is a sure-fire way to never accomplish anything. You don’t need to be told when to move, when to stretch, when to eat (or not eat). Don’t worry about looking goofy because you are stretching your hamstrings in your cube while everyone stares in awe.

A lot of these items seem like common sense, but take the time to observe your fellow workers and you’ll see just how many don’t follow any of the above tips. Cube land is filled with fat traps that will rob you of your health and lead to cubicle weight gain if you’re not careful. Avoid them like the plague since they can, quite literally, kill you.

Taking care of yourself also helps fend off negative emotions and keeps you from getting sucked further into the dreaded cubicle life crisis!

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