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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

5 practical ways to get healthy while you work

Categories: the juggle


When someone suggests keeping dumbbells in a desk drawer so that I can squeeze a few bicep curls in between conference calls, my first thought is, “I’d bet money you don’t actually do that.”

I’ve also read that I should replace my desk with a stand up desk (yes, I can totally see requesting a purchase order for that) and use my lunch breaks to organize a walking group (because apparently I will no longer require food).  Does anyone actually do this stuff?

None of those tips worked for me because I couldn’t even imagine trying them.  But I have found a few things that I can do to be healthier - even while working a full time job - without having to purchase new office furniture or build a cubicle workout station.

First, focus on the food that you eat - or don’t eat, as the case may be.  Studies have shown that exercise can help you lose weight and build muscle more quickly when combined with a healthy eating plan, but that it’s almost impossible to get results with exercise alone.  A proper diet, however, can produce significant results even if you don’t find the time to exercise.

How can you eat healthy when you’re chained to a desk for eight or more hours a day?

1. Plan your meals the night before. Spend about 5 minutes the night before figuring out what you’ll eat for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner.  It’s much easier to make these decisions beforehand than it is to find something healthy to eat when you’re starving at 3 in the afternoon.

2. Pack healthy snacks. Of course, you can only do this if you plan the night before, but packing healthy snacks will help you avoid making poor food choices on your lunch break or when you get home from work.  I usually end up resorting to pre-made protein shakes because of time and convenience, but there are tons of healthy snacks you can easily carry in Tupperware.  Try:

  • celery and peanut butter
  • string cheese and a piece of fruit
  • trail mix of peanuts and raisins

You may notice that my snacks (and all of my meals, actually) are a combination of protein and complex carbs.  I’ve found that works best for giving me energy and keeping the hunger at bay without packing on pounds.

3. Pay attention to your coffee. Are you stopping at the local coffee shop on the way to work for some caffeinated dessert?  I’m the last person to suggest anyone gives up coffee completely (the last time I tried that I fell asleep at my desk), but you should be aware that what you pour into your coffee counts towards your daily calorie, sugar, fat, etc. intake.  I use skim milk and Splenda instead of heavy creamers, sugar, whipped topping and caramel drizzle (which, yes, is what I used to have).

4. Drink water. When you’ve finished your morning coffee, switch to water.  Not only does drinking water instead of soda reduce your calorie intake, but getting plenty of water will help you - well, with everything.  Getting enough water helps your energy, skin, waist, sleep patterns, love life… I may have made that last part up, but you get the point.  If your urine is yellow, you’re not drinking enough!

5. Walk around. But don’t just wander aimlessly.  Pick up an inexpensive pedometer and set a goal of taking more steps today than you did yesterday.  That might mean parking farther from the door, taking the stairs, or walking to reception instead of using the phone system.  You will find little ways to take more steps, and doing this consistently does make a difference.  Consistency is the key, so use that pedometer to keep pushing yourself.  The general suggestion is to walk 10,000 steps a day for weight loss, but don’t freak out if you’re doing much less; just focus on doing more each day.

Of course, these are just little things and it doesn’t even touch on the idea of exercise, nutritional balance or caloric intake.  But it’s a start.  And if you aren’t doing these things now, starting to do them consistently will make a difference in how you feel.

Can you share some tips you actually use to get (or stay) healthy while working full time?

Photo by Kim Gillett

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5 comments so far...

  • I’ve found that I walk a lot when I’m on the phone now. I used to sit back or lay down, and being more active has made me feel better.

    I totally want to buy one of those exercise balls that you sit on when you work, though. That would be interesting.

    Avitable  |  May 19th, 2010 at 8:04 am

  • First, I actually challenged myself on my personal blog for a 8 week period to get fitter. This helped, since my readers, would ensure I stick to the plan. A few of them took on the challenge and that motivates me.
    Secondly, I write what I eat, this helps me see at the end of the day, how much healthy/unhealthy food did I actually eat. This helps me a day at a time.
    Third: I walk back home. I live 1.5 miles, and skip the bus and put on walking shoes and brisk walk.
    Fourth: It’s okay if I miss gym (Which I turn up doing more than often). I take out my yoga mat and while I watch my TV, i do some crunches.
    ITs a slow process but its seeming effective… I feel better and more active!

    GNSD  |  May 19th, 2010 at 8:23 am

  • When I worked in an office most days, I would stock up on single-serving, healthy stuff like fat free yogurt, oranges, apples, baby carrots, baby leaves, and cereal bars, and that would be all I would eat during office hours, even if my office hours extended to 2am. I would also take a few breaks to climb stairs or walk around the block. When I could shut my door and be fairly sure nobody would open it, I would do some simple yoga exercises.

    I gradually quit adding anything to my coffee other than skim milk. It works best if you have boiled water and make instant coffee with half water, half skim milk. Really yummy (for coffee) and although skim milk has calories, at least it’s food.

    If I’m not with people who would care, I do yoga stretches and light muscle-building exercises during conference calls and such, when I am merely listening.

    I try to sit at a desk near the window so I can have natural sunlight. I don’t turn on the electric light unless I absolutely have to. I keep my office as neat as I can so that the energy flows freely (and I don’t feel like my responsibilities are about to avalanche onto my head).

    I take mini-breaks at my desk to concentrate on my back and stomach muscles (which are genetically weak), do eye exercises, stretch my neck and shoulders, etc.

    That’s all I can think of right now. In my life, I have to work fitness into whatever else I’m doing, because there is no way for me to carve out time for it right now. It is interesting to realize how much time we actually have to ourselves, if we break the day down into 3-minute increments instead of hours / half hours. Every minute really does count.

    SKL  |  May 19th, 2010 at 8:23 am

  • I actually do go for a power walk or run on my lunch. It takes me about 40 minutes to run/shower (we have one in the office) and I still have time to eat my lunch. :)

    Angella  |  May 19th, 2010 at 8:50 am

  • I bought something called slendertone (bought it off Amazon) and I put it on my stomach and it does my sit-ups for me as I am still busy working. It has worked quite well and I am looking and feeling slender.

    The only thing is when I get up and move…I look rather pregnant but is only for 30 minutes not 9 months..I can live with that.

    Take care

    Ruth  |  May 21st, 2010 at 2:46 am