Desk job making you fat? Easy ways to shed that jelly belly for good!
By Wendy Chant MPT, SPN,
Author of Crack The Fat Loss Code
Weight gain on the job is so prevalent now, that some nutritionists
have coined the term “the office 15” to describe the average of 15
pounds that about 45 percent of women gain just in the first three
months of starting a desk job. And there are millions of American
women who gain even more than this over the years, citing their job as
a main reason they’ve become overweight or even obese.
The real culprits behind job-related weight gain
It’s easy to see that long hours of inactivity and being stressed by
deadlines and work challenges contributes to the problem. But recent
science reveals exactly why this happens: With every hour of
inactivity, levels of blood sugar and the stress hormone cortisol
rise. And this triggers cravings that lead to overeating, the
breakdown of metabolism-revving muscle, plus liver slowdowns that
hinder the organ from doing its job of burning fat for energy.
In fact, the emergency state the body thinks it’s in because of the
high blood sugar and high cortisol — and it’s thinking something
major here, like famine — causes the liver to signal the body that
more consumed calories should become fat. And that this fat should be
stored mostly around the belly as an easy energy resource when the
perceived emergency comes. Of course, for most people, dire
occurrences like famine never come, and millions of women are ending
up stuck with the extra fat that keeps piling on and that’s tough to
The secret to melting away fat despite that desk job
Here’s some good news: Scientists have found that simply doing some
activity at least once every hour keeps blood sugar and cortisol more
stable, thus keeping fat-packing mechanisms in check.
And it can be any kind of activity, even as simple as walking to drop
off some forms at a colleague’s desk, standing to organize files or
books, taking the long way to the restroom, or rapidly tapping your
feet on the floor football-drill style for 30 seconds.
You can also whittle away trouble spots and build calorie-burning
muscle with the following “deskercises” that are so discreet, no one
For a toned tummy: Sit tall and straighten the spine. Then clench the
abdominal muscles as tightly as possible, pulling the navel into the
spine. Hold for one to five seconds, and repeat for a total of 20
times. Do at least three times daily.
For shapely thighs: While seated with knees together, imagine
someone’s pressing them together and it’s your job to push them apart.
To do this, squeeze the outer thigh muscles in one-second ‘pulses’
for about one minute. Then imagine something is pushing the knees
apart and you’re to keep them glued together, so squeeze the inner
thigh muscles in one-second ‘pulses’ for about one minute. Do this at
least three times daily.
For a perky butt: I love this “leave your chair twice” trick! Start to
stand up, with heels digging into the ground to contract the butt and
thigh muscles. But pause for a beat about three-quarter way through.
Then sit back down, and finally stand up as you normally would. Do
this every time you get out of your chair, and you’ll be doing calorie-
burning squats without even breaking a sweat!
If it’s easy to lose track of the time at your job, set up an alarm on
your computer to remind you to do something active at least once every
hour, or better yet, twice or three times an hour for faster weight
These nutritional strategies target desk job fat build-up
Recent research reveals that easy dietary tweaks can effectively
prevent fat-storing blood sugar and cortisol spikes, and set into play
mechanisms that help the body effortlessly burn more calories and fat.
Here are a few to try:
1. Snack on nuts and seeds. The protein, magnesium, vitamin B and
healthy monounsaturated fats found in favorites like almonds, cashews,
pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, keep blood sugar and cortisol under
control. Take advantage of the fact that they’re so packed with
energy, by having them in the earlier part of the day to keep you
productive for hours. (They’re also an excellent snack if you’re prone
to mid-afternoon slumps.) It’s true that nuts and seeds are high in
calories, but consuming 1 oz. daily — about a handful — won’t
sabotage your weight loss efforts.
2. Nosh on crudités and cold cuts. Veggies like broccoli and celery
can be enjoyed any time of day because their high fiber content makes
them very filling and they’re rich in plant compounds that regulate
blood sugar. I also like cold cuts, like turkey and cheese slices,
because they’re rich in satiating protein and tryptophan. This is the
building block of the “feel-happy” brain chemical serotonin that keeps
stress-inducing, fat-trapping cortisol in check. Best of all, these
are all practical options, being so easy to take in a cooler to work
with a little low-fat salad dressing on the side. (A little fat is
needed to maximally absorb the beneficial nutrients from veggies, and
as long as you stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons of dressing, it won’t slow
down your slimming.)
3. Have eggs for breakfast or lunch. Because they contain all the
essential amino acids in the perfect portions for humans, eggs are the
highest quality protein available. In fact, they’re the most effective
at increasing nitrogen stores in muscles, making them firmer so they
burn more calories even when your body is at rest. Eggs also an ideal
food when you’re trying to keep blood sugar and cortisol under
control: Their satiating protein and healthy fats prevent fat-trapping
blood sugar spikes and they’re loaded with vitamin D, a nutrient
proven to reduce cortisol production.
4. Enjoy a whey protein shake (or two!). Whey protein contains
specialized branched-chain amino acids that provide muscles with
nitrogen to keep them firm and prevent them from being broken down for
energy. This is very important since muscle degradation slows
metabolism significantly. Branched-chain amino acids also keep blood
sugar balanced and help trigger the release of the important fat-
burning hormone called human growth hormone. Look for a shake that
contains 15 -25 grams of whey protein and less than 6 grams of sugars
per serving. A single serving shaker cup is all you need to make this
an easy-to-prepare-anywhere treat.
5. Sip oolong tea. This tea has been shown to balance blood sugar and
cortisol levels, reversing the fat-storing mechanisms caused by office
inactivity. The helpful dose: One to three cups of oolong tea while
you’re at work.
©2008 Wendy Chant
Wendy Chant, MPT, SPN, is a certified personal trainer and a
specialist in performance nutrition. She holds a bachelor of science
degree in medical sciences and nutrition science. A champion body
builder, she opened her own training center, ForeverFit®, in 1998.
Her book, Crack the Fat Loss Code, is available now from McGraw-Hill.