The real culprits behind job-related weight gain
It's easy to see that long hours of inactivity and stress from deadlines and work challenges contribute to weight gain. Recent research has revealed exactly why this happens.
Experts say... Experts say that with every hour of inactivity, levels of blood sugar and the stress hormone cortisol rise. This triggers cravings that lead to overeating, the breakdown of metabolism-revving muscle. Plus, the liver slows down and doesn't do its job of burning fat for energy.
The body thinks it's in an emergency state because of 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 is tough to lose.
The secret to melting 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 will even notice.
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 20 times. Do at least three times daily.
For shapely thighs: While seated with knees together, imagine someone's pulling them apart and it's your job to keep them together by squeezing your inner thigh muscles in one-second pulses. 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 floor to tighten the butt and thigh muscles; then pause for a beat about three-quarters of the way through. Sit back down and 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, so 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 loss results.
Nutritional strategies for the office
Recent research reveals that easy dietary tweaks can help prevent fat-storing blood sugar and cortisol spikes, and put into play mechanisms that help the body effortlessly burn more calories and fat.
Here are a few diet-strategies to put in play:
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 help keep blood sugar and cortisol under control.
Take advantage of the fact that they're 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 one ounce daily — about a handful — won't sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Nosh on raw vegetables and cold cuts
Veggies like broccoli and celery can be enjoyed any time of day because their high fiber content makes them very filling; in addition, 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 satisfying protein and tryptophan. Tryptophan is the building block of the "feel-happy" brain chemical serotonin that keeps stress-inducing, fat-trapping cortisol in check.
Best of all, cut-up veggies, deli meat and cheese slices are all practical options because they can be taken in a cooler to work with a tablespoon or two of 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 no more than two tablespoons of dressing, it won't slow down your slimming.)
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 are 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 shown to reduce cortisol production.
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 (HGH). Look for a shake that contains 15 to 25 grams of whey protein and less than six grams of sugars per serving. A single-serving shaker cup is all you need to make this an easy-to-prepare-anywhere treat.
Oolong 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 while you're at work.
More tips for staying healthy at work
Top 10 best ways to keep your sanity in the office
Energize your work day with desk-friendly exercises
Healthy eating tips for the office