Tiny, tactical changes in the way you live at work can have a significant impact on your health if repeated 365 times a year.
If you increase activity for just 4 minutes a day, over a year, that could be a pound of fat you kept off. Does a pound sound insignificant? Hold a pound of butter in your hand. You don’t want that on your body, do you?
Here are some ways that you can make minuscule changes to see results.
During your commute
- Park at the farthest end of the parking lot
- Get off one station before your subway stop and walk the rest of the way
- Stand up on the subway instead of sitting down – it burns more calories and strengthens leg muscles
- Always take the stairs over the elevator or escalator
- Put a small weight or heavy object in your briefcase and lift it a few times as you walk
- Strap velcro weights to your ankles
- Walk back and forth while you’re waiting for your train instead of sitting down – an extra 200 steps a day equals pounds per year
- Leave your heels or dress shoes at work and walk or bike home
At the office
- When you first arrive, fill up 2 pints of water and keep them at your desk
- Print to the farthest printer from your desk and walk the extra steps
- Instead of calling or emailing a co-worker, get up and walk to their desk
- Sit on a swiss ball instead of a regular chair to build core muscles
- Offer to help anytime someone is moving or lifting anything (safely – use your legs, not your back)
- Put a small aloe or cactus plant on your desk to improve air quality: CO2 in, O2 out
- Crack a window to let some fresh air circulate – outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air and helps you concentrate
- Clean out your desk of clutter – it’ll help you clear up mental clutter and focus on the moment
- Eat 15 minutes earlier than you normally do – when you’re starving, you’re more likely to make poor choices
- If you work late, go for a stroll around the block at 5pm when emails die down
- When cookies are floating around at the office, make sure they don’t park at your desk. Out of sight, out of mind
- Plan meetings with colleagues off-site at a local café – anything to get outside and walking
- Strive to meet with superiors over a game of squash, tennis, or golf instead of in a boardroom
- If you have input into the office social, suggest an activity like rock climbing, soccer, or volleyball
- Keep your healthy snacks on your desk within arm’s reach. How often have you eaten a bag of chips simply because the bowl was beside you at a party? Leverage that effect in a positive way
- Ditch the tray. If you eat at a cafeteria, using a tray makes it more likely for you to pile on items that you don’t need, just because you have the space. (Source)
- Avoid chairs like the plague. Stand up while you wait for someone in the lobby instead of using a chair. Offer your chair to others when there aren’t enough. Studies show that those who have to be on their feet at work have similar levels of cardio health as those who sit all day but work out at night (Source)
- Pack a healthy lunch. No time? Buy a bag of groceries and assemble it in your work kitchen
- If your workplace provides snacks, ask them to substitute healthier options in place of pastries without changing the budget
- Always keep lemons in the fridge to add to your water. This increases your vitamin C consumption and you’re more likely to burn more fat when you end up working out (Source)
- Set visual reminders: leaving post-it notes on your steering wheel or computer screen can increase motivation. Try: “book a tennis date”, “drink water at 2pm” or “pick up kale tonight.” (Source)
- If you have to buy your lunch, choose healthier restaurant chains such as Freshii, Fit for Life, Cruda or Fresh
- Reward yourself with a spa day after every batch of 20 workouts or 20 consecutive healthy lunches
- Make a deal with your manager where you may work-out during lunch for a hour, take lunch, and stay an extra hour at work. It also makes for a more productive afternoon
- “Keep the lid closed:” One study found that on days where a cafeteria left the lid open of their ice cream cooler produced twice as many sales of ice cream. When the lid was closed, sales were cut in half. Find ways to make it inconvenient for you to indulge
Using a health buddy
The buddy system – that is, getting a friend to partner in you in your health commitment – is a proven way to exercise more and eat healthier. Here are some ways to leverage it.
- Take turns making lunch. You make a healthy lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they get Mondays and Wednesdays. The more people are involved, the better this gets
- Call each other once a week to ask how much they exercised. One study showed that those who reported how much they exercised increased their activity levels
- If you keep delaying booking an appointment with a trainer or food allergist, book your friend’s and have your friend book yours
- Set gym dates or jump on the #morninglife trend: Wake up early, work out together, and share breakfast
- Buy a subscription to a health magazine for your buddy on their birthday. Have it delivered to the office so you can both enjoy the health inspiration
- Sign up for a triathlon together. If you back-out, you have to pay your friend’s entrance fee.
- Start an office competition — contribute a dollar every time you do not work out and top 3 contestants split the cash
- Start an office sports team
- Drink a pint of water as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed to clean up your system
- Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier to do 4 minutes of crunches and push-ups
- Get a mini trampoline: 10 minutes of jumping is the equivalent to 30 minutes of running (Source)
- On Sunday night, create Ziploc bags full of healthy snacks for the week
- Make a green smoothie in the morning – it kills cravings all day (Source)
- Carry a basket instead of pushing a cart at the grocery store to help build muscle
- Whatever’s on your shopping list, always fill half of your basket with produce
- Bring fresh workout clothes to the office so you’re always prepared for the gym
- Sleep in complete darkness to ensure circadian rhythms aren’t disrupted and thus, food cravings at a minimum (Source)
- Get your organic groceries delivered to your door. Discouraged by the delivery charge? Think about what happens if you don’t buy groceries and end up spending the $10 on junk food at work
- Get healthy meals or snacks delivered to your desk
- Studies show that willpower can be replenished and depleted. Replenish your willpower by delaying chores for an hour while you catch up on your favourite blogs or play with your kids (Source)
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Part 1: Damage Control
Let us assume the worst case scenario.
- You work 100 hours per week at Frito-Lay
- Part of your job is to test the new products
- Your boss likes to take the team out for beer and wings
- You come home exhausted with an urge to watch TV
There’s hope! We’ve seen 400lb truck drivers get healthy in the most damaging work environments:
There are many ways to stay healthy at work despite the worst case scenario. We’re going to divide this topic up into 3 parts: Damage Control, Tactical Efforts, and Long-Term Strategy.
Before you start: Stop stressing out that you’re unhealthy or overweight. Being stressed on top of eating poorly only makes you less well. Relax. You have plenty of time to get healthy and it will happen.
Here’s what to do in these derailing situations.
Situation 1: You’re stuck on a plane with unhealthy food
Damage control: Work out your brain
Working your brain burns more calories than your brain at rest. Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky has reported that an intense game of chess can burn loads of calories.
- Do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle
- Conduct a Google search on your smart phone for problems to solve
- Read the toughest article in the Financial Times
Situation 2: You’ve just eaten a business lunch which could very well land on thisiswhyyourefat.com.
Damage control: Take in as much oxygen as you can, then go and get some enzymes
Dr Brian Clement from the Hippocrates Health Institute advises that oxygen is highly effective at digesting food and metabolizing fats.
- Go outside and suck in air like you’ll never breathe again
- 30 minutes after the meal, get 2 pints of water and park it on your desk
- Water has a very high oxygen content and it helps to flush out toxins immediately
- Water also helps support your liver which processes the fats and toxins
- Do a workout that night – no time? Get 8 full hours of sleep – it’ll help to clean up the damage you’ve done.
Also, eating something with lots of enzymes – that is, any raw vegetable or fruit – helps to digest the indigestible food which you’ve just ingested. Otherwise, food can quickly turn into fat if left undigested.
Situation 3: You’ve had a rough day. You come home and have zero desire to make something healthy. All you want to do is eat a bag of nachos.
Damage control: Consume 1 cup of leafy greens
- Open your fridge (1 second)
- Take out a bunch of leafy greens (romaine, kale, parsley) and some fruit (2 seconds)
- Throw them in your blender with water (60 seconds)
- Throw your blender in the dishwasher (30 seconds)
In under 2 minutes, you’ve gone a tremendous way towards killing cravings for those nachos.
Even if you end up eating the nachos, you’ll eat less since you’ve already had something to eat. What’ll likely happen is that the greens will eliminate cravings and get you eating something healthier (find out how greens kill cravings here).
Situation 4: You have no time to work out
Damage control: You only need 3 minutes to see results
A recent study conducted at McMaster University found that short spurts of cardio training, performed at maximal capacity, is as effective as long-duration endurance training.
Professor Martin Gibala, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, had participants exercise for 30 seconds of maximal pedaling on a stationary bike followed by four minutes of recovery, and repeated 4-6 times. This added up to a total of 3 minutes of exercise at maximum effort, and the improvements to cardiovascular health were on par with those who had done moderate cardio training for about an hour, three times per week.
Situation 5: You’ve had a destructive day, but it’s now 11pm and gyms are closed.
Damage control: Take a 5 minute hot & cold shower
Minute 1 to 3: Stand in hot water
Minute 4 to 5: Turn the faucet to cold (as cold as you can take it)
Tempering your body in cold water is shown to be effective at reactivating capillaries (which have atrophied by age 30 with a poor diet), and therefore expediting the delivery of nutrients within your body, expelling toxins, and killing free radicals.
Situation 6: You’re about to fall asleep, and you feel guilty that you’ve had an unhealthy day.
Damage control: Tell someone that you love them
A healthy social life has a tremendous impact on well-being and it’s as important as eating well and exercising.
Remember the Rosetta Effect in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: people live longer, healthier lives when they have a strong and caring community around them.
Send a text to a loved one – you’ll likely get one back.
Yvonne Camus is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.
Yvonne competed in Mark Burnett’s televised Eco-Challenge, where she completed a 500km race in Borneo, racing 24 hours a day, and burning over 23,000 calories each day.
She’s also a mother, wife, successful nutritionist, and an agency-repped motivational speaker. She continuously pushes herself physically.
I asked Yvonne how she motivates herself to stay healthy, and she had some great insights.
“It’s about progress, not perfection,” says Yvonne. “A big misconception is that people ‘on the outside’ look at healthy individuals and assume that it’s easy for them to stay on track, and that they’re always perfect.
That’s not true – in fact, those people fall off the wagon as well. But those people are just better at bringing themselves back on track more often.”
A 2009 House of Verona Poll found that only 13% of self-defining “raw vegans” are actually 100% raw. The reality is that people fluctuate between 50% and 90% raw, and have ways to get back on track when they’ve eaten a little too much SAD food.
#2 – Talk Yourself Into It
Yvonne goes on: “I’ve noticed that when you’re at a place of indecision, you either talk yourself into something or talk yourself out of it.
With healthy eating, I’m amazed at how many people talk themselves out of eating well. For example, ‘I had a glass of wine, so I might as well give up on the whole day.’”
Practice talking yourself into healthy eating; build up ammunition of talking points. Here’s what has worked for me in the past:
- If I work out, I’ll naturally wake up early, and stamp out some negative thoughts.
- If I eat that burger, I’ll have indigestion. But if I have the salad, I’ll feel light and energetic.
- If I have even a small green smoothie in the morning, I’ll be in a happier mood.
- If I bring easy-to-carry fruit to the office, I won’t crave something sweet at 3pm.
The very inspiring Yvonne can be reached for nutritional consultations in Toronto at 416-618-9242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of us beat up on ourselves for slipping on our health plans. Or maybe letting go for the whole summer. Or maybe it’s been 5 years since you’ve had a shot of wheatgrass.
We’ve met plenty of women at the House of Verona who are in their 50s and just did their first Triathlon this summer. They have a day job, kids, a cottage, and some of them never joined a single sport growing up.
In small Norwegian ski towns, the locals are thoroughly proud to be outdoors-men and women.
They relish cross-country skiing, running, fishing, and being outside all day with family.
As North Americans who live in colder areas, we often curse the winter for getting in the way of our lives.
Let’s instead embrace winter as a critical part of life.
We at the House of Verona now propose that we welcome the cold as part of our proud identity. Let’s stand up for the fact that we wear 5 layers before we go out.
If the Scandinavians can look fabulous in the winter, what’s stopping us from doing the same? Let’s:
- Run outside
- Go shopping outdoors instead of in malls
- Sit on a patio
- Go skating
- Walk & do lunges in a nearby park
Challenge yourself to do something you would only do in the summer.
Be strong. You can do it. And it’ll make you a better person for it.
Photo credit: Ida Frosk
There comes a critical point in a diet or lifestyle change when you need to motivate yourself over the inevitable “cravings” hump. Whether you are just starting a health program, or an 80% raw vegan trying to get to 100%, here are the top strategies you can use to stay on track.
Before you start:
1. Make the transition as slowly as possible
- A large reason why people fail at health plans is because they do too much, too quickly.
- One reason why Weight Watchers has the highest success rate is because they only allow dieters to lose 1 to 2 lbs per week. Any more, and they would be destroying their chances of long-term success.
- You have your entire life to get healthy. If you are 43, you have 43 years of conditioned behaviour to break. It doesn’t happen overnight, and if does, it won’t last.
2. Understand your body and psychological type
- What did you grow up eating between the ages of 1 and 5? That imprint is the strongest predictor for what you are wired to crave. Did your mother serve ice cream every night after dinner? Nostalgia has a powerful effect on food choices.
- Have you done this before? What happened? Be honest with yourself.
- If you are the type to binge, treat unhealthy food as if it’s an illegal drug. If not, you can indulge in moderation.
3. Set attainable goals
- There are 100 things you can change, but it takes people a while to change habits. Change just one at a time. “I am going to cut out sugar for 2 days.” That’s all you need to start with.
Once you’re in the thick of things:
4. Get support: hang out with others in the same boat
- This is by far the most important tip. It is another secret to Weight Watchers’ success, which separates them from the competition: mandatory weekly meetings with other dieters. Without this, the success rate drops dramatically.
- If you’re raw, these are your go-to resources: the Give It To Me Raw Community, lead by Dhrumil, and the Meetup.com Raw Foodist groups (There are 55,000 of us on there!)
- If you don’t have many friends in the same situation, look through your rolodex to see if you know others who have done a health kick. If you are uneasy asking them out on a “friend date”, just email them for advice. It will probably turn into meeting at a cafe, and maybe eventually into a running partner.
5. Eat foods that block cravings
- Green juices or smoothies – a small one at night can prevent illegal activity (1)
- Plenty of water (2)
- A handful of nuts
- Nutrient-dense foods – our body signals us to stop eating not just when we’ve had enough calories, but when we’ve had enough nutrients. This is one reason why chronic junk-food eaters constantly feel hungry. (3)
6. Treat junk food as if it’s heroin…because it is.
- Baked bread contains trace amounts of opiates, created through heating wheat, which is what gives us that slight feeling of pleasure when eating a loaf. (4)
- Refined sugar is made with the same process to refine poppies into heroin, and European royalty used to use it as a recreational drug in the 17th century. Sugar truly is an addictive substance. (5)
- Similarly to a recovering alcoholic who can’t touch a drop, depending on your answer to #2, view yourself as a recovering food addict. (6)
7. If you’re going to cheat, don’t feel guilty
- The feeling of guilt is worse for you than the actual food (7), and the more you resist something, the stronger the urge to consume it will become. (8)
8. Distract yourself with another guilty pleasure. After 10 minutes, the food craving will likely be gone.
- Read Hollywood magazines
- Watch 4 episodes of your favourite show online
- Creep your crush on Facebook
- Watch the top viral videos on Digg
- Play an addictive video game
- Call a good friend and talk for an hour
9. Out of sight, out of mind
- You’re much more likely to eat something if it’s in front of you than if it’s hidden away.
- Along the same lines, physically place healthy options on your desk, in a fruit bowl on your table, or anywhere you might be tempted.
10. Educate yourself on the scientific details
- When I learned that Advanced Glycation End-Products (A.G.E.s) are compounds that accelerate aging, and that one piece of pizza contains 6,825 of these A.G.E.s, I happily opted for an apple, which contains only 13. (9)
11. Train your subconscious to control impulses
- Paul Dewland, the motivational speaker for House of Verona retreats, explains exactly how this can be done in this video.
12. Restore your willpower by doing what you love
- Spend 4 hours on Sunday doing what you love the most – no chores allowed. This will replenish the willpower that was depleted through engaging in stressful activities.
13. Exercise: it’s shown to suppress cravings (10)
15. Watch an intense sport on TV
- Watching athletes perform at their peak provides instant motivation to go to the gym, or eat healthy.
16. Get a change of scenery
- Being inspired can set you on track. If you’re stuck in a rut, take a short healthy trip to the country, check out New York City, or go to a new space in the artsy district of your city.
17. “Don’t be a p*ssy.”
- Rory and Kim, authors of Skinny Bitch, put it best. “What if someone told you that you could totally change your life and have the body you want for the rest of your life? …All you have to do is follow a simple formula, and be willing to delay gratification for a few months. A few months. That’s it… Don’t be a p*ssy.” (Thanks Erin!)
- Use the same motivational words that the mean trainers use on The Biggest Loser. “Are you a strong, powerful, successful person? Or are you willing to give in when it gets a little hard?”
18. Go to the grocery store on a full stomach
- Otherwise, you risk the trap of buying impulse items to satisfy your hunger.
19. Spend 1 hour on Sunday preparing healthy snacks to keep in your car, purse, or desk.
- Always be prepared for the mid-afternoon slump.
20. Accept yourself the way you are presently.
- Statistically, 95% of people who begin a new diet will gain all of the weight they lost, plus more, within 5 years. (11) If you’re smart, and I know you are, you will resolve that the odds are against you, and you would rather be the way you are now, than a worse version of yourself in 2 years.
- The irony is that the resulting effect on your mind increases your chance of success dramatically. When I resolved to think this way, I unexpectedly lost 10 lbs in the next year, without even trying.
If you going to a social situation where you will be tempted:
21. ‘Pre-eat’ before the event
- Eat a small dinner before you go, so that you don’t feel deprived once you’re there.
22. Call ahead to the restaurant or host
- If you’re going to a restaurant that has an unfriendly menu, tell them beforehand that you will be the odd one out; give them plenty of time to prepare a simple, healthy plate. This way, you draw less attention to yourself when ordering.
- If you’re going to someone’s house, explain to them that you have a special condition where you won’t be able to eat the amazing food they’ve created for you. People can be offended if you don’t eat what they serve, so try to diplomatically clear this up beforehand.
23. Make excuses when friends ask you (or pressure you) to indulge with them
- “I ate a little at 4pm, so I’m fine for now.”
- “I’m meeting my trainer tomorrow and he forbids me from eating wheat 24 hours before.”
- “I’m on antibiotics so I can’t mix a lot of alcohol with the medicine.”
- “My doctor said…” – works every time.
- “I’m allergic to dairy, so I can’t have those nachos…”
24. Call our free support line at 1.800.252.2826, and we’ll talk you through it.
We’ve roughed it out before, and know what it’s like.
Feel free to add your own strategies to this list in the comments section. Good luck, everyone!
- Boutenko, Victoria, Green For Life.
- Sizer, F. Whitney, E. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. 10th edition. Thomson Wadsworth Publishing. Belmont, California. ISBN 0534645062.
- Boutenko, Victoria, 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to end your dependency on cooked food.
- Wolfe, David, Eating For Beauty.
- Marcia Levin Pelchat, Food Addiction in Humans, The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 139, No. 3, 620-622, March 2009 http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/3/620
- Mark Handy, B.Sc., R.N.C.P., P.T., Y.T.
- Paul Dewland, Owner, Potenreal
- Boutenko, Victoria, 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to end your dependency on cooked food.
- Marie Claire, Exercise curbs chocolate cravings. November 12, 2008.
- Women’s Health Magazine Study, July 2006