Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Avoiding the Computer Desk Pounds

Writing isn't exactly considered aerobic exercise.  So staying in shape when I'm putting a lot of time on the keyboard isn't something that just spontaneously happens - I have to manage my lifestyle to make sure I don't pack on the pounds.

What works for me may or may not work for you, but here's how I maintain a healthy weight:

1.  Walk every day.  The advantage to writing is that I can get out while there's sunshine, so throwing in a short 30-45 minute walk is no big deal.  It's harder when I've got a job that keeps me inside during daylight - I've done gyms in the past, once or twice a week, but that was all I could make myself go.  Personally, I prefer walking outside to a full-body workout in a small, sweaty-smelling room, but that's just me.  Exercise, afer all, is exercise.

2.  Eat whole wheat.  Controlling calories, of course, is part of staying fit (but I never eat less than 900 per day, because that basically kills the metabolism!)  The problem with white bread is that my body digests it more quickly than whole wheat, so I'm hungry again faster.  And this goes for breakfast, too - by trading out rice and sugar cereals for whole wheat ones, I go about five hours before needing lunch, even without stuffing myself.

3.  One of the big keys to not getting hungry, for me, is that I don't have a set eating routine.  I do always eat breakfast, because it jump starts the metabolism, but I don't always eat it at the same time.  And I vary my lunchtime, so my body has adjusted to not getting hungry at any specific time.  If I don't feel hungry, I eat less.  The same goes for lunch and dinner.  Some days I'll wait until 3 or 4 to eat lunch, especially if I'm working late.  Other days, I'll eat earlier, like when I plan on cooking dinner and expect that I'll be eating a larger than usual dinner.

4.  I also often eat my biggest meal at lunchtime.  Pasta, eggs and sausage, potatoes, pretty much anything that's really filling and keeps me full.  Then, at dinner, my appetite is smaller, so I'm less likely to gorge.  And since I work evenings, I'm full before I go to work - since one of my jobs is delivering pizza, being full before work is pretty important.  That's not to say I don't ever nibble a slice or two of pizza; it just means I do so less often than if I relied on pizza as dinner.

5.  I drink lots of liquids.  No, I don't measure out eight gallons of water a day, or any nonsense like that - but I also don't wait until I'm thirsty to drink.  I just keep a glass within reach of the computer chair and sip every now and then.  Some people snack.  I drink tea or water.  Since thirst can be misinterpreted by the body as hunger, it prevents excess snacking.

6.  Speaking of, I try not to habit-snack.  Sure, I'll grab a handful of crackers when I do get hungry, but I don't keep bowls of junk food by the computer.  Since I have to get up to nibble, I'm less likely to do so unless I'm actually hungry - thus, no habit-eating.

7.  I don't deny myself sweets, I just eat them slowly.  This seems pretty counter-intuitive: after all, aren't sweets one of the reasons people gain weight?  But eating my chocolates one a time, and taking time to savor them, fills the sweets craving and makes me feel like I've had more than I had.  And since I don't deny myself, I also don't feel the need to splurge.  I do, however, take into account the approximate caloric count of the sweet.  If it's particularly high, I eat a lower-calorie dinner, like stew.

8.  Do I actually count calories?  Erm, not exactly.  But I try to have an approximate idea of how many I've had, and when I've had too few.  If I'm below a 1000, I will, in fact, actually force myself to eat more.  If I know I'm going to have a high-calorie item at some point in the day, I stick to lower-calorie options for the other meals.  If I'm losing more weight than I want and feel like I need to start gaining, I eat both a large lunch and a large dinner.  And yes, I do splurge.  If I'm going out to eat (which I do very rarely, about once or twice a month) I don't even count calories.  One meal doesn't ruin a lifestyle.  If, however, I ate out more often, I would take that into account.

9. Anything-goes meals.  Breakfast for dinner? If I feel like it.  Pasta for breakfast?  Sure, I need to eat those leftovers.  Yes, I usually do eat cereal for breakfast, but I'm not exclusive, which means I can switch out my highest calorie foods when I need to.

10.  I don't diet - all these things listed above are my lifestyle, and I'm not going to stop them as soon as I reach the weight I want.  That's the problem inherent with diets - they're temporary, so the results don't last.  And by telling myself that these eating habits will one day end, I adopt habits I don't want to keep in the long term, which means, of course, I won't.  So I eat in a style that I'm comfortable with, and don't deny myself the things I really want - I just make up for them.  Since I know my healthiest weight range (I try to keep between 125-134,) I also know when I need to lose - or gain - weight.  By tweaking my average daily calorie count, I can slowly add or subtract until I'm back in the middle of my zone.

I'll admit that I have a few natural advantages on the weight issue. I never stopped eating breakfast, and I never got in the habit of skipping meals, so I've kept a decent metabolism my whole life.  When I get stressed out, my appetite's the first thing to go, so I have a tendency to lose weight instead of gain it.  I also like vegetables (except bell peppers and okra), so I enjoy eating healthy foods, another bonus. I do, however, have to make sure I don't let my blood sugar drop, because that makes my brain slow down (seriously, if it gets too low, my speech starts to slur and I have trouble finding the words I want to use. I'm 99% sure that this is a bad thing, one of the main reasons I've never gotten in the habit of skipping meals.)

How do you keep in shape while writing?


  1. I don't pay as close attention as you do. I make sure I eat something every 3 hours to keep my metabolism up. If I'm not in an overly-busy spell, I have dance for exercise a few times a week. Sometimes I try and workout- I did P90x for about a month and a half (3/4 month's worth...I had problems with skipping days when I was busy or tired from working the day before). I've picked it back up now that I don't have classes to take or teach. I felt amazing last time I was well within the program.
    One thing that I've read really helps with keeping weight off- fidgeting. I read about a study where people who fidgeted tended to be a bit slimmer than people who didn't. I have a habit of fidgeting anyway, so I'm glad it does some good.
    There are some exercises you can do sitting down at your desk whilst writing, driving, etc... Training muscle for hip bumps (squeeze one glute, then the other), leg raises (hold one leg straight out as long as you can, switch and repeat), belly rolls...

  2. I've found that if I lean my seat back slightly while driving and then try to sit up straight without it, I build stomach muscle. Especially at stops, starts, and turns.

    P90X has lots of great reviews, but it sounds like it takes a LOT of energy. 0.o Great job working with it! :) And good luck!