How Not to Get Fat at Work: Miami Dietician Lisa Eichenbaum Weighs In

Categories: Beet Reporter
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In my first real desk job, I worked as an editorial assistant at a travel company proofreading a thousand-page resort directory, making sure words like "laundry facilities" were spelled and spaced correctly. Yes, that sucked, but it wasn't the worst of it. The worst was having to sit in my cubicle day after day, hour after hour.

Requiring people to sit in a chair for more than half their waking hours is against the natural "movement patterns of our ancient forebears," as Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, might put it.

All the sitting made me miserable. And more troubling still were the extra pounds I saw creeping onto my ass and thighs as a result of my desk jockey-dom. While chained to a desk, someone of my height and weight only burns about 50 calories per hour. That means I needed a mere 400 to 450 calories to get through the workday. That's the approximate number of calories in a typical 6" Subway sandwich, without any cheese, mayo, or sauces. Add in a 300 calorie breakfast (cereal, soy milk, banana) and a few snacks, and the average worker could easily be looking at a minimum of 500 unused calories per workday, if she doesn't consciously try to battle the bulge. Since 3,500 calories constitute a pound, at this rate the typical desk drone could tack on a pound of fat every seven workdays.

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Is this what you're hiding under that three-piece suit? (God, I hope this pic doesn't come up under my name in a Google image search...)
My solution? I decided to allow myself to eat as much healthy food as I wanted while at work, but as soon as I punched out, I stopped eating for the day. It was a little extreme, but it worked. With the help of evening runs, I lost every pound I'd gained and more.

I know not everyone will be willing to quit eating at 5 or 6 p.m., five days a week. But the truth remains that while working the average desk job, most people are going to have to actively try to not get fat. So I went to a nutritionist for more ideas on how to avoid packing on those unsightly and unhealthy "keyboard kilos."

Lisa Eichenbaum, MS, RD, LD, is a dietician and nutritionist practicing in Coral Gables. She said she had personally experienced the "body shock" of transitioning from an active job to a desk job. "If you don't make the effort not to, you will definitely gain weight," she said.

When people eat more calories than they burn, they get fatter. Most people know this, but this knowledge is only helpful once you actually know your calorie needs. Eichenbaum pointed out that there are calculators online whereby people can enter their gender, height, weight, age, and activity level to compute approximately how many calories they're going through. This, coupled either with old fashioned calorie counting or a calorie counting app, can help people avoid work-related weight gain caused by a calorie surplus.

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