We know you already know about balanced diet and moderate exercise, and we trust you’re working towards making it a daily practice. Now if only there weren’t those demotivating days... You know, the ones when you rush from one meeting to the next, with no time to segue from conference room to gym.
“The basic problem today is so much of work stress in everyone’s life, and no time,” says Lalitha Sekhar, senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, and part of the core team running its Wellness Check programme. And that is why you need a Plan B—the “next best” alternative—for “those days”, when you’re unable to do what is ideal, but don’t want to default into something you know to be patently wrong for your body.
Work out a compromise: When there’s no time for the gym, find ways to do double duty at your desk.
Breakfast: You burn off more calories at the start of the day as the body is dynamic through the day and slows in the evening. “The importance of breakfast is undisputed,” says Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and director, Whole Foods. Giving breakfast a miss will not only mess up your weight loss plan, but leave you less effective at work—not much of a time saver when every task takes longer.
But what do you do when you have no time to sit down to a big, relaxed, king’s breakfast? Grab a fruit—an apple, a pear, bananas or a few cherries. Now you have no excuse to go without breakfast.
In-betweens: For days when you can’t even stop for that, store Ziploc bags of freeze-dried fruits—from raisins, apricots and figs to cranberries, strawberries and papaya—in your handbag or office cabinet. Freeze small bags of carrot sticks to grab and have on the go. Throw in a bag of granola, a couple of bags of mixed nuts and seeds (such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds) and you’ll never go hungry again.
Dried fruit, whole nuts, roasted snacks and low-fat yogurt also make great snacks when you can’t stop for lunch, says Khosla. Spiced chana, soya flakes, roasted bajra or even peanut chikki are better when hunger gnaws and the call of the samosa or chocolate biscuits in the conference room is at its loudest.
But don’t make a habit of choosing dried fruit over fresh fruits. The vitamin and mineral benefits of raw fresh foods are overwhelming, says Dr Sekhar. These options are better than succumbing to processed or fast foods, but really, “there is no short cut to fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Khosla.
Working lunch: At the canteen or at a business buffet, if the salads and fruits seem scarce, make the most of dishes (even curries) with vegetables, yogurt, juices, relishes and chutneys. It’s better than living on fried chicken, chips and mayo.
Dinner to go: Once you’re back home and dinner’s in the making, instruct the cook to make extra wholewheat rotis with grated or puréed veggies added to the dough, says Khosla. Leftovers can be easily wrapped in foil and these soft rolls are perfect for eating on the go or at work.
We all know how important exercise is—even if we can’t find our way to the office gym. So how can we remain committed to our 12-hour days and yet get the minimum half-hour of exercise that experts believe is necessary for health? By doing it one step at a time, literally.
Cardio by the way: “You can use the stairs instead of taking the elevator from the basement parking, or deliberately park farther away and walk,” says Anil Chhikara, fitness instructor and assistant general manager at Gold’s Gym in New Delhi.
To make up for your missed morning walk, both Chhikara and fitness trainer Rajinder Rana, who has a master’s degree in physical education and sports (MPE) and manages the Lite Zone gym at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, recommend breathing exercises such as the Kapalbhati Pranayama, which behaves like a cardio workout even while you sit still.
Metabolism boosters: Another option is to stand while working on your laptop (place it on a mid-height cabinet) instead of sitting at your desk. “If you are standing, your body is immediately in active mode. Sitting makes your body go into sedentary mode and your metabolic rate slows down,” says Chhikara, who also has an MPE. When you take a break, stay dynamic and keep moving, he suggests, recommending on-the-spot jogging and simple stretches by your workstation.
Stretch or suffer: “Walking up and down the office corridors during the lunch break, standing up in your cubicle and stretching—these are very important,” Dr Sekhar says, adding that busy executives who sit in front of computers day after day suffer from neck and back issues if they don’t stretch.
Burn more calories: Rana also recommends walking around the office or home as much as possible—get your own coffee from the machine, take files over to a colleague yourself, go over for a chat rather than sending an email, and ban the TV remote for changing channels. Get up from that couch if you want to change channels.
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