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Pound for Pound

Is the refrigerator calling you as often as clients do? Here's how to avoid the home office freshman 15.

Working out of your home may seem like such an ideal situation, you know there's got to be a catch somewhere. For some homebased entrepreneurs, that catch is the phenomenon known as the "freshman 15." Just like first-year college students who gain weight from bountiful buffets at the dorm and junk-filled vending machines just downstairs, these business owners complain that an office just one step away from the kitchen can lead to an expanding waistline.

Maybe you recognize the syndrome. You're bored. There aren't any diversions such as chatting with colleagues or a visit to the water cooler. So you start contemplating that leftover lasagna from dinner last night. Or perhaps you head kitchen-ward with virtuous thoughts of a diet soda, only to find yourself eyeing the cherry cheesecake sitting next to that Diet Coke.

For some, the effects can be both expensive and lingering. Sandi, who runs her desktop publishing company from her home, can attest to that.

"When I was working in an office with colleagues, I always had people to talk to when I was worried or bored. I used to walk with a work friend at noon. And of course I never worried about how frequently or how much I'd get paid," recalls Sandi (who declined to give her last name).

When she resigned to start her homebased business, however, life changed dramatically. "I felt isolated, worried about finances, and wondered if I'd made the right decision," Sandi says. "And instead of visiting with an office buddy or walking into the break room for some tea or water, the only handy diversion was the kitchen."

Seeking companionship and comfort, Sandi says she "found a new friend: Sara Lee. Pound cake and banana cake filled that gap. And of course Sara Lee's best buddies, Ben & Jerry, were great company, too."

Six months and 15 pounds later, Sandi was delighted when her business began to expand. The accompanying expanse of her waistline, however, didn't please her. She's now celebrating her "sophomore year" in business-but she's still battling the bulge that came during her first year. "I've had to buy all new clothes," she says ruefully.

Annaliese Furnas is a success coach, speaker and trainer who operates her business, Balanced Life Design, from her home in San Francisco. Although as a work expert, she knows the dangers of working exclusively from home, such as overeating or not exercising, she admits, "There have been times when that's been touch and go [for me]."

She's careful to plan her shopping and cooking each week around her schedule. "If it's going to be a heavy week, then I'll set some time aside during the weekend to prepare meals that can be quickly heated in the microwave or eaten on the run," says Furnas, 38. "That way I'm not always reaching for fast food or ignoring proper nutrition."

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