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To Your Health

Keep from packing on the pounds while working in a home office with these easy-to-follow tips.

Question: I love working from home, but I have one complaint: I'm snacking my way through the day, and my waistline is growing. How do I keep myself away from the cupboard?

Answer: While some find it easier to maintain a healthy weight at home, away from vending machines, doughnut pools and heavy power lunches, you're not the only homebased entrepreneur who has found yourself packing on the pounds when the kitchen is just down the hall. Here's what we suggest:

1. Take note. Awareness of what and when you're eating is the first step to breaking a bad snack habit. So keep a log of how often you snack, and pay attention to what and when you eat. Deepak Chopra, physician and author of Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, advises eating only if you're actually hungry and never eating mindlessly. Snack consciously instead.

2. Recognize your snack pattern, and find substitutes. As you take note of when you want a snack, also note what's motivating your desire to snack. Some people are stress eaters. Others are boredom eaters. Eating doesn't actually solve either of these problems, so you'll quickly become hungry again if these are your motivations. The best protection against snacking too much is to make sure you enjoy your work to the point that you forget about food until mealtimes. But also find other ways to avoid and reduce stress. Many people discover that taking a walk outdoors or talking on the phone with a friend are actually more energizing and rewarding than eating between meals.

3. Have a plan. What are the parameters you want to set for snacking? How many snacks make sense? Some people don't snack at all. Others like to keep the standard morning and afternoon break pattern of the corporate workplace. Still others savor preserving the traditional after-school snack they used to have around 4 p.m.

4. Rethink your break activities. We tend to think there are only a few things we have permission to take a break for, and eating is one of them. So take advantage of the fact that you have more flexibility with your schedule when you work from home, and use your break time to relax or energize in your favorite ways, whether it's playing with the baby, walking the dog, shooting some hoops or working in the garden.

5. Keep food out of sight, out of mind. Not only is food at the desk risky for your electronic desktop, but when it comes to food, out of sight is out of mind. It's easier to overlook the fact that you've nibbled away a whole bag of potato chips when you're working than if you have to go into the kitchen, sit down at the table and have an official snack. Here are a couple of other habits some entrepreneurs use to avoid raiding the fridge:

  • To keep from walking in and out of the kitchen all day for a cup of coffee, where you may invariably grab a cookie to eat along with it, set up a coffee maker in your office. Keep all the necessary supplies-cups, bottled water, coffee and so on-in a small cabinet.
  • Close the kitchen door on your way to work, and think of the kitchen as a restaurant. It's only open between noon and one, and after five o'clock.

6. Toss the junk food. Unlike office vending machines, your kitchen cabinets can be filled with whatever you choose. This is another plus for working from home. So fill your cabinets and refrigerator with healthy, low-fat, low-calorie, whole foods. If nutrition is what your body is seeking, whole, unprocessed foods like an apple or a bowl of strawberries with raw nuts is far more satisfying than a bag of salty chips or sugary cookies. Junk food not only packs on the pounds with empty calories, but its salty or sugary nature also leaves us wanting more.

Should you think "I'd rather not eat than have something healthy like that," chances are, you aren't really hungry. You need something other than food. Find out what, and treat yourself to that.

7. Make sure you get enough contact with people you enjoy. However busy you are, make time in your workday for some kind of interpersonal contact. An office with other people provides stimulation, company and colleagues to share problems with. Working at home can be lonely, but the loneliness doesn't have to lead to overindulgence. Instead of heading for the kitchen, head for the telephone. Call someone. Schedule lunch with a colleague. Visit a neighbor. Invite someone to come by.

8. Exercise regularly. Working from home is usually pretty sedentary, and sluggish bodies don't metabolize food well. Having more time and flexibility to exercise is yet another advantage of working from home. So discover your favorite forms of aerobic as well as anaerobic activity. You might choose going to the gym several times a week, bicycling, jogging, yoga classes, tennis or the classic favorite, golf. Or why not set up a home gym? Step machines, mini-trampolines, treadmills, weight systems, and even rowing machines come in home-size models.

9. Treat yourself. People often bribe themselves into overworking by overeating, so instead, schedule a variety of nonwork activities away from the house each week. They should be things you can look forward to, such as going to a movie, playing or attending sports activities, doing things with your family, volunteering for community projects or attending cultural events.

By adopting work-at-home habits like these, chances are you'll feel better and healthier at home than away. Many people actually drop unwanted weight and even reduce their blood pressure by working from home.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards' new book isThe Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Send them your questions at www.workingfromhome.com or in care of Entrepreneur.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the October 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: To Your Health.

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