Nutrition

Lose Weight With a Busy Schedule

Hectic schedules and full-time jobs don’t have to get in the way of your weight loss. Stick to these tips from Health.com writer Tina Haupert to get past the roadblocks.

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A 9-5 commitment

When I decided to lose weight, I worked full-time in an office where I sat at a desk for 40 hours each week. I also worked part-time at a healthclub and took night classes to complete my Master’s degree. Monday through Thursday, I’d leave my house at 5 a.m. and not return until after 10 at night. Obviously, my schedule was a challenge, but I knew if I started to make excuses, I’d never lose the weight, so I toughened up and created a fail-proof plan that helped me drop more than 20 pounds. Here’s what helped me, and how it can work for you too.

Schedule your workouts

When I worked in an office, I used daily planner that kept me organized with all aspects of my life—from projects and school deadlines to grocery lists and social events. I wrote down everything, including my workouts. On Sunday afternoons I’d spend some time scheduling my workouts for the week, just like I would with other obligations.

I’d also pick a couple of group exercise classes at my gym and schedule them like appointments that I could not miss. Seeing my work week all laid out with plenty of time for exercise helped me to stick to my plan.

Become a morning exerciser

Late meetings, evening events, happy hour with colleagues—so many things got in the way of my evening workouts, so I became a morning exerciser. Working out first thing in the morning guaranteed that I fit it in before my day got carried away and excuses popped up.

Even though I’m naturally a morning person, becoming a morning exerciser was no easy task! The first few mornings were really hard, but the more I forced myself to do it, the easier it was and eventually it became a regular part of my routine.

 

Track calories

In the past, I halfheartedly kept a paper-and-pen food journal, but it was time-consuming and inconvenient to calculate all of those calories, so hundreds of them often went unaccounted for each day. So when I friend told me about a free online weight-loss journal that tracks calories, exercise, goals and progress, I knew it would make food journaling simpler.

Filling out my serving estimates online helped me realize that I underestimated portion sizes. Even though I was eating mostly nutritious foods, I was serving myself too much, so I began using measuring cups at home to learn how to identify a healthy serving.

Plan (and pack) your lunch

Every Sunday I sat down and planned a week’s worth of quick, travel-friendly lunches. Brown-bagging what I ate during the day meant I had more control over how many calories I consumed. Lunch could be leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with veggies and honey mustard.

Planning lunch ahead of time helped me stick with healthy options instead of buying a greasy slice of pizza nearby. Plus, once I bought the food and had it readily available in my kitchen, I had no excuse for not packing a nutritious lunch.

 

Keep healthy breakfast foods at work

I would keep a number of non-perishable, healthy breakfast options in my work desk. Many mornings, I’d bring a piece of fresh fruit from home (often a banana) and used hot water to make instant oatmeal. I kept various ingredients to mix in like dried fruit, sunflower seeds, nuts, and a jar of peanut butter in my desk, so I never had to think twice about planning my breakfast. When I got sick of eating oatmeal, I’d bring a different kind of fruit or a container of yogurt and mix in the same ingredients.

Leave healthy foods visible

Instead of hitting up the vending machine or office candy bowl for an afternoon snack, I bought five pieces of fresh fruit each week and displayed them on my desk on Monday morning. Whenever I wanted a snack, it was the first thing I saw, so I was able to keep my munchies light and nutritious. I also hated to see fresh food go to waste, so I never let a day go by without eating a piece, which helped keep my hunger steady so I didn’t overeat later in the day.

Make gym visits convenient

If getting to the gym was difficult or interfered with my work schedule, I knew I’d never go, so I joined a gym close to work. I could pop in before work, during my lunch break, or after I got off. The sight of other exercisers motivated me to get my butt in gear.

I made my exercise routine even more convenient by renting a locker at the gym. Having everything that I needed for a workout already at the gym kept me from making excuses and helped me stick to an almost-daily sweat schedule.

Plan workout dates with others

To switch things up with my workouts, I often asked my co-workers if they wanted to go for a run after work or a power walk on our lunch break. Having a fitness buddy to rely on really helped me get in a groove with my workouts and kept me motivated. Plus, exercising in a new way with someone else kept my workouts fun and exciting!

Abide by a one-drink rule

I created the one-drink rule for when I went out after work with co-workers. Happy hour was what got me in trouble with my weight in the first place (hello, beer and nachos!), so I knew I needed to treat these outings differently if I wanted to fit into my clothes again. (I also didn’t want to be the girl on a diet sipping seltzer water!)

My new go-to drink was white wine because I knew I’d savor and sip it slowly. Choosing the drink that took me the longest to consume saved me calories because I passed on a second round, and usually at that point most people were heading home.

Fit in a weekend workout

If I missed a workout during the work week, I made up for it by exercising on Saturday morning. Of course, I’d preferred to sleep in on the weekend, but my a.m. workout always started my weekend off on the right foot. Instead of snoozing the day away, I seized it, which felt great knowing that I could enjoy the rest of my weekend stress-free!