5 Little Changes to Help You Lose Weight When You Go Back to the Office

These simple tweaks can help you lose weight that you might have gained working from home.

The coronavirus pandemic opened our eyes to many things, including how much our environment affects our health—for better or worse. Perhaps you gained weight because you sat at a desk at home all day versus moving around in an office. Or maybe you lost weight while working from home because you had more time to fit in your workouts and make healthy food.

Whether you want to lose the weight you gained or maintain your weight loss, these five small changes will get you there. You don't have to do them all at once. Start with whichever one seems easiest for you and layer the others as you go. Consistency is key, but consistency doesn't mean being 100% perfect all the time, so give yourself grace if you "fall off." Get back at it when you're ready, one habit at a time.

Here are five little changes to help you lose weight.

A woman's hands packing a lunch to take to work
Getty Images / Vladimir Vladimirov

1. Fuel yourself with breakfast

Don't slide back into your old habit of skipping breakfast as you rush out the door. A 2020 meta-analysis in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that skipping breakfast was associated with overweight and obesity. Plan ahead, both by having high-protein breakfast foods on hand and by waking up earlier so you have time to eat. We even have some make-ahead high-protein breakfast recipes for an easier, healthier morning to help. Eating a breakfast packed with protein, fiber and healthy fat will not only help you concentrate better at work, it will also prevent dips in blood sugar and carb cravings later in the day.

Aim for roughly 8 to 10 grams of fiber and 20 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast. This combo, along with some healthy fat, slows digestion and leads to a steady rise in blood sugar, giving you energy for hours. Oatmeal, berries and whole-wheat toast are full of fiber. Getting enough protein can be more difficult. Add a small scoop of protein powder into your coffee for an extra 5 to 10 grams. Or make two eggs, which together have 12 grams of protein. Pair with avocado toast on whole-wheat bread for healthy fat and fiber. A half-cup serving of Greek yogurt packs about 13 grams of protein. Try 2% or whole-milk Greek yogurt to stay full longer, and choose brands that are lower in sugar.

2. Bring your lunch

You are probably already in the habit of making lunch due to work-from-home life. All you have to do now is get a cute lunchbox, pack it up and take it to work. Yes, this will require a bit more time and preparation, but it could save you hundreds of calories at your midday meal. Restaurant and café lunches serve up bigger portions than what you'd make at home, which means more calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium and sugar.

This doesn't mean you can't ever eat out. But both calories and money will add up if you do it every day. Choose one day each week that you'll scoop up your favorite salad from a nearby café, and then bring lunch from home the other days. Don't know what to bring? Leftovers make life easy, or make a soup or slow-cooker meal on Sunday and portion it out for the week. Bagged salad kits are a convenient way to get vegetables in: just add an easy protein source like edamame, beans or tuna. Sandwiches are simple too; just be sure to pile on the vegetables like arugula, tomato and cucumbers. Opt for a whole-wheat bread or wrap for a boost of fiber.

Try it: A Month of Healthy Meal-Prep Lunch Ideas for Work

3. Take a walk

Don't fall prey to TikTok diet crazes and detoxes before trying this simple habit: walking. One reason people gained weight during the pandemic was because pre-2020, they were racking up 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day without even realizing it. You'd walk to the train or car, walk into work, walk around the office, walk to get lunch, walk to the car, walk from the parking lot to the gym and so on and so forth until you got home. When COVID-19 forced many of us to work from home, people's steps plummeted to 2,000 to 5,000 per day, and they lost daily calorie burn they didn't realize they had before.

Before you get overwhelmed by the prospect of going from 2,000 to 10,000 steps per day, take comfort in a recent study that showed the sweet spot may actually be closer to 7,000 steps per day, or about 3.5 miles. This won't be as hard to get as you think once the office opens up. Whether you live in the burbs or commute on train, bike or foot, your daily steps will naturally increase when you head back to work.

If you got into a routine of scheduling walks while working from home, keep that up once your office opens. Decide if you'll walk before or after work, take a walk at lunchtime or perhaps all of the above. Small changes add up, so you don't have to walk for 30 to 45 minutes straight. Break it up into two or three 15-minute jaunts. Not only will the scale start to move but you'll also clear your head and be more productive throughout your workday. Also, make sure to have a pair of podiatrist-approved walking shoes.

Try it: This Easy Walking Plan Can Help You Lose Weight—No Gym Required

4. Schedule your workouts

Scheduling workouts is always important if you want to increase your chances of doing them. But it will be even more crucial when you return to the office. That's because you're unfortunately going to lose time in your day due to commuting again.

First, decide what you are going to do. Will you return to taking classes at an exercise studio? Will you hit up the gym? Or will you continue doing at-home workouts? Next, decide when you will work out. It's OK if your routine is different after working from home for over a year (most of ours are). If you now prefer to sleep in and exercise in the evening, go for it. Whatever time you will do it is the best time to schedule it.

Utilize weekends and work-from-home days to your advantage. If you're only headed into the office two days a week, perhaps don't schedule workouts those days and instead work out on the days you are home. Short on time? The most effective combo will be HIIT-style workouts that incorporate strength training with bursts of cardio, along with walking daily.

5. Be aware of your booze intake

Remember after-work happy hours with co-workers? If you're a social drinker, you may have seriously slashed your alcohol intake during the pandemic. Now that you're back to work, you may find yourself with endless invitations to meet up for drinks. Be mindful that calories from booze can add up quickly. One 5-ounce glass of wine, one 12-ounce beer and 1.5 ounces of liquor have around 120 calories. And then there's the food that comes alongside—typically refined carbohydrates like chips and fries that can get stored as fat when eaten in excess. Here's a not-so-fun fact: when you're drinking alcohol, your body stores calories from the food you're eating because it's prioritizing getting rid of the booze.

While you don't have to abstain altogether, put systems in place to make the healthy choice the easy choice. For example, perhaps you limit yourself to a certain number of nights during the week that you go out. Enjoy one cocktail instead of two or three. Pack a healthful snack you can have in the afternoon before going out so you don't show up starving to a table of tasty apps. And remember to drink water throughout the day and when you're out.

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