The first year I worked from home felt like college all over again. There was too much food. Too much temptation. And since it wasn’t some industrial cafeteria doing the cooking – from last night’s chicken piccata to homemade banana bread – the food was actually first rate. I gained seven pounds.
I shed them by changing my habits. By reverting to meals rather than snacks. By working in a room other than the kitchen. And by starting every day possible with a five mile run. But there are some days when an oh-so-fattening PB&J (on toasted whole wheat with sour cherry jam and a big glass of milk) still call my name.
So to try to tackle this once and for all – yes, this post is as much for me as it is for you – I decided to call upon Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of the upcoming book The Small Change Diet, which will be out in March 2011. Here, the tricks she uses herself (she also runs her business out of a home office):
- Eat more often. This seems a little backwards, but if you eat every three to four hours, instead of three square meals a day, you’ll likely find you have more self control. “The longer you wait to eat, the hungrier you’ll be, and if you don’t have a set schedule in mind, you might find yourself strolling into the kitchen a little two often,” she explains. You don’t have to stick to the same schedule every day, because if you’re anything like me, your lifestyle varies. I’m often up very early, so Keri says I should have a snack between breakfast and lunch. On days I sleep a little later, or wait to eat until I get the kids off to school, I’ll probably be fine going without that snack.
- Stock your fridge. With healthy options, of course. I know you’re thinking fruits and vegetables, and those are fine to grab if you’re not necessarily hungry, but just want to munch (I like to cut them up ahead of time, so they’re ready to eat). But if you truly need a snack, a fruit or vegetable alone isn’t satisfying enough, says Gans. “That’s why you find yourself wanting more and more. You want to find something balanced, that will hold you over until the next meal. Whole grain crackers with some natural peanut butter is a good idea, or, since you’re home, you can heat up a cup of bean soup.” The idea is to combine fat, protein and some carbohydrates, so if you want to have those vegetables, dip them in a little bit of peanut butter or hummus. And when even that won’t do the trick, 100 calorie snacks are lifesavers. My new favorite: Kellogg’s Special K Strawberry Crisps. They tasted just like a toasted Pop-Tart. And for the 100 calories, you get two!
- Don’t skip meals. If you’re like me, you get “in the zone” and work right through lunch. It’s hard to break at a point like this, but it’s important to eat a balanced meal (or at least a sandwich), instead of snacking through the day. “If you just graze all day, you wind up consuming way more calories than if you take the time to sit down and walk away from what you’re working on,” says Gans. You also don’t get the mental satisfaction of eating – which is why dietitians regularly advize people not to eat standing in front of the fridge, or in front of the computer or television – so you might still have the urge to chew. If you truly can’t step away to fix something, try having a snack now and your lunch mid-afternoon, when you’d normally have the snack. P.S. Frozen meals are fine.
- Find another distraction. I know when I’m having writers block, it helps to step away for a little while and come back to it with a fresh mindset. Sometimes that means I end up in the pantry. To avoid that result, try to think of another activity that functions the same way. Take your dog for a walk around the block, do a few quick chores around the house (although don’t start cleaning a closet – you’ll get stuck there and never get back to work), catch up on the latest headlines, paint your nails, call a friend - whatever it takes to keep you out of the kitchen.
- Look on the bright side. Yes, it’s hard to keep your hands out of the fridge. But working from home certainly has its perks. First of all, you have a full kitchen at your disposal, and you can use it to prepare healthy meals and snacks. Second, you don’t have the endless stream of birthday parties – and cakes – that constantly pop up at the office, and no one is bringing in the leftover brownies they made over the weekend or treating the office to donuts. And third, there’s less temptation to go out to lunch with co-workers on a daily basis, or take an afternoon frappuccino break.
Jean Chatzky, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is the financial editor for NBC's "Today," a contributing editor for More magazine, and a columnist for The New York Daily News. She is the author of six books, including her newest, Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved. Check out Jean's blog at JeanChatzky.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
American Express OPEN and Courtyard Hotels have teamed up to provide a 5% discount at participating properties across the U.S. To learn more, go to http://www.marriott.com/opensavings.
OPEN Savings®: Payment must be made with an American Express® Business Card at the time of purchase; savings will be credited to your account. Maximum annual savings for each Marriott brand is $1,500 per Card account. Other restrictions and limitations may apply. Subject to offer terms and conditions located at opensavings.com. Merchant participation and offers are subject to change without notice.