How to Diet With a Packed Schedule

If late-night meetings, indulgent lunches and an excess of stress have all conspired to make you pack on the pounds, then you probably already know that it’s time for a change. Your career might mean a lot to you -- but is it worth living an unhealthy lifestyle?

The good news is, it is possible to lose weight and get back to a healthier you, even when you have a packed schedule. Here are a few things you can do to start making it happen.

Fit in workouts where you can

With so many constraints on your time, you might think it’s impossible to find 30 to 60 minutes a day for working out. While it’s true that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, those 30 minutes don’t have to be all at once, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten minutes at a time works just fine. When work gets overly stressful or you need a break from a hectic home life, take 10 minutes out to go for a gentle walk or bike ride.

Don’t underestimate calming workouts

When your life is busy and full of stress, your body’s production of cortisol -- a stress hormone involved with the "fight or flight" response -- may be on overdrive. When you’re overproducing cortisol, your body wants to store fat to prepare for the perceived hard times it thinks it’s about to experience. When that’s the case, it’s no good to do really tough workouts, as they’ll cause even more of that fight or flight response. Instead of cranking out an hour running on the treadmill or an hour in spin class, consider other options that foster calming. Yoga and Pilates are both gentle exercises that can leave you feeling calmer, while at the same time helping you work out.

Prepare healthy snacks and meals ahead of time

When you’re overly busy, you’re more likely to grab a snack from the machine at work, or to indulge in high-calorie fast foods. Take away the temptation by preparing as many healthy foods as you can at the start of the week. Carve out a couple hours on the weekends to chop veggies and fruits, bake healthy breakfast bars, and put together the ingredients for a salad you can take to work. You can also assemble the makings of a healthy casserole that you’ll only need to pop in the oven when you get home. If you’re really pressed for time, look for a meal preparation service that considers calorie counts and will prepare everything for a relatively low cost. If the cost still seems too high, put out your own add on Craigslist, or put out the word within your community that you’re looking for someone to prepare meals for you one day a week.  

Find a workmate to join you

When you’re trying to lose weight, social support is crucial, reminds the American Psychological Association. For that reason, having an ally at work can be invaluable. Talk to some of your closest co-workers about the possibility of joining you in your quest. You don’t want your co-workers to be offended by the suggestion that they need to lose weight, however, so perhaps the best way to approach this is to send an email to a group of co-workers, instead of simply talking to one or two. In the best-case scenario, you’ll get more than one or two to join you -- which means even more support as you embark on your weight loss journey.

You may think that your life is too busy to commit to a healthy lifestyle -- but because health and wellness is so crucial to longevity and to a successful work life, you owe it to yourself to make the time.

Image courtesy Madgalena Roeseler, Flickr