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October 3, 2023

Going Concern’s Guide to a Healthy Busy Season: Because No One Should Die at Work

a fat person grabbing their gut

We get tons of reader questions and while we can’t answer all of them, we want them anyway. Send us your best questions, career conundrums, and work-life problems to [email protected].

Not an inside tip, as much as a post suggestion: Busy season diet? What to eat, how to not be fat, etc.
This is important question. Sure, some of you can live like human garbage disposals and keep your svelte figures without exercising and thus become the envy of all your frumpy colleagues, but what about the rest of the desk jockeys out there? Sitting is killing you! Combine that with three (or more) square vending machine meals a day and you’ll be leaving work horizontally some day. No one wants to be like the BKD partner that died at his desk.
We will now do our best to offer some simple suggestions for two things that will help you navigate busy season and keep your fighting weight: 1) healthier eating and 2) less sitting.

Eating healthy during busy season

So let’s start with food. I’ll borrow something from Michael Pollan that you can use as a rough guide: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If plants don’t make up a good portion of your diet, then you’re putting yourself at greater risk for weight gain and other health issues. “But what if I’m not a liberal weenie like you, Caleb and don’t want to spend all my money at Whole Paycheck?” Fine, I understand. The good news is that healthy food really isn’t that expensive; here are 44 healthy foods that cost less than a dollar per serving and they include kale, apples, bananas, nuts, potatoes, and eggs. If you live in New York, spend some of that cash burning a hole in your pocket at the fruit stands. You can keep a bunch of apples in the fridge at work — they are very sturdy fruit, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad. You can also freeze bananas if you’re worried about them getting too brown. Keep some raw almonds, walnuts, or pecans around for an occasional snack too. If cheese is something you can’t live without, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to eliminate it from your life. Put it on salad. Eat it with your apples. Avoid Pizza Hut eating an entire bag of Babybels.
Now, I know the carnivores are saying, “I don’t eat any of that green shit. I NEED MEAT.” Okay, fine. Well, have you ever tried Brussels sprouts with bacon? Or kale with bacon? If not, you’re doing it wrong. OH SO WRONG. If you MUST have a burger once in a while, don’t skip the garnish (yes, the plants) and maybe add avocado. I realize you’re not probably going to whip this stuff up at the office, but experimenting with healthier foods may help you break through your picky habits and you may discover stuff you never knew you liked. Then it becomes a staple.  If you’re still not convinced that you can eat healthier food, check out this Lifehacker post for more ideas. It’s NOT a hopeless cause.
One of the easiest things to do during busy season to avoid bad eating habits is never be hungry. No, I’m serious. For starters, it will also prevent you from turning into Joe Pesci. But more importantly, people get in trouble when they don’t eat something for hours on end because they’ve been engrossed in some number-crunching exercise at their desk; all of a sudden the hunger pains strike and they rush out to inhale two Subway footlongs (er, 22 inches of sub). After that, they’re useless for the rest of the day (and night). Eat breakfast, drink lots of water, keep plenty of healthy snacks1 around, avoid big lunches, and if you’re really ambitious, bring your dinner and skip on ordering in. It’s fine if you cheat now and then, but if you’re cheating more than once a week, then you’re sorta defeating the purpose.

Find time for physical activity no matter how busy you get

The easiest thing you can do to keep your health from deteriorating on a daily basis is to stand more/sit less. “Whatever. I hit the gym five days a week.” That’s very impressive. Too bad studies have found that it doesn’t matter:
It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
Also, we don’t believe you are actually hitting the gym five days a week during busy season. Ten minutes in the sauna after five on the treadmill doesn’t count.
Okay, now that we’ve established that sitting for extended periods of time is very, very bad for you, how do you sit less? Ideally, TPTB would get all of you standing desks. That’s unlikely, though PwC did install some walking workstations in some of its offices ten years ago. We mocked said walking workstations as too metaphoric a reminder that the Big 4 grind is a hopeless hamster wheel (that’s what we do here) but it is a good sign that the word is out that spending 14 hours on your ass is NOT a good for you. One other idea that is mentioned over at Lifehacker is to use a small water glass. This will force you to get off your Herman Miller more times per day and it will keep you hydrated (also kinda important for good health).
Of course you should still try to get some exercise in when you can. Many cities have bike sharing programs, so if the weather isn’t too awful in your area it should be open (here in Denver, the program is in hibernation until March). Memberships aren’t unreasonable so you underpaid first-years can probably afford it. Plus bikes are fun and sitting in traffic BLOWS. SITTING. We just told you how bad that is.
Most people have their preferred exercise routines, but what if busy season derails that routine? Even in the busiest of seasons you can make some time for a few squats, a quick walk around the block, or even just a deep stretch. It won’t exactly pump you up but it will encourage a little more blood flow and, most importantly, keep you moving. If you aren’t already using a standing desk, be sure you’re getting up out of that chair at least once an hour. Swap your office chair for an exercise ball to keep that core strong. Hell, dig the Thighmaster out of your mom’s basement and give that a go for an afternoon, see if that doesn’t get the ole blood pumping.
If you’re REALLY serious about exercise, you could always look up the Deloitte bodybuilder and make him goals. No doubt he’ll have ideas for sticking with the routine during busy season.
As we said at the start, you can boil a healthy busy season down to two key things: 1) eat less junk; 2) sit less. How you accomplish those things are up to you. Have some busy season survival strategies of your own you want to share with the class? Shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to share the wisdom. As soon as we’re done with these reps.
1 Just becauseFruit Rollups” have the word “fruit” in their name doesn’t mean they are healthy.

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