October 2, 2022

Returning to the Office? Don’t Get Fat! (Again)

Creating the perfect mom/dad bod takes time. My dad bod developed after years of slouching in an office chair, ignoring exercise, and eating and drinking pretty much everything in sight.

By the ripe-old age of 35, my once bulging biceps migrated to my backside and my powerful pecs placidly plunged to meet and merge with “the keg” (formerly a toned six-pack). After once easily fitting into a 30×30 pair of jeans, the 36×30 pair only fit comfortably on good days.

The annual turkey bowl on Thanksgiving became what I satirically referred to as my “regular exercise.” I couldn’t keep up with the youngsters anymore, but I finally figured out the old-man tricks of throwing my weight around to compensate for my total loss of coordination and physical acumen. I set aside the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas for recovery.

Corporate office snack rooms destroyed me. As an auditor at a Big 4 accounting firm, many of my clients provided free everything when it came to food, soda, snacks, candysome even maintained their own cafeterias where employees (and visitors like me) could go get a meal whenever they wanted. I found myself making more and more trips to cafeterias and breakrooms for drinks, meals, snacks, and treats.

I often joked that a growing boy needs to be fed. While I never really grew up, I told people I was still growing out. Sadly, it was no joke.

One day, after climbing five flights of stairs after a big lunch, I found myself dizzy and completely out of breath. My world started swirling and I leaned against the stairwell door to avoid falling back down the stairs. How did this happen? I hobbled into the conference room with my team and mentioned that I really needed to get back in shape. Then I walked over to the snacks on the the shelf in the audit room and pulled down a couple more cookies, some Peanut M&M’s, and a pouch of fruit snacks.

One of my staff told me, “You really don’t look that bad. I mean, you’ve definitely got a dad bod, but you are a dad working in the corporate world, so it makes sense.”

I knew something was wrong and I finally went in to get it checked out. Turns out, I had type 2 diabetes.

The office environment comes prepackaged with stress (leading to higher blood pressure), a sedentary lifestyle (like sitting in an audit room for 14 hours a day with food always within reach), no exercise (walking to the breakroom for more snacks shouldn’t count), lack of sleep, constantly eating out, and getting fatter as a result of all these things combined. I had to turn things around, but I still had to go to the office.

In six months and with the support of my wife, son, and team, I lost 47 poundsalmost 25% of my body weight OR the equivalent of a medium-sized dog! The first 23 pounds came off while working at the office, and the rest came after offices shut down for COVID.

For many office workers (myself included), working from home during the pandemic certainly had some positive impacts on health: people used their old commute or lunchtime to exercise (or sleep in), the power naps were real (don’t deny it, you know you took a few), and many people (generally) ate healthier at home. Now that everyone is being forced back to the office, WE’RE ALL GOING TO GET FAT!!! (again)

We’ve all heard about sleep, exercise, and eating better, but here are six specific things that helped me in my journey to better overall health in the office:

1. Drink water at least 95% of the time. No soda, no juice, no smoothies, no coffee, tea, energy drinks, or alcohol. I know this sounds extreme, especially when all the good stuff is free at the office, but I lost 10 to 12 pounds in a matter of weeks just doing this.

2. Buy and use under-desk exercise equipment. I have an under-desk elliptical with magnetic resistance and I use it regularly. I used to hate listen-only conference calls. Now they are an opportunity to spin my legs and get my heart going a bit in my chair.

3. Ask for healthier snacks in the breakroom. Get to know your office manager or whoever stocks the breakroom, and ask for healthy options.

4. Plan your breakroom visits. Just like a grocery store, the longer you are inside, the more you buy. Know what you want before you get theregrab it and go.

5. Take a walk. I set a recurring calendar appointment to block out a half-hour three days a week to get up and walk around. Online, I look like I’m in a meeting and people don’t bug me. The truth is, most people will make up that half-hour in the efficiency they gain from moving around.

6. Ask others to help you be healthier. My wife and son quickly became the sugar police at home, and my team at work monitored what I took out of the breakroomand how often I went. Discipline has to start somewhere, and it is easier with positive peer pressure.

Whatever you do, make sure your return to the office doesn’t take your body back to your pre-pandemic dad or mom bod days!

About the author:

C.P. Aiden is a former Big 4 assurance senior manager who bounced between public accounting and industry three times during the past 15-plus years. After leaving public accounting for good, he wrote and self-published an office comedy series, “Waive Further Review,” about first-year audit engagement and subsequent financial statement restatement that pokes fun at the work, life, and culture inside today’s largest public accounting firms.

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome write-up C.P.! I think I like tip #4 the best, have a plan beforehand.

    I went so far in my last private industry job to tell one recruiter not to bring sweets when she’d visit, but a veggies & hummus tray instead.

    Another guy I follow on Twitter had a bold suggestion that would fit here: publicly offer $X (whatever amount will hurt) to anyone who catches you eating donuts or whatever else a client dropped off.

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