Friday, October 22

Are you a 'mouse potato'?
By Sharon Howard, R.D., M.S., C.D.E. FADA Have you gained weight since you became a computer jock? Has food become more important than merely nourishment? An informal survey of 10 computer professionals revealed the hazards of being planted in front of a screen all day.

Nine of the 10 surveyed admitted they had gained significant weight since taking their job. They did not take time to eat right nor exercise regularly. Whether they worked at home or in an office, food was always available. Most nibbled while they worked, although two people surveyed did not eat at their computer to protect the keyboard.

Those that gained weight said that job stress made them crave junk food and sweets, and removed the motivation to exercise. Foods most frequently eaten to relieve stress were candy, cookies and salty crunchy foods like cheese curls, peanuts and fruit. The long sedentary hours caused one person to admit she got through the time wondering what to snack on next. Many admitted they had little interest or energy for cooking a balanced meal at the end of the day.

Do any of these peoples habits sound familiar? The pitfalls of the job can be avoided with a change in mindset and some basic planning. Here are some recommendations that may help you change the destructive behaviors.

Plan a Schedule
Think about how many hours a day you actually sit. Severe inactivity will make anyone bored, restless and flabby. Establish an effective daily routine that uses your time efficiently, and plan regular stretch breaks, mealtimes and exercise.

If you are working at home, mimic the office workday. Get up, exercise, get dressed and start working by 8:30. Take a 15-minute coffee/stretch break at 10:30. Stop for an hour lunch and some personal time. Plan a 3 p.m. break, and get away from the computer by 5:30. This may seem obvious, but some computer whizzes lose track of time and work through lunch, eat junk at 3:00, miss dinner with the family, and eat more junk in the evening.

Dinner is a transition from the workday. Tinkering around in the kitchen can be relaxing and rewarding -- you get to eat what you make! If you get to the grocery store regularly and have a good supply of healthy food on hand, you might enjoy cooking. It saves time and money, too.

Hunger Management
Pay attention to how hungry you really are. Hunger usually is described as a hollow, gnawing feeling in the stomach. We also eat for other reasons beyond hunger. Appetite is mouth hunger: You just want to taste and eat the food just because it is good, not because you are hungry.

Habit is another reason to eat: Every time you walk by your co-workers desk, you just have to take a piece of candy from her candy jar. Lastly, it is well-known that sugar and sweets reduce stress by calming our nervous system.

Learn to recognize real hunger -- and eat only when hungry. And, strive to stop when the hunger has been satisfied; do not wait until you feel full -- that is probably too much food. If you think about eating, and you cannot identify any hunger, then try to determine why you want to eat: Do you need a break, a chat or a different task to work on?

Get Turned on to Good Food
As you make the daily work schedule, plan your meals and snacks. Take some fresh grapes or refreshing yogurt in to work to eat in the afternoon. Pack a low-fat lunch and spend some of the lunch hour walking instead of standing in line at the cafeteria. Resist the urge to eat out because you are too tired to cook; find a cookbook that offers quick dinners in 20 minutes. Increase the fruits and vegetables and lean protein in your diet, and decrease the fats and sweets.

Stress Management
Getting a little tense at that desk? Try a stretch break. Stand up in your office, reach down and touch the floor, bending knees slightly. Feel the stretch through your back and arms. Slowly roll up by uncoiling your spine. Cross your arms and stretch them up to the ceiling. Lower your arms, take a few deep breaths. Feel refreshed?

Because of the complexity of some programming, you often have to sit in concentration for a long time. Still, you are human; you have a limited attention span. Take a break and walk outside. Physical exercise will refresh your body and your mind, plus burn calories. You will be more alert when you return to work. You connect with the real world by getting outside; the computer screen can be dehumanizing.

If you are a computer jock, switch to a puzzle or e-mail a friend. Figure out what helps you clear your head and get back to work with a renewed vigor. Long unproductive hours do not help you or your employer. If you must take a food break, make a healthy food choice.

You must plan regular exercise. For all that sitting, your body needs aerobic movement a minimum of three hours a week. Fitness and muscle mass deteriorate fast, so make appointments with yourself to get moving!

Your work has the potential to be hazardous to your health. Take care of your body with exercise and diet.

The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No one should act upon any information provided in this website without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician.

 More from ESPN...
Disclaimer: Please read

Sports Nutrition archives