Hello, your insurance company called. They want your baggy pants back.

Recently, I blogged about the realities of working at home for many women over 40 and offered some initial tips on how to relieve the bleak boredom of it all, not to mention staying alert to the physical challenges of working at home.

Here’s a wake-up call you can’t ignore: Statistics from Aetna, the insurance giant, show people telecommuting for work gain weight faster and have a harder time losing it than those who go to work every day! We tend to underestimate the expenditure of energy it takes to get up, get showered, get ready, get dressed and get out the door – all the mundane tasks we don’t really think of as physical exercise but which burn calories. Hey, just blasting a hair dryer for 14 minutes during weeks when I’m sorely overdue at my hairdresser’s causes me to fume to the point where I just know I’m burning up some extra calories!

File:RIAN archive 555848 Testing on treadmill.jpgEven if you don’t have time for a full-fledged workout, heed the advice of Dr. Mehmet Oz, and other respected physicians, and pursue N.E.A.T. moves. N.E.A.T. is short for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” – a really heavy-duty (no pun intended) word meaning that small bursts of activity can definitely help you burn more calories (that’s what thermogenesis means) than just sitting with the remote (and in remote) cracking open pistachios.

Slate Online published an article on December 31 of 2012, “Why telecommuting may destroy your work/life balance,” in which it states, “47 % its U.S. employees work from home every day.” Slate, and other research indicates that 24/7 screen time not only takes away from our physical activity, but interferes with sleep, which then negatively impacts our ability to do productive work! Aetna found that its telecommuters tended to be heavier, so the company now provides an online personal trainer to help them stay in shape [i]

Food manufacturers always get blamed for making people fat, but they could be a boon to consumers who want to think inside the box when planning healthful meals. Frozen processed foods, eaten in moderation, are a secret weapon of people who really want to lose weight but hate the whole planning, measuring, chopping, cooking and clean-up work. When I lost 60 pounds several years ago, and managed to keep all but 7 pounds off, I relied a lot on frozen meals. I would much rather spend my creativity on real work rather than cooking and cleaning. Besides, all that prepping tends to make me munch between chopping, since it takes so much time before I actually sit down to eat my meal!

The key benefit of frozen meals is portion control. If Lean Cuisine and similar lines are too “mini-meal” for you, add a big salad, cut your dressing with lemon juice and make sure you have satisfying vegetables with your meal. Bottom-line is that the food industry doesn’t lift that high calorie snack bar or bag of chips to your mouth again and again. And, if you’re not commuting regularly and your office is in or near the kitchen, it’s just too easy to grab the snacks and lose perspective.

Get dressed in clean, pressed clothes every day. Yes, seriously. I know it’s been said before – in some good ways, actually: “Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up” or from Woody Allen, “80% of life is just showing up.” You may be fighting some depression, some rejection, some anxiety, or even winter’s SAD disorder (Seasonal Affective Disorder- try some full spectrum light bulbs for that). But this can help: put on real clothes, it doesn’t have to be a corporate suit or dress, but something that makes you look put together. Do your hair and put on some lipstick. It will change your whole mindset, lift your spirits, make you feel better about yourself, and prepare you for the day in a way that working in your pajamas just can’t.

As a sign that people of all ages and geographies are embracing this as a productivity concept, so-called Formal Fridays are taking off across corporate America! Tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley instigated a backlash idea: wear a suit on Friday. Talk about an about-face.

File:Skinny20080428.jpgHang up your “5-pounds-ago” jeans (or slinky dress, etc.) where you can see them all the time. I don’t mean your skinny-skinny-skinny jeans that would require liposuction for you to get back into, but something attainable that will help keep you out of the refrigerator or the cookie jar. A colleague of mine hung hers OVER the refrigerator, so that she would have to actually move the jeans in order to open the door to the fridge. May be a bit extreme, but she swears it mortified her into shape!

Consider getting a Soda Stream water carbonator. No, I’m not paid by them, nor do I have shares in the company. It’s just a really good idea. Coffee with sugar and cream in it, fruit juice, lattes and sodas, all have calories that we forget to count, and come with other negative health effects. Instead, Soda Stream will help you drink more calorie-less plain seltzer water with ice, or lightly flavored with a touch of lemon, lime, grape juice, etc. without having to lug containers, bottles, or cans back and forth from the store. And you get the beneficial refreshing effects of water.

Set a timer to go off once an hour to take a break. So many of us are as focused as we are sedentary, even eating our lunch at desk or table. The New York Times published an interesting article in the October 17 2012 edition, entitled, “Get up. Get out. Don’t sit.” It presents two recent research studies which prove sitting for hours at the computer is extremely unhealthy for us! [ii] Every hour, when your timer dings, get up, run up and down the stairs, or do a few minutes with the jump-rope. Even do ten pushups and ten sit ups, if this doesn’t leave you in a sweaty heap. It is the movement, the increase to your circulation and metabolism that we are after here. Some blood to the brain. Refresh and recharge and feel better.

These are just a few ways to accentuate the positive, focusing on the things to actually do rather than not do, to charge yourself up and trim yourself down. Whether you’re working from home temporarily, or it’s a more long-term lifestyle choice, make sure you get yourself in a productive work mindset, get dressed, put on some music, keep moving and refresh your brain at least once an hour.

As for those baggy pants, tell your insurance company they’re just for sleeping – which you try to do for at least 7 hours! All the better to preserve and protect your middle-aged mind!

 


[i]http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/12/telecommuting_may_be_terrible_for_your_work_life_balance.html

Working at Home over 40 – Fast Track to Middle-Aged Wasteland?

gray haird woman computerWorking from home, on your home, or partial telecommuting?  With each passing year I meet more and more people who work from home for a variety of reasons, and despite what might seem like oceans of free time or an infinite flexibility in managing one’s own time, the reality is often the exact opposite.  And, what often suffers in all the time constraints is one’s own physical and emotional health.  Even if your home-based reality is for the most part a pleasant one, there are going to be days when all you want to do is pull on the sweatpants, slash open the potato chips, and giggle through a marathon of Modern Family reruns! 

Not only is the middle-aged mind a terrible thing to waste, but your mind is a muscle that needs rebooting all the time! So, let’s accentuate the positive in looking at why women over 40 are working from home and how to make the environment more conducive to physical and psychological health.    There are many productive and positive reasons women over 40 work at home, and many ways to offset the challenges that come with being “marooned” in a home office.  Here are just a few:

Some women are working in their own businesses, or working with employers whose business models enable working from home, whether it’s full-time at home or flex-time.   If you don’t have to report to an office even part of the time, that’s all the more reason to get out to breakfast, lunch or drinks with colleagues or other people in your industry.   

Many women are working on their homes, or inside their homes, in some way while also earning a living.  Working on a home could mean prepping for a sale, or downsizing and the clearing out that comes with both those transitions.  Or, it could involve taking care of children and elderly parents – many boomers are doing both while also working full time.  I had my own share of that all last year when my husband and I were trying to sell the lovely 200-year old Colonial we loved but had outgrown, and I had to commute back and forth from the north Jersey suburbs to our new home in Manhattan, where I also worked.      

During really hectic times in your life, push yourself to carve out time just for you.  I force myself to a gym several mornings a week, setting the alarm for 5AM, or go for a brisk walk while it’s still really early, just so that I don’t spend my entire day doing something for someone else.   

Some women are working at home only until they land a new position in an office, a situation that makes it all the more important to be in “work-style mindset.”   Job-hunters are the women I empathize with the most, because their identities are about work (work clothes, work habits, work skills), and they can’t predict how long the job search might be.  Prepping or waiting for calls or emails about leads, decisions and other search issues often happens at home for some women.    And, those are the days when it takes Herculean effort to bound out of bed, get to the gym, or outdoors.  For sure, those are the days when you have to get out of the sweatpants and plan on healthful foods that will make you actually feel good, and schedule meetings outside your home.  Better than hanging out at home or your local coffee shop consuming high-fat, high-salt or sugary comfort foods.

In the winter months when the weather is bleaker, it’s worse – but you have to get over it and get out!  I get invited to lots of networking events – I could be out every night of the week!  Some are well worth the outing, but others are not as productive.  Regardless, I still push myself to go out on most nights.  It’s just too tempting to hunker down in the biggest baggiest clothes I have and not even consider the thought of washing my hair, let alone putting on makeup!  And those are the days that my time management habits go out the window, because I feel an expansive day ahead where I have all the time in the world to just “wallow.”  Forget about it!  I DARE you to just make yourself go.  Interacting with other people – especially people who are different than you, is the best way to engage your social skills, broaden your horizons and make you more productive in your work at home. 

Don’t let that precious middle-aged mind of yours go to waste! 

PART TWO COMING SOON:  a wake-up call you can’t ignore from top health experts.