If you’re sitting there (probably at your desk) wanting to lose weight then you’re likely thinking the same thing as I was – what is the best way to lose weight sitting at a desk for 8 hours? Is it even possible? How the heck am I going to do this when my job requires me to be sitting all day?!
It’s a horrible realization to figure out that your job is the thing holding you back from losing weight. Because unless you’re a millionaire, you HAVE to work. So what can we do about it?
The problem with working at a screen all day is that it makes it incredibly hard to move your body and increase your daily activity. Although your mind is active all day, your body is not, and it’s one of the big reasons why sedentary lifestyles are so common.
Before I made changes to my working-from-home desk setup, I would be lucky to hit 2,500 steps per day from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. And that includes wrestling two small children into their PJs at the end of a long day and cooking a homemade meal every evening.
It. Is. Not. Easy. I get it.
If you search “how to lose weight” on Google you will find tips like…
Before I give you my REAL tried and tested advice on the best ways to lose weight when you’re sitting down all day, let’s look at some of the most common suggestions you’ll see online.
Take a walk on your lunch break
For those of us working from home, especially if self-employed, we’re lucky to take a 10-minute lunch break to, y’know, eat lunch and chances are this is done from your desk. Combine that with the fact it takes most people over 2 hours to walk 10,000 steps and this is not a viable solution for those of us working at a desk all day.
Drink plenty of water
I’m not going to knock this tip because it’s a good one but it’s not going to help you lose weight if you’re sedentary and struggling to hit a calorie deficit based on your activity levels.
Eat less calories than you burn
The last time I checked, MyFitnessPal was still placing people’s goal calories at 1,200 calories per day if they lived a sedentary lifestyle. And this is WAY TOO LOW for most of us to function. It’s always been a pet hate of mine with this incredibly popular calorie counting app because if you want to calorie count, it’s the best app for you, but I don’t recommend following their goals. Instead, use a TDEE calculator and override MFP’s calorie goal.
And even though this one IS good advice, your TDEE goal will still be low if you’re mostly sedentary with your desk job.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator
This is assuming your workplace even has this option AND that you don’t work from home. Poor, outdated advice that isn’t the reality for a lot of people. It’s also not going to help you lose weight unless you’re doing this multiple times per day in a HUGE building.
But none of this really answers the question “what is the best way to lose weight sitting at a desk for 8 hours or more?”. At a push, the calorie counting suggestion is the most likely to give you success but it comes at a huge price for your mental health when your target calories for the day will be incredibly low.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to lose weight while sitting at a desk for 8 hours…
First of all, if you want to read more about my personal weight loss journey and how it’s going, check out my desk job weight loss journey posts. This is proof that the things I’m doing (and about to suggest to you) will work.
Second, keep in mind that all of these suggestions can be easily customized based on your preferences, fitness levels, and what you do for work. I’ll try to list as many examples as I can!
Switch to a standing desk
If you’re on the fence about this, I recommend checking out r/StandingDesk where you’ll find thousands of people who have switched to standing desks and seen various health and productivity benefits. There are also plenty of desk setup pictures to browse through for inspiration because, I’ll be honest, my own desk setup is currently quite uninspiring but it gets the job done!
The bottom line here is that a standing desk WILL help you to burn more calories than a traditional sitting desk will. There’s no denying it. Even if you’re standing completely still, you will burn more calories but chances are you will fidget, hop from foot to foot and find you take more regular coffee and bathroom breaks by standing as you work, so your step count will likely increase as a result of that.
Before you invest in a standing desk, I recommend considering how high should a standing desk be for YOU personally. You can buy standing desks at different heights or invest in a standing desk converter, either way, make sure the height is right for you first.
Personally, I find I’m more productive and creative when working from a standing position. It’s particularly useful for writing blog posts, e-mails, and graphic design work.
Exercise while you work
I discovered this by accident when researching standing desks and this happy accident resulted in losing 3lbs the first week I set this up.
After investing in a standing desk, I bought a cheap under desk treadmill from Amazon. Since working at my standing desk with the under desk treadmill, I’ve walked an average of 16,000 steps per day. This is accomplished in the first half of my working day and I can spend the second half sitting as usual.
I’ve noticed a huge boost in my energy levels and my attitude towards the foods I’m eating as a result of increasing my daily activity levels so much. AND now when I’m working out my daily calorie allowance, I come under “very active” rather than “sedentary” which almost allows for an extra meal in calories each day.
This can seem like a huge adjustment to make and people will often ask me how I manage to work while I’m walking but I can assure you, once you’re walking and working you won’t even notice you’re doing it!
Alternatively, you may find an under desk cycle more suitable for your needs however you won’t be able to measure this with steps taken to gauge your activity levels. I’m also not convinced this will burn anywhere near the same amount of calories as walking, especially if you’re sat in your desk chair using it.
Stop snacking at your desk
If you’re anything like me then you like to take a coffee break every now and again. The problem is, those coffee breaks can quickly turn into “coffee and snack breaks” and before you know it, you’re consuming an extra 200-300 calories every time you take a coffee break.
To combat this, I take a coffee to my desk when I start working and once I’m on my under desk treadmill, I don’t take another coffee break until lunchtime. This means I’ve totally eliminated my morning snack and my next coffee usually becomes my late lunch/afternoon snack.
Ultimately, this method means drinking less coffee which I’ve also noticed some benefits from in terms of mood such as a reduction in my anxiety levels.
Intermittent calorie counting
As I work from home 5 days per week, I tend to eat the same things most days. I also hate calorie counting, so I prefer not to do it every day. Instead, I’ll aim to calorie count once every week or two, just to ensure I’m keeping within my calorie guidelines for the meals I’m eating regularly.
Outside of this, I ensure my plates are made up of 50% veggies, 25% protein and 25% carbs. This has enabled me to stay on track with my weight loss efforts without having to count every calorie I eat. It’s a total no-brainer for “low-effort” dieting.
A Roundup: What is the Best Way to Lose Weight Sitting At A Desk for 8 hours or more?
Now that we’ve debunked all the regular tips that, in my opinion, aren’t realistic for the majority of us wanting to lose weight sitting at a desk for 8 hours (or more!), here’s a summary of the tips I’ve suggested above.
- Switch to a standing desk
- Introduce an under desk treadmill or under desk cycle
- Calorie counting and/or portion control
- Reduce snacking at your desk
These are all realistic and achievable lifestyle changes you can make to your working day that will have a huge impact on your weight loss journey. They’ll also give you a huge sense of achievement at the end of your day, particularly by increasing your daily steps!
Let me know in the comments if you have anything to add to this, I’d love to hear them!