The higher a man rises in the corporate food chain, the harder it is for him to manage his food supply. Success today means flying all over the globe, making deals over lunches at the Steak and Gristle, working the rubber-chicken circuit. A promotion can be like reverse liposuction—padding your bottom while you’re busy padding the bottom line. The reward? All that hard work goes for nothing if you can’t turn it around and cash it in for the next rung on the ladder.
But the statistics are as easy to read as a P&L statement: Overweight men are 3,000 times more likely than their normal-weight colleagues to be passed over for promotion. They also make an average of $4,000 less each year. And the ladder gets harder to climb the higher up you get, because you’re getting loaded down with responsibilities, which makes taking care of yourself harder, which makes climbing to that next rung even more difficult.
Below, we’ve outlined some common causes of corporate corpulence—traps that any guy who’s on top of his game is likely to encounter at the office, in airports and hotels, at conferences, and, of course, at those boozy cocktail parties and dinners—and we’ve provided a bunch of strategies for working your way around them. And while you’re eyeing a leaner, stronger, fitter body, be sure to bulletproof your health with our 100 Ways to Live to 100.
Eat a big breakfast.
If you think racing through the day and eating on the go makes you a lean, mean machine, you’re wrong. A bagel on the way to work does not a breakfast make. You need to start smart, eating as soon as you get up to activate your metabolism. “Eighty percent of the men I see take in so few calories in the first half of the day that they are starving in the evening and substantially overeat,” says Gene Erb, R.D., head nutritionist at the Duke Executive Health Program.
Taking in a meal early in the day makes you less likely to pig out throughout, according to a study published in Human Nutrition and Metabolism. The researchers found that men who ate a lot at breakfast took in fewer overall calories than did those who skipped out on breakfast and snacked later at night—and for more great eating tips, here are 7 Ways to Sneak Away from Sugar.
Eat breakfast again.
If you're pressed for time in the mornings, try eating twice—a quickie breakfast like cold cereal or yogurt at home, then a second one at work. Stock your office with whole-grain bread and peanut butter. The mix of complex carbs and protein will give you energy and keep you full longer than will simple carbs, which are digested quickly and can leave you sluggish. Remember: eating a great breakfast is one of the 100 Easiest Ways to Be a Healthier Man Right Now.
A late-afternoon snack will keep you from gorging at dinner. Erb suggests a cup of yogurt, an ounce of nuts, and a large piece of fruit. “It’s a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat,” he says. The combination also supplies the nutrients you need to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, he says. Need a great snacking menu? Here are 10 Ways to Eat Whatever You Want Without Gaining Wait.
Keep the lights bright.
Researchers at the University of California found that low lights increase binge eating. “Dimmer lights make you less self-aware, which loosens your inhibitions,” says Joseph Kasof, Ph.D., the study’s author. For more great ways to survive your workday, here’s how to escape your office gab-master.
Don’t eat at your desk.
Eating at your desk is a lose-lose situation. Your mind is not focused completely on food or work. Break away from your desk to find some fresh fruit, or if you must stay, buy single-serving sizes of packaged foods. A University of Illinois study found that larger package sizes lead to a 22 percent increase in calories consumed-regardless of how hungry you are. If you’re so distracted that you will eat to the bottom of the bag, a smaller bag will lessen the damage. Also, don’t miss these 10 Painless Ways to Upgrade Your Diet.
Avoid dinner at the office.
You stayed at the office and ate Chinese for many nights to earn that bonus. Too bad you’ll likely blow it at the pharmacy. Compared with healthy-weight men, overweight men spend 37 percent more on prescription drugs (138 percent more on cardiovascular drugs in particular) and 13 percent more on primary-care visits. For more great eating tips, here are 25 Foods Men Over 45 Should Eat.
Call the fitness concierge.
If you’re traveling for work, you know very well that most hotels boast a “state-of-the-art exercise facility,” while the reality is it’s often just a treadmill in a closet. Throw in a packed meeting schedule and jet lag, and watch your entire workout program collapse.
However, select hotels offer a service that will cater to your fitness needs. For instance, they can design an exercise program for the duration of your stay or arrange for you to play racquetball with a partner they will provide. Stay at the Renaissance ClubSport in San Francisco, Don Shula’s Hotel in Miami, and the Affinia Dumont in New York. Speaking of hotels, if you’re craving a late-winter escape, here are ten amazing ones.
Hire a local trainer.
Once you have travel reservations, go to nsca-lift.org and use the Trainer Locator to find a trainer in the area. (It lists trainers abroad, too.) Schedule workouts with him, “But don’t go in telling him what you want to do,” says Gunnar Peterson, C.S.C.S., the celebrity trainer and author. Allowing him to plan a workout for you, with the equipment at the hotel or at his gym, is a chance for you to learn something new. Also, don’t miss the Best Workout for Nullifying Business Dinners.
Try the local specials.
If you’re traveling to Miami, try a water sport; in Colorado, ski or snowshoe; and in Vermont, hike, mountain bike, or kayak. Most hotels can prearrange these activities in accordance with your schedule. The fresh air will do you good, especially if you stumble on a new hobby. Men who participate in regular physical leisure-time activity have lower levels of inflammation, which means a lower risk of obesity and heart disease, according to the journal Obesity Research. For more great active advice, here are the yoga moves that will transform your sex life.
Make two calls before you go to the airport.
One to the car service, and one to the hotel’s food-service department. “Ask the car service to stock smoothies, flavored waters, milk, juice, and trail mix,” says Dave Grotto, R.D., the founder and president of Nutrition Housecall. “Request that the driver pick up a sandwich or wrap with lean meats, veggies, and beans, plus a fruit salad, before he picks you up,” Grotto says. Ask the hotel to make the same foods available in your room. And keep your engine revved with these 30 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism After 40.
Travel with nonperishable foods.
Stock your briefcase with healthy bars like Odwalla, Organic Food Bar, or Lärabar, says Grotto. “These particular bars have no sugar added,” he says. They’re mostly fruit and nuts, so they’ll tide you over until you can sit for a meal. But be sure to pack only one or two at a time. A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research showed that stockpiling snacks doubled their consumption. Also, check out our Eating Plan to Stay Lean for Life.
Shake it up.
Your sleek thermos can carry more than coffee. Fill it with a smoothie of whey protein, low-fat milk or water, and berries. Can’t blend before you leave? Try investing in a portable blender. It’s one of 25 Kitchen Gadgets That Every Guy Needs.
Exercise your options in airports.
Those first-class spreads in the first-class lounge and the inevitable delays associated with business travel make it easy to eat out of boredom. But step out of the lounge, and you’re faced with miles of fast-food joints. You can’t avoid temptation, but you don’t have to give in. You can find a sandwich shop in most major airports with healthy, mayo-free options. Or try a burrito bowl—sans cheese—at any Chipotle. Find places that will give you the most freedom to watch portion sizes and choose a wrap or tortilla over bread to reduce calories, says Grotto. If you’re feeling like going BYO, here are 10 Slimmer Sandwich Recipes.
Drink for departure.
“When you’re flying, it’s easy to get dehydrated,” Grotto says. “Feelings of hunger or cravings are sometimes an indication that you’re not hungry but thirsty.” Drink water before boarding, and keep the nonalcoholic beverages coming in flight (one for every hour you’re in the air). Staying hydrated and lowering your booze intake is one great way to always look a decade younger.
Keep your hands busy.
As long as your hands are occupied—while you’re checking e-mail or reading a book, for instance—you won’t pick at food. You know you have something that needs to be done, do it. Perhaps you could read through The 20 Essential Wealth-Building Rules for 2017.
“Take two” at that big conference dinner.
“People tend to treat an awards banquet like Christmas,” says Steve Enselein, vice president of catering for Hyatt Hotels. “They think it’s a special occasion, so they allow themselves to indulge.” But while Christmas comes but once a year, awards dinners can crop up several times a month-enough to leave you looking like Santa by spring.
A pair of studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research show that having more food options leads people to eat 43 percent more food. At a buffet, place only two items on your plate at a time, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Food and Brand Lab at the Cornell University. Also, check out this handy video for more advice on what to eat during business occasions.
Drink a glass of tomato juice, not wine.
“It gives the stomach some volume, and the liquid has some bulk to it, so it offers satisfaction and takes the edge off your appetite,” says Daniel Stettner, a clinical psychologist and staff member at the UnaSource Comprehensive Weight Loss Center.
Ask for options at the event.
Have your assistant call ahead and ask that a low-calorie meal be prepared for you instead of the standard fare. Enselein says that such healthy requests have skyrocketed in the past 5 years. Once you’re at the event, ask your server about alternatives. Most caterers prepare extra fish or vegetarian meals even if they don’t make that information available to the crowd. But beware: Pasta loaded with cream sauce can be just as dangerous as that glistening leg of lamb. Stick to wheat pastas—which are great for your abs—topped with light oil or marinara sauce or served with grilled chicken and vegetables.
Navigate the trays.
What seems like 2 hours of harmless mingling and light drinks can often turn into an evening of puff-pastry-fueled debauchery, especially once the sales guys start making toasts. And the more you raise your glass, the more you’ll dig in to the passing platters, because alcohol lowers your inhibitions for eating. Have something healthy before you go. “If you go to a cocktail party on an empty stomach, you’ll eat your way through it,” says Gay Riley, R.D., owner of netnutritionist.com. Eat from the veggie tray first. Not full? Try shrimp and other seafood; then move on to grilled chicken or other lean meats. Follow this order and you’ll be full when the chips, crackers, and cheese dips come out.
Take a seat.
The guy who has to walk across the room to get to the buffet table eats less than the guy guarding it does.
To make it through a night of toasting without getting toasted, make arrangements with the waiter beforehand to serve you Diet Coke or diet ginger ale in a scotch glass with a lime. No one will know you’re not getting smashed along with the rest of the gang, says Stettner. “You’re sober, you’re not getting a lot of calories, and you’re better able to work the crowd.”
Leave your mark.
Set a goal to talk to five people who can help your career or your company’s profits. “Focus on the social aspect, not the eating,” says Stettner. Use your mouth to charm them instead of stuffing it with crab dip. Also, it’s one of the 25 Ways the Smartest Men Get Ahead at Work.
Start your business dinner with protein and fiber.
Here’s where the strategy of snacking healthfully throughout the day can really pay off. At business dinners, go ahead and let the suits from Snarkle Inc. scarf down everything that comes to the table. You should opt for high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables to fill you up so you won’t overeat when the entrees come. Likewise, protein triggers your brain to stop eating, even if you’ve only had some light fare. A shrimp cocktail or the grilled chicken on a bed of greens can put the brakes on your appetite before it gets the best of you, says Riley. For more snacking help, here are 5 Delicious Snacks Full of Protein.
Drink before you dine.
Water makes you feel fuller so you won’t eat as much, but don’t wait until mealtime. “Fluids dilute digestive enzymes and can slow digestion and efficient absorption of vital nutrients,” Riley says. “To get optimal nutrition (protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals) from the foods you eat, drink your fluids 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after your meals. The right balance of nutrients and healthy digestion are the keys to efficient energy metabolism.” To curb your appetite before the big meal, guzzle at least 1 or 2 cups of water 30 minutes before dining out, she says.
Wild game animals live off natural sources of vegetation and move around more than domestic animals, which are fed grains and hormones that encourage rapid fat-weight gain. That means wild game gives you all the nutritious, muscle-building protein without all the fat and chemicals. Cornish game hen, venison, and ostrich are best, says Riley.
Look for loin.
“Beef or pork cuts with loin in their names are leanest,” Riley says. So order the tenderloin or sirloin and pass on the prime rib. Skip duck and lamb, too. You may also want to know How to Cook Steak Like a Pro.
Use your body weight at all times.
Workouts typically lose priority when your schedule is crammed to the hilt. They shouldn’t. By now you should have realized that when it comes to your career advancement, a good workout is just as important as your 3 p.m. conference call and should be scheduled as such. Still, there’s no rule that says workouts must last 30 minutes or require a gym. In fact, a recent study from the University of Missouri showed that three high-intensity, 10-minute workouts a day destroyed twice as much artery-clogging fat as a single 30-minute session did.
It’s your most valuable workout tool-in your office, hotel room, or home. Try Peterson’s routine: Aim for 15 to 25 reps of each exercise and minimize the time between moves. Do squats, pushups, crunches, curls, and shoulder presses one after another. For the curls and presses, use objects in your office, or your carry-on bag in the hotel room, for resistance. For the pushups, try different types. In the first set, elevate your feet on a chair. In the second, place a few stacked towels under one hand with the other hand placed on the floor. Repeat on the other side. For more great fitness advice, here are the 10 Best Cardio Workouts for Guys Over 40.
Think of working out as a retirement investment.
According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, men who were overweight in middle age reported a lower quality of life after 65 (more bodily pain, less energy, and poorer social functioning) than did men who were at healthy weights in middle age.
Use a resistance band.
Modify the workout above with a JC All-Purpose Exercise Band. The loop in the middle of the band attaches to a doorknob, and its canvas strap wedges in a door-so it won’t snap back at you. After the squats, do a set of lat pulldowns (with the strap wedged on top of the door), then curls (with the band under your feet), then pushups or dips (with your hands on a chair).
Run the stress away.
A 30-minute bout of moderate- or high-intensity aerobic exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with daily living, according to researchers from the University of Missouri. The feel-good effects of this half-hour session may last for as long as 90 minutes post-exercise, the researchers note. For more ways ease your mind, here are The 30 Ways Successful Men Cut Stress.
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