Essays & Confessions

When Your Beloved Desk Job Is Ruining Your Waistline

By | Tuesday, August 25, 2015


About every other weekend, I proclaim to my boyfriend that this is the week where we are going to start eating clean. I make a list of healthy foods to pick up at the grocery store, research healthy pre-packaged snacks, and vow to go to the gym on my lunch break every day except for Friday.

It almost never happens.

As a disclaimer, I am not (yet) clinically overweight. I am not naturally skinny, either. In my teen years you could probably describe me as “soft.” I was never able to do a pull up or push up and couldn’t run a mile in under 12 minutes. However, something changed when I graduated college. I got the only job I could find at Starbucks, and began going to the gym and practicing yoga regularly. Since working out is a gateway to healthy eating, I started making green smoothies regularly, cooked healthy dinners for my parents, and felt better and stronger than ever. Mostly, I think I was trying to self-medicate for my depression, but with the awesome side effect of being able to lift my own body weight with ease.

I grew to love working out. I loved feeling strong and healthy, and knowing that I could run up flights of stairs without becoming winded. I loved knowing I was filling my body with healthy, nutrient rich food. I actually believe that my body was a temple. I even thought about going back to school to become a nutritionist.

And then I started my first “real” job: a desk job where I would be sitting eight hours a day and another four for the commute and couldn’t find the time to make my own lunch. I was working in Boston and began eating $10 flimsy salads with bread every day for lunch. During the winter, it would become $10 soup and salad with bread. I also was having trouble making my own lunches at night. I often forgot to make something because I was so tired from the work day. It was just easier to buy something when I got to work, even though I would be paying premium.

Every month since I started I saw the scale tip up a bit. I can no longer do a proper push up, let alone a pull up. My shoulders are so tight I feel pain when I eat. I used to be able to balance on my forearms in yoga, now I’m lucky if I can touch my toes.

My jeans no longer fit. My shirts are too tight. Even my underwear is uncomfortable.

Buying clothes when you start a new job is fun — it’s part of the excitement of something new. Buying new clothes because you’re growing out of your old ones is not. And aside from the emotional toll, if nothing else, gaining weight is expensive. But I made excuses for these purchases. My stress level was so high I would convince myself that I deserved to eat the giant piece of bread with the creamy tomato soup or that two pads of butter with two cases of dressing on my salad was okay because I was having a hard day. And let’s not even talk about the alcohol — for everything from celebrations to commiserations over a tough day.

See, there are all these hidden costs of not being disciplined. Now, I have to spend more money on work-appropriate clothes because mine no longer fit. This isn’t negotiable. I can’t wear sweatpants to work.

I estimated that I spent $15- $20 a day on food in the city. This includes a coffee and bagel in the morning, a mid-morning snack, my super-expensive salad or soup with bread, perhaps another coffee if I’m exhausted by 3, and a bottle water and snack for the train ride home. That’s about $400 a month of completely unnecessary purchases that drain my already-light wallet. The calorie count is absurd as well: about 2,000 calories. I’m 5’3 and, at the moment, perform minimal physical exercise. 2,000 calories is the daily estimate of a grown male who performs moderate physical activity, and is way too high for someone like me.

But the worst is the shame. I’m embarrassed when my boyfriend hugs me, despite all the love and affirmations he gives me, I still think that he’ll feel my excess fat around my stomach and be repulsed. I’m embarrassed to even take a shower because I think about how strong I used to be instead of this soft, jiggly person in the mirror. Losing the time to practice something that I loved is also hard. I can’t attend yoga classes anymore because they’re too expensive. My workouts are limited to a half hour. At Starbucks, I was on my feet for hours at a time and the adjustment to sitting all day has been a struggle. I don’t have time or money to make the super-healthy dinners I used to make when I was living with my parents. My commute takes up that time and money.

It’s true when they say that if you have your health, you have everything.

I’m moving to a part-time position and, although it’s absolutely not the primary reason why, it’s partly because of how uncomfortable and unhealthy I feel sitting and being stressed all day. Also, I calculate that even with the pay cut I can bank more money saving on food and transportation costs than I can at full time pay, but only if I’m extremely cost conscious.

I’m turning 27 in September, and creating new habits as you get older is hard. But I am very privileged to be afforded this chance. Getting healthy is hard, but everyone deserves their best chance to life the life you choose. We just have to be willing to put in the work.

Jackie is a recovering worrier and dreams of being a freelance writer. She is on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Pexels

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