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10 Tricks to Lose Weight Just Sitting at Your Desk

Being stuck at a desk all day doesn’t mean work has to be bad for your weight.

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Set a timer to get up every 20 minutes or so

You’ve heard this tip before, but it’s worth repeating. Simply standing up more often helps to prevent weight gain versus sitting. We expend a surprising number of calories through non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)—activities like walking to the water cooler, vacuuming, and even toe tapping and fidgeting. This incidental movement can help with fat loss, say The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN. Obese people tend to sit 2.5 hours a day more than their sedentary lean counterparts, research shows. Some fitness bands not only track your steps, but they’ll remind you if you’ve been inactive for a certain period of time. You can set a quiet vibration timer on your phone or a desktop one with your sound turned off (like e.ggtimer.com) that’ll remind you to get up and take a loop around the office. Need major weight-loss motivation? Here’s the secret weight-loss advice used by the folks on The Biggest Loser and other reality shows.

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Toss out junky snacks

Rid your desk of those “emergency” sweets, suggests Lakatos Shames. Out of sight, out of mind. When you’re not surrounded by temptations, it’s much easier to stay away from foods that can lead to weight gain.

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Stock up on healthy snacks

We’ve all had those days where a meeting runs way too long and you don’t have time to grab lunch. Your best bet to prevent a “hangry” (hunger + angry) episode: Rely on fiber-filled, protein-packed snacks that will keep you satisfied on relatively few calories, suggests Lakatos. Keep non-perishable snacks in your office drawer, like pre-portioned nut packs, or lower-sugar granola bars like KIND bars, roasted chickpeas, whole grain crackers, and even a small jar of peanut butter or almond butter. If you have access to an office fridge, stash these nutritious foods: apples, edamame, black bean dip or hummus for your crackers, non-fat yogurt topped with one tablespoon of granola, cucumber slices with low-fat cottage cheese, and raw, sliced veggies like carrots, peppers, and celery. We love these 31 healthy snacks for adults.

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iStock/Olga Zhavoronkova

Drink plenty of naturally flavored water

Flatten your belly by sipping water infusions throughout the day. The extra flavor will help if you’re sick of plain water and the combination of water and potassium from the fruit/herb/veggie infusions can help flush bloating culprits (like salt) from your system. Consider buying an infuser water bottle for your desk to which you add fruit or fresh herbs (find some on Amazon, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond, to name a few). “When you’re properly hydrated you won’t make the common mistake of confusing thirst for hunger,” says Lakatos. “The extra fluid in your stomach can keep you feeling full.” The Nutrition Twins have a few favorite infusion recipes from their website: including Cucumber-Blueberry Water (8 ounces water, ¼ cup blueberries, ¼ cucumber, sliced), or their Lemon and Mint Detox Infusion that you can sip warm or cool (1 teaspoon grated ginger, slice up one lemon, several mint leaves, pour over 8 or 12 ounces water). These sneaky signs of dehydration mean you need to drink up.

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Sip tea with lunch

Green, black, and oolong tea contain the amino acid theanine, which brings on a state of mental calmness yet alertness. This may help ease anxiety and prevent overeating due to emotional stress, while also making you very alert and mindful of your food choices. When you make good, healthy, rational meal decisions you stay leaner. These health benefits of tea are pretty mind-blowing.

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Desk exercise: Zip up your abs

“We rely on this and it truly makes a huge flat-belly difference,” says Lakatos. Activate your abs by squeezing them in tight and pulling them back against your spine as you exhale. Picture zipping your abs together by using your muscles to contract your abs by pulling in from the center—think about pulling everything in a vertical line from your belly button up to between your breastbone, while also holding everything in and back toward your spine. Hold for a count of 10 as you continue to exhale. Slowly release and repeat for 10 reps at least three times. “Not only will this create good posture, it will also wake up the abs muscles and make it easier to keep your abs in,” says Lakatos Shames. Bonus: When you’re focusing on flat abs and a tight stomach you’re less likely to overeat at your desk. Here are 12 reasons your belly might be bloated.

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iStock/Willie B. Thomas

Desk exercise: Tone your thighs

Try this thigh-toning exercise under your desk. (Beware wires and remove clutter first!) Stay seated with your feet on floor and back straight. Extend your right leg until it’s level with your hip, slowly lower. Repeat 10-15 times. Switch legs. You’ll feel the burn in your quadriceps. Next, check out these special exercises to get rid of back fat.

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Desk exercise: Strengthen your calves

You can do this office exercise when you’re on the phone or doing something that doesn’t require you to write or participate beyond talking. Stand behind your chair, holding onto the back. Rest your right foot on back of your left lower leg. Do toe raises on your left foot. Switch sides. (If you’re in heels, remove them first.)

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iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Desk exercise: Tighten and tone your butt

Tense up gluteal muscles as you sit in your chair. Hold for 10 seconds. Do reps of 10 at a time. No one has to know you’re doing them.

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Desk exercise: Jump-start digestion

Make your stomach flatter with this digestion exercise to stimulate peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract. Suck in your stomach as far as you can, then stick it out as far as you can. Breathe in when sucking in and breathe out when you push your stomach out. This small exercise helps blood flow to the stomach, aids in digestion, and exercises your abdominal muscles, says Lakatos Shames. Digestion backed up? Try one of these constipation home remedies to get things moving.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest