Every day, I drag myself out of bed and walk the few steps to my bathroom. Then it’s a few more steps to my home office. Then, I sink into my cushy desk chair and start my long day of sitting at a computer.
At around 5 or 5:30, I’ll make or order dinner and then settle on the couch or in bed to either watch TV or work on my creative projects — my podcast or my writing.
I go from lying down, to sitting, to lying down again. Day after day. I’ve stopped wearing my Fitbit, but I’m sure my step count is at an all-time low. Food and alcohol are my emotional escapes. I’m currently at my lowest point of energy and the highest weight I’ve ever been.
The kicker is that I recently bought a home elliptical. And it’s a really good one. The times I’ve used it, I got a really good sweat going and felt that it gave me a challenging workout.
And every day when I’m on a Zoom call for work, I see it in the camera behind my desk. I see the thin layer of dust on the pedals. The sweaty towel I left hanging on it the last time I used it — over a month ago.
Oh, how that machine mocks me.
I don’t know what to do anymore, people. Where did my will to care for my health and fitness go? I used to enjoy working out.
The situation is getting pretty dire. So it’s high time I found some way to push myself out of this funk.
Looking for a Kick
My department has been working from home since last March as a protective measure and to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I’m not sure when we’ll be back at the office, but I know we’re months away at the very least.
We hear people tout working from home like it’s the great American dream. And I suppose for some who have young kids or health reasons or even if they just prefer it — it is a dream.
On the one hand, working from home is such a privilege, especially right now. I recognize that, and I'm grateful for it. But also: it’s been destroying both my physical and mental health.
I was already gaining a lot of weight when I took a desk job. It was a dream job for me — an in-house copywriter position with a national company that takes better care of its employees than any place I’ve ever worked.
But since the onset of our work from home order, my depression and apathy have been at the highest levels I’ve ever experienced.
I find myself often drinking a bottle of wine just because I love to feel a buzz. I’m binging on junk food because it gives me an emotional release.
I can’t socialize with people (or if I do, it’s very limited). I can’t go to play rehearsal (something I used to do that helped me stay active). I can’t even go walk around a store without worrying about what I might be exposing myself or my family to.
If these sound like excuses — well, I agree that they are! I have numerous ways and resources to take better care of myself. But I’m pissed that our world is still turned upside down and I’ve been feeling super blah for a long time. I’m hitting a wall.
How does one give themselves a kick in their own ass? I need such a kick.
Workplace Health Screenings
My work has a wellness program where you can earn points by doing certain things to take care of your physical and mental health. The points can be exchanged at the end of the year for financial bonuses and paid time off.
If you go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning, you earn points. If women get their annual pap smear, points. If you track workouts or take one of our company’s free stress management courses, you can earn points.
Basically, you’re rewarded for working on your wellness. And the options for courses, tracking, and resources are numerous. For example, if you log in to the program online and track how much water you drink every day, you can earn 5 points a week.
My workplace also does a free biometric screening, which is the measurement of certain physical characteristics as a general health assessment. Companies use these to benchmark and evaluate changes in employee health status over time.
Different companies can have slightly different types of screenings, but the 5 biometric ranges measured at my workplace are:
- Blood pressure
- Waist circumference (less than 35 inches for women)
- Blood sugar
You earn 250 points just by completing the screening. But to get 300 bonus points, you have to meet 3 of the 5 healthy ranges.
If this all seems way too strict and intrusive or even emotionally damaging, understand that none of this is shoved in our face. There are no consequences for not meeting these ranges.
Every body type, race, and gender is respected at my workplace, which is one of the reasons I miss my office so damn much. And no one is shamed for being over a certain weight.
These screenings are all completely private. The results are always protected by HIPAA laws and can never legally be shared with anyone without personal consent.
Also understand that this all comes from a medical standpoint. Desk jobs are notorious for making it difficult to stay physically healthy, and so for companies whose employees often sit 8 hours a day, providing programs and resources (like discounted workout classes or financial incentives for health tracking) is one way to combat the sedentary workforce health epidemic.
Losing Weight for Me
Last year at my screening, I didn’t get those extra bonus points. My weight is in the obese range, my waist is over 35 inches, and my blood sugar and cholesterol were slightly high.
This year, in July, I want those bonus points.
I don’t even care about the payment incentive. I do, however, want to celebrate being able to find the mental motivation to take better care of myself. That’s what passing this screening will mean for me.
As someone with a pattern of disordered eating (and now, I think, disordered drinking), I know my health has taken a decline with this weight gain. My larger stomach is uncomfortable. My physical energy is low. And eating poorly and not exercising is doing my slightly elevated cholesterol and blood sugar no favors. Plus, I just don’t feel as good as I did when I was running regularly and eating well.
It’s nothing to do with society’s beauty standards or outside pressure from the people around me. My co-workers encourage me to practice “self-care” with treats and wine. My husband never pressures me. My son loves me and tells me I’m beautiful no matter what the scale says. (He’s really the sweetest teenager you’ll ever meet.)
Losing weight by eating healthier and exercising more is something I want to do for me. Decreasing my stomach size and getting out of the obese range is about my confidence, yes, but it’s also about my health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “a large waist circumference is a red flag for excessive abdominal fat, which is associated with obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.”
I want to do this for me, yes, but I also want to do it for my family, friends, and co-workers, in a sense that it would help me to have the energy to be there for them more.
Taking better care of ourselves enables us to take better care of our loved ones.
And, if I can fit back into my clothes without having to buy a whole new wardrobe — well that would be a nice little bonus.