How to Lose Weight With a Desk Job (2023)


Nagina Abdullah


April 12, 2023

woman's hands at laptop working

This article was originally published on March 3, 2019, before the COVID-19 health emergency completely changed how many of us who work a desk job conduct our days. Read on for my updated post on how to lose weight if you work a desk job.

woman's hands at laptop working

 Are you one of the many workers tied to a desk all day for your job?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, physically active jobs are now less than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce. Even if you don’t have to go into the office every day, most remote workers are still sitting for multiple hours at a time while they work. 

As I’m sure you know, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to all sorts of health risks – heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and of course, weight gain, are just a handful of the side effects caused by physical inactivity. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for long hours can lead to obesity.

As a virtual weight loss coach, I work with many women that sit for 8-10 hours a day for their jobs, and I help them find ways to lose weight despite their physical inactivity.

It might seem impossible to lose weight if you’re chained to a desk all day, but it IS possible – you just need the right strategies. Laura, one of my clients who works a desk job, talks about what she did to lose weight:

Read on to learn 9 strategies to lose weight when you work a desk job.

1.  Plan and pack your lunch

What you eat has the most impact on your weight. It’s more important than how much you eat, and it’s more important than how much you exercise. That is why you need to plan what you’ll be eating for lunch BEFORE you head off to work.

If you don’t plan your lunch, you have a stronger likelihood of eating something totally unhealthy. So if you work in an office, pack your lunch the night before and bring it with you (see my article about healthy eating at work, which has a bunch of great, easy-to-make, easy-to-pack lunch recipes).

Even if you work from home, you still need to plan what you’ll eat for lunch the next day. Surveys have shown that the advent of work-from-home has actually made our eating habits worse, with many doing a lot more snacking than they ever did at the office. If you work from home, make sure your pantry is stocked with healthy lunch and snack foods (keep reading to see what those are!)

2. Outsmart Your Cravings by planning snacks ahead of time

Maybe you’re hungry, maybe you’re stressed, maybe you’re bored – whatever the reason, snacking is something most of us do during work. But if we don’t plan ahead, then it’s too easy to buy a candy bar from the vending machine in the office lobby or raid our kids’ cookie stash when the urge to snack hits.

Losing weight with a desk job means having a plan. If you have a plan, then you won’t give into the belly-fattening food of the moment (learn how to burn belly fat here).

So stock your pantry with foods that make for healthy snacking, and if you work outside of the home, bring those snack foods with you. Make the decision about what you’ll be snacking on before the day starts. Read the next strategy to see what snack foods you can swap to help lose weight at your desk.

3. Swap snack foods

This is another genius way to hack the system and outsmart the junk food manufacturers who are making you feel bloated and fat.

Have a stash of snacks that satisfy your need for a little crunch, flavor, or something warm and soothing midday without undoing all the good progress you’re making to a healthy weight.

Here are some of my favorite healthy food swaps:

SWAP: Coffee with cinnamon instead of sugary specialty coffee drinks

Daydreaming of a Frappuccino, latte, or mocha? Indulge in a black coffee sprinkled with sweet, exciting cinnamon and a splash of unsweetened almond milk, if you like. It’ll satisfy your need to indulge while burning fat cells (especially in the belly) and protect against diabetes.

SWAP: Drink spiced, herbal, or green tea (hot or iced) instead of juice or soda, diet soda, or juice drinks 

Spiced, herbal, or green tea will give you a nice refreshing drink that can help boost weight loss instead of stagnating it.

SWAP: Eat nuts instead of chips for an afternoon crunch

Nuts provide your body with healthy fats that sustain you, as well as healthy vitamins and minerals. Here’s my cooking video for my delicious Masala Mixed Nuts!

Here’s my cooking video for my delicious Masala Mixed Nuts!

Chips, on the other hand, leave you still hungry and craving more. They also offer NO health benefits. In fact, most have cheap oils that will add to belly fat and obesity.

SWAP: Dark chocolate for vending machine candy bars

Dark chocolate is one of my favorite belly-fat burning foods! By enjoying at least 80% dark chocolate you’ll get the healthy fats and antioxidants in cocoa while savoring a smooth, luxurious treat.

Vending machine candy has had almost all the healthy parts cooked out and replaced by high amounts of sugar that your liver will turn straight to fat cells. It’s a fast track to desk job weight gain.

4.  Include protein in your snacking

Protein helps you feel full and provides your body with the nutrients it needs to break down fat quickly and efficiently. You can add protein to your snacks in many ways, but here are a couple of my favorite protein-packed snacks:

Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein, and you can add certain foods to it that will help with weight loss. It’s also easy to eat while sitting at your desk. See my pick for the 7 best yogurts for weight loss.

Smoothies with protein powder. If you work from home and have a blender, then a smoothie with protein powder can be a delicious, protein-packed snack. Best of all, smoothies are easy to snack on while sitting at your desk. See my article, “A Diet to Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Be More Focused” for a couple of protein-filled smoothie recipes.

5. Don’t sit all day – stand for weight loss!

This is gaining popularity and for good reason! It’s key for anyone who sits at a desk all day and wants to lose weight.

You can do this by getting a standing desk, or just get in the habit of standing while you make phone calls.

Standing throughout the day, instead of just sitting all day long has been linked to healthier blood sugar levels and burning more calories.

It’s such a simple thing that can make a big difference!

6. Set an alarm for mini workouts during the workday

Doing a mini workout at your desk – whether you’re at the office or at home – is not as crazy as you might think. This trend is starting to gain more popularity as people realize their health supersedes old-fashioned notions of propriety.

However, it’s easy to get sucked into your work and hardly notice the hours fly by. By setting an alarm to go off every couple of hours, you can remind yourself to get up and move.

Simple workouts you can do at your desk that don’t need much room include jumping jacks and stretches, which get your blood flowing, reduce your blood sugar levels and boost your metabolism.

There are many exercises that actually make use of your office equipment (don’t worry, you won’t be at risk of breaking anything) – check out this article from Healthline that contains 30 exercises you can do at the office.

7.  Get a work walking buddy

In addition to working out at your desk, walking around the office or outside your house is a great way to get in a quick workout. If you have a walking buddy, you’ll be more inclined to maintain your walking routine.

Find yourself a buddy who is also interested in increasing their physical fitness, and even better if it’s someone on your team. If you use your walking time to discuss a shared project, you’ll feel super-productive (and the physical activity will help get those creative juices flowing!).

If you work from home, it’s still possible to find a walking buddy. Websites like Meet Up can help you find others in your neighborhood who are interested in walking during the workweek.

8. Drink more water

lemon cucumber water

Drinking more water is a staple of most healthy diets where weight loss is the main goal, and for good reason – studies suggest that water helps suppress appetite, boost your metabolism, remove body waste, and burn fat. While sitting at your desk and you need something to sip on, drinking water is one of the best things you can do to lose weight.

But I know that some find drinking plain water to be, well, boring. If you’re one of these people, then you need to try my Infused Debloating Water.

Debloating water is a healthy way of getting toxins out of your system while inducing a sense of relief from digestive comfort. Here is my recipe for debloating water that will give you a boost when you’re sitting at your desk, feeling the afternoon slump:

Combine any or all these ingredients below in a large pitcher and let them infuse overnight. Drink one glass a day (or more).

  • 6 cups of water

  • 2 lemons, sliced in rounds with the peel on

  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced in rounds with the peel on

  • 6-8 muddled sprigs of fresh mint

  • Optional: sprinkle of cayenne or paprika

This debloating water can boost your metabolism, eliminate toxins, melt away belly fat, and help curb cravings that lead to overeating.


9. Allow yourself mental breaks

Stress can be a big contributor to overeating and mindless eating. Mindfulness, and being self-aware of what you’re eating, is necessary when it comes to losing weight. In addition to taking exercise breaks, make sure to take periodic mental breaks where you let yourself forget work. Whether it’s reading a book on your lunch break or using your daily stroll to zone out and admire your environment, give yourself the opportunity to let work go for a little bit. Not only will this help you lose weight, it may help you create positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.

Interested in learning more? Check out my 8-week Slimdown Personal Weight Loss Coaching program, or book a call with me to find out how I can help you lose weight without calorie counting or depriving yourself.

Also check out these 15 motivating weight loss success stories and see how Masala Body’s clients have found weight loss success.


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Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

Reader Interactions


  1. Diana says

    Thank YOU ????
    Love your advices and your real approach to everyday’s situation.????

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