November 05, 2008

Advice for Grumpy Home Workers

This is a guest post by Ali from The Office Diet. She also blogs at Diet Blog and has an ebook on dieting basics you might want to check out! She's helped us out here before and we always appreciate her contributions very much.

A few months back, I wrote an article for Grumpy Office Workers, explaining how even the grouchiest of us can stay (just about) healthy and sane in the office. Since then, I’ve escaped the office world (hurrah!) to live my dream of being a freelance writer & website creator (hurrah!) and graduate student (hurrah!) Yes, I get bored fast. Unfortunately, working from home has a whole new set of ways to make me grumpy (boo!)

The main problem with working from home is the 24/7 availability of food. And the thoughts that run “Grr, stress, clients, writing, procrastination, brain-mush, grr … mmm, chocolate.” And the complete lack of nosy colleagues to ask “Ali, don’t you run a blog called The Office Diet? Should you really be eating that giant chocolate cookie?”

But, somehow, I have managed to survive an office-free month without putting on weight… I’ve even been a bit less grumpy than normal. Really. (My boyfriend might disagree. But that’s only cos he sees more of me now.)

So here is some advice:

Walk, walk and walk some more

Ever get that cooped-up, stir-crazy feeling? It’s because you’ve been stuck inside the same four walls all day. Even prisoners get an exercise break. Step outside. Walk. This is a particularly good idea when the Most Annoying Client In The World has phoned you for the fifth time in two hours, your internet connection is playing hide-and-seek, and you’ve barely blinked, let alone taken a break from your monitor, in three hours.

Walking is good for getting some perspective. You’re never too busy to take 30 minutes to get your head screwed back on. And you might even get a killer idea for your latest project.

Eat proper meals (with another human being if possible)

Work never quite goes away when you’re a freelancer. Maybe you switch on your laptop before the kettle every morning. Maybe you forget about breakfast until your stomach rumbles at 10am, you realise you have no milk, and you scoff down a few handfuls of trail mix. Maybe “lunch” is whatever you can easily eat with one hand whilst typing emails with the other. You’re stressed. You’re busy. You don’t want to stop for a meal – but you can manage a snack.

Proper meals, though, tend to be a tad healthier than snacks (most of which can be described as “sugar or salt, plus fat”). And ploughing on with work when your Grumpiness and Hungriness Levels are rising is going to lead to snarky emails, a grouchy phone manner and less-than-chipper clients. Take a break. Eat. With another human being, if you can. (Those “spouse and kids” people, maybe? Seen much of them recently?)

Ban any “evil” foods from the house

Some foods are evil. They taunt you from the cupboard/fridge/deep freeze. They say “Eat me. EAT ME. You know you want to. I’m so yummy. I’m so delicious. Just open me. Just have a little teeny tiny taste. Go on…” Their aim is to wear down your will, over the course of the day, until you give in. Sometimes they’re really sneaky and they wait until you’re tired, stressed, and up stupidly late and/or horrifically early to meet a deadline … and THEN they start to whisper their insidious little words.

These foods are the enemy.

It is a tactical error of the highest order to allow them into your home. Ban them. Treat anyone bringing them in through your door as the despicable traitors that they are. Check all grocery bags for any cunning attempts at infiltration. You may even need to provide your spouse/kids/flatmates with a handy check-sheet of the Evil Ones, to help them identify and destroy them.

How do you cope when you’re stuck in the house, feeling fed up, and facing the Food Demons? Got any great advice for grumpy homeworkers like me?


  1. I hear you. I've been working from home for several years now.
    You offer good advice.
    Can't think of anything to add. In my case I try to get out into the world at least once a day. A bank visit or stop at a grocery story forces me to have human interaction so I don't forget how.

  2. I have a pedometer, and whenever an annoying person calls, I put it on and start pacing. (Full disclosure: I do this with a family member who just wants to vent. At 2000 steps, I hang up.)

  3. I don't work from home, but I can see how easy it would be to ge tlost in what you're doing and not eat right...or alternately, nibble your way into a larger desk chair.
    These are good ideas...especially taking breaks. I think I would find that the hardest of the reasons I son't take work home is to keep my "life" separate from work...a tiny bit of sanity. Of course I'm a labrat, so it would be tricky to work entirely form home...

  4. Great post. I really need to take a walk more often. Or potentially a nap. When I'm super tired and keep trying to push myself, I'll compensate by eating lots of sugary foods. Not good. A good solid nap would probably be less destructive since, as far as I know, I don't sleep-eat. :)

  5. Even if you don't work at home, a lot of these tips are important! I work in my office most of the day, and I think walking at work for a half hour would really help my disposition! Thanks for the remdinders...maybe I'll actually do it now :) (dang when you forget all the good things for you!)

  6. Great post, Ali! I envy people who can work from home, but it's good to be reminded that WFH is not always a picnic either :)

  7. Great post! That's some of the best advice ever- so simple and so very true; that's what I do all the time and it's what works. Must click on over to visit your site now!

  8. I think these tips are great for work in the office, too. I get up from my desk frequently to walk (to get water, go to the bathroom, chat with a co-worker), or I take my lunchbreak and go outside.

  9. I WFH once a week, and to keep me from sitting at my desk all day, I turn on the Wii Fit and play on that while I'm on teleconferences or phone calls. In fact, my daughter hates Tuesdays because she comes home from school to find I've broken some of her records on the balance games, aerobics, etc. Yesterday she was mad cause I beat her on the Soccer Ball heading game (finally) and she said "does your boss know you don't do any work??", like she was considering calling him. She was really grumpy, hee hee.

    I do have an issue with the refrigerator being 40 feet away all day, though.

  10. I have failed at banning evil foods from home. My husband has no problem letting Oreos sit around uneaten until they get stale and I throw them away. He is not tempted to eat when he isn't hungry so he has little understanding and therefore no support for me when I tell him I don't want "his" food hanging around the house. To deal with it I've been practicing the "no see food" method of mind control on myself. If I don't see food, I'm less likely to eat it. Sometimes it means just putting the damn cookies back in the cabinet where they belong, obviously, instead of allowing them to brazenly luxuriate on the kitchen counter. But it's also helpful to put them behind something else in the cabinet so they aren't the first thing I see when I open it, reminding me of their existence every time I reach in there for a protein bar. This also works in the refrigerator. Of course my stomach will remember that I hid those yummy leftovers in the 'vegetable crisper,' but at least I won't have the repeated visual cue, urging me to eat more yummy stuff, every time I visit the fridge for a carrot stick. Oh and one more thing - don't keep any food in your home office. Make yourself at least get up and leave the room when it's time to eat. Nibbling while working = instant fat.

  11. On the rare occasions I work from home I HAVE to enforce meal-times and plan my day foodwise otherwise I will merrily graze all day!

    If I'm really watching my weight, I'll write it down, giving myself an allotted proper breakfast and lunch (with times!) and healthy snacks I can munch on if I get hungry inbetween.

    It probably sounds a little over-prescriptive, but it's the only thing that works for me!

    TA x

  12. fellow work at home'er and I totally have it all nailed.


    after gaining 20 pounds.'


    that is all.

  13. That thumping at the fridge door is the hunk of cheese, trying to get out. I ignore it occasionally and find myself innundated with thoughts of cheese, and what I could put cheese on. All day long.

    I've started turning up the radio really loud and dancing around like an idiot for a song to forget my cheese-addiction. It makes me laugh, it scares the dog, and passersby on the street think I'm nuts. But at least the cheese goes back to sleep.

  14. Love it! Great advice, esp. as I work at home. Sadly most of those tips won't work for me as I have children underfoot all day. So I have to stock the snacks for the kids and I can't just pick up and walk whenever I need a break but the bright side is I *always* have someone to eat with. Usually off of the same plate;)

  15. If i worked 100% from home, I think id be in better shape. Id go to the gym everyday just to get out of the freakin house.

    It is my dream to work solely from home. in my PJs. while watching dr. phil.

    Kelly Turner

  16. I'm a home mommy..........great advice!

  17. Even when I work at home for a day or two I fall into the trap of procrastination with food...not a good habit. Thanks for the great tips!!!

  18. I'm not a grazer so the kitchen being right there is not a problem. My eating problem is stopping at mealtimes. Get up! Go do something! Now, not in a few more bites.
    I'm not, yet, working at home--I'm staying home with my 95 year old father. One of my greatest reliefs (can I pluralize that word that way?) is to NOT eat lunch with him. I eat with him at breakfast and at supper, but at lunch I give him his lunch and when he's through I eat By Myself, Joy!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  19. Walking! Yes! I work from home so I go to a gym several times a week. but there is nothing like a quick paced walk, no matter how short, to distract me when the kitchen has distracted me.


  20. Wonderful post! I don't work from home but I do live in a tiny-tinyyyy dorm room. And I am here quite a lot stressing over term papers and failed attempts at studying. It doesn't help that my roommate is a natural size zero and munches on oreos, plain m&m's and cheetos all day.

  21. The company I work for closed the local office 2 months. Fortunately I didn't get laid off like some. Now I work full time out of my basement.

    I also work on my web site from the same chair. It makes it feel like I never go anywhere. I try getting out for a bike ride at lunch but it's too easy just to switch from work computer to personal computer and then lunch time is gone.

    I know plenty of people that wish they could work from home full-time. There's certainly nice things about it but it also has been a tough adjustment for me.

  22. Hi Ali, I also work from home. Fortunately I love my work so much that I can get lost for hours before I realize that I'm bloomin starving. By the way, if you want more Ali Wisdom, she also contributed a fabulous page on her 'body sense' ideas at

  23. I work from home as a French to English translator and switched to a treadmill desk about six months ago; you feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel but overall I love it. I'm amazed at how much of my regular work I can do while walking about 0.8 miles an hour and ergonomically it really beats slouching in a chair all day! There are some photos of my "walking desk" on my blog,

  24. You could also walk at work with a treadmill desk like the TrekDesk. You can see it at, very affordable and fits nearly all treadmills.


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