A Better Grindstone

I recently blogged about getting a treadmill desk. Eleven weeks in, I’ve now lost twenty pounds, and I’m starting to think that those who view desk jobs as a modern scourge may be on to something.

For me, neither weight nor health have ever been a major problem. Growing up, I was what one might charitably call “gangly”. I was always athletic, but at nearly 6’2”, my weight didn’t catch up with my growth until I started swimming in college. As soon as I went on salary, though, I started gaining weight. Over the years, I’ve gradually improved my diet and periodically improved by exercise regime, and I’ve managed to keep my weight and health in check—just.

But when I read about treadmill desks, the logic was immediately appealing. In recent years, I’ve gotten serious about my writing, and writing takes a LOT of time. Why spend that time in a chair after sitting all day at work? So I bought a good, middle-of-the-road treadmill and I made a little desk out of wire closet shelving. It’s good enough to support my netbook or even my work laptop at a brisk walking pace. After a few days of acclimation, it worked, and I didn’t kill myself or my budget.

But that wasn’t the only surprise. I’m more productive on the treadmill. I don’t fall asleep when wading through xslt transformations for work. I don’t take breaks from writing to go walk down the block and work out a plot twist. The words come more freely—just as they always did in school when I used to go for hikes with a notepad in my pocket.

And loosing weight is all but unavoidable. I try to walk at least two hours a day. On telecommute days, I might walk as many as seven (or fourteen miles), but my average is more like three. That isn’t a huge amount of exercise, but it’s consistent, and I track my caloric intake with a Droid App called MyFitnessPal. The app sets a calory target based on your age, weight, and target weight. Then it calculates a running balance as you eat and exercise during the day.

Yesterday (a telecommute day during which I slacked off shamefully), I went to bed with a surplus of almost a thousand calories. That is, I could have eaten three slices of “meat lover’s” pizza before hitting the calorie target the app has set for me—itself hundreds of calories short of the level at which weight gain would begin. With these tools (the treadmill desk and MyFitnessPal) loosing weight is simple. Just watch out for pasta and bread and look for high-payoff foods.

And here’s another surprise: I’m eating good. I’ve switched to a very good FiberOne cereal with 80 calories per serving (280 calories for a real serving with milk). I’ve discovered Lean Cuisine frozen dinners with 150 and 180 calories per serving (not a whole meal for me, but excellent). I can eat absolutely anything–ice-cream, birthday cake, hummus and pita bread–as long as I record them honestly. Usually, they aren’t worth it, but when I do indulge—I really enjoy it.

The result leads to the final surprise. As a byproduct of loosing weight and eating healthier food overall, my blood pressure and cholesterol are both down markedly since November.

It may seem odd to many, but if you can fit a treadmill desk into your life, do it. There is no downside to living better.