Ep. #31: Weight Loss When You Work Long Hours

Many entrepreneurs gain weight when they work long hours, but some do not. So it’s not the long hours that are the problem. It’s what you’re thinking about the long hours that causes the weight gain. Listen to this episode to begin to unravel these thoughts so you can avoid weight gain during your busy times at work.


Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk. Today’s episode is for every listener who is worried that their long hours are contributing to, or causing, their weight gain. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and I’m glad you’re here because I used to suffer from this problem, but I figured out a way out, and today I want to share it with you.

If you’re suffering under the “long hours = inevitable weight gain” formula, you are not alone. This is rampant among entrepreneurs, because they’re thinking I don’t have time to lose weight. I’ll worry about it later when I have time to work out and eat right.

The first thing I want to say about this is that the length of your work day is a neutral circumstance. It’s not the cause of your weight gain. Some people shrink down to nothing if they’re working long hours, because they’re thinking different thoughts. Usually, it something along the lines of, “I don’t have time to eat. I’ll eat later, when I’m not so busy.”

So as with everything, our thought process, not the circumstance of the time spent at work, is the issue. When we think that the hours we’re putting in are an inevitable recipe for weight gain, what happens? That’s a thought—it’s not the truth, it’s just a thought, but as with all of our thoughts, we make it come true through our feelings and our actions.

Watch what happens. If you think, “Weight gain is inevitable under these circumstances,” notice the emotion that thought brings up for you. For most of us, it’s a combination of resignation, frustration, and helplessness, often with a little dash of victim status thrown in for good measure. Not a great combination of emotions for entrepreneurs in any case, but this is especially bad for weight gain. Because then what happens? We dive into the donuts in the morning, fast food for lunch (after all, we’re busy, we need something fast), and gobble a huge dinner when we get home, not because we’re hungry, but because we’re stressed and tired and want to indulge in a big meal because we’re feeling a little sorry for ourselves and we deserve “something.” And then, we bring our thoughts to life. For us, long hours do = weight gain because we make that happen when we work long hours.

Exercise isn’t the antidote

A big reason we equate long hours with weight gain is because we associate exercise with weight loss. The thinking here is I don’t have time to exercise so I can’t lose weight. Implicit in this thought is the idea that weight loss requires exercise. It’s no wonder that we think this. “Experts” keep telling us that to eat less and move more, it’s all about calories in and calories out, but that doesn’t really work for many of us.

I tried that back when I was a distance runner, and what happened with me is I would think I’ll eat anything and everything, far more than I actually want, because I’m just going to burn it off later. and that doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for a couple reasons.

Why not? One reason is that the “calories in/calories out” model of weight loss assumes that your body is a closed system. There are no other variables. This theory says that the number of calories you eat, and the number of calories you burn, is all that matters. This ignores complicating factors such as hormones. If your body is surging with insulin, your fat storage hormone, and cortisol, a stress hormone that helps you perform when high performance is needed by, among other things, increasing your blood sugar levels, weight loss is going to be tough no matter how much time you put in on the treadmill.

It also ignores the fact that it’s very easy to consume thousands of calories in a very short amount of time, and very difficult to burn them off through exercise. A marathon burns off 2600 calories. You can easily eat 2600 calories more than your body needs in a day, but not many of us can easily run a marathon every day to try to stay ahead of it.

And why would we want to? Isn’t that the definition of inefficiency? Would you operate a business where every night, people brought in a whole bunch of excess stuff and stacked it up in your office, and every morning you had to spend a few hours clearing it all out so you could sit down and get some work done?

I don’t think any sane business owner would do this, but when we eat more food than we need with a view to burning it off later, that’s exactly what we’re doing with our bodies. Yet few people even question this approach. What we generally do instead is buy memberships at vast, shiny gyms with row after row of cardio equipment, and we go there when we have the time and attempt to purge all of our excesses, and no one thinks a thing about it.

Why don’t we question this? It’s because we’re that wedded to the idea that overeating is inevitable. The thinking here is that you are going to consume more food than your body needs, so the only people who can manage their weight are those who can spend hours at the gym.

And why are we thinking this? Most of us don’t want to live this way. We have bought into this paradigm because we feel compelled to overeat. The urge to do it is so strong that we can’t help ourselves. Maybe we can white-knuckle against it for a little bit, but definitely not for the long haul and definitely not when we’re working long hours and there’s a lot going on at work.

This is the crux of the issue. The problem isn’t that we don’t have time to exercise. It’s simply that we want to overeat, on so many levels, and we have no idea how to stop without bringing a bucket of misery down on ourselves. The desire to do it seems inescapable, and the idea of not overeating in the face of that desire seems horrific, so excessive cardio or some other type of purge seems to be the only way out. And if we don’t have time to do that, then we’re just going to gain weight.

Conquering the Desire to Overeat

So then the question is, why do we want to overeat? This desire, like every other emotion, is the product of our thoughts. People who naturally don’t overeat think it isn’t fun, and they put the fork down and get back to work or get on with life once they’ve had enough. People who overeat think it’s terribly fun, and they keep eating long past the point when their bodies are satisfied.

Same activity, different thoughts, completely different results. And this thought pattern is a learned behavior, by the way. Unless you have a rare medical disorder, you were born wanting to eat when you were hungry and stop when you had enough. If you overeat, if you eat past the point of satisfaction, it’s because someone taught you to think thoughts that led you to that behavior, and you can stop thinking those thoughts if you want to.

I was a skinny kid who ate when I was hungry and stopped when I’d had enough, but as I grew up, I was taught to go against those natural tendencies. In my family there was no reason not to eat. We ate when we were sad, celebrating, happy, unhappy, alone, and with someone. Eating was the solution for everything. We’ve even been known to declare certain people “not very fun” because they don’t overeat as we traditionally did. Collectively, we had thoughts that overeating was the best thing in the world. We’ve all been working on this and we’re all getting better together. My Tiny Mother, for one, is getting tinier by the day. She’s down to 127 pounds at age 75. What did we do? We shifted our thoughts about food, from food is the best thing ever to It’s just not that interesting and there are much more fun things to think about. And with these thoughts, food isn’t at the center of our family anymore.

The great news for any entrepreneur who wants to lose weight is that you are in control of what you think about food, and you can bring this kind of thought management to work. If you’re a stress-eater, you can shift your thoughts away from food is going to make this better to food doesn’t fix anything. You can also manage your mind around your activities to minimize your stress, and here I’m not talking about surface, cliched fixes like bubble baths. Stress at work is a product of your thoughts, and we could speak about that for decades, and we will in upcoming episodes, but one point that can begin helping you right away is that the activities of business success are actually pretty mundane. During our workdays, we’re either writing, or speaking, or listening, or processing information and deciding what to do. I think it’s Bryon Katie who says that no matter what we’re doing, it fits into one of three categories: we’re either sitting, standing, or lying down.

If you’re stressed at work, it’s not because of what you’re doing. It’s because you’re attaching a stressful meaning to what you’re doing, and one way to get out of the stress that leads to overeating is to dial back your thoughts about the meaning you’re attaching to a situation. For example, if you’re not stressed when you’re speaking to a vendor, you can take the same thoughts that keep you calm in that conversation and bring them into your conversations with a prospective customer or even an unhappy customer. Spoiler alert: usually these thoughts are along the lines of We’re all human, We’re all looking for a solution and nothing is that big of a deal.

So the first two points here are that managing your mind to change your relationship with food, and managing your mind to keep stress to a minimum, are key. It’s not the hours you’re working. It’s what you’re thinking about all of it.

Give yourself permission not to eat so much

Another thing you can do to not gain weight when you’re working long hours is to give yourself permission not to eat so much. A big reason we overeat is cultural. People will never ask you why you’re eating cupcakes or gobbling up all the food on your plate. But they will ask you why you’re NOT chowing on desserts or eating everything in sight. This starts when we’re about two, with our parents forcing us to clean our plates before we can leave the table.

The thinking here is that it’s safer or better or more compliant or responsible to eat more, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are killing ourselves with too much food, so allow yourself to get a little naughty. Give yourself permission to eat only as long as the food tastes amazing. The moment when the food stops tasting amazing, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns, and this is the point when to put the fork down. This is the signal that you’ve had enough and it’s time to move on to more interesting things.

This takes no time at all. In fact, it will save you time because the truth is that we need far less food to function than the average person consumes. If you give yourself permission to eat only the bites that really taste wonderful, and do this only when you’re actually hungry because that’s when food tastes amazing, you’ll lose weight, but you’ll experience other amazing benefits, too. One, you’ll learn that managing your mind and trusting yourself is really the key to getting anything, and two, you’ll also learn that you can have wonderful things in your life, without being weighed down by excess, and this is a key lesson in feeling wealthy.

I know these ideas work if you can put them into practice, so if you have a hard time doing that, I hope you’ll get in touch with me because I can help you with that. kelly@richandthin.com, or go to my website richandthin.com where you can access my calendar and set yourself up with a free session to talk to me about how you can start getting everything you want in your life.

Thanks and I look forward to connecting with you next week.

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