How To Stay Fit While Writing

By: Patty Apostolides

Day after day, writers tend to sit for hours writing that novel or story, and over time, this can become a potential problem. Their metabolism may slow down and the pounds can inch up. Statistics show all kinds of health problems associated with obesity.

If you’re an author, you are aware how your image plays a role in promoting your books. You are asked to speak or lecture at a gathering, or promote your books doing book tours and signings. Or even better yet, you’re asked to go on a TV show, like Oprah! That is not the time to think about losing weight! You have to start now, before that book goes out on the shelves, so when you go on that stage or in front of the television, you’re looking and feeling good.

How can you tell if you’re obese? Here are a few ways to tell –

  1. you pinch the area around your waist and it’s two inches thick,

  2. you lie down and can’t feel the top of your breastbone,

  3. your clothes don’t fit you,

  4. you avoid having your picture taken,

  5. you keep telling yourself you need to get a new scale because your scale isn’t working

  6. Check your weight against the Body Mass Index table provided by NIH website:

How can writers live long and healthy lives if they don’t take care of their bodies? Here are some tips I’ve designed to stay fit while writing that novel.


Breaks are important for you. Not only so you can get up and stretch or walk around, but to allow your brain a rest. One way that is helpful, is to put a timer on for 45 minutes. When the timer goes off, take that break, walk around, do your laundry or something physical, anything to get you moving. After 10-15 minutes, you will feel refreshed and ready to get back to writing.


Working at home is a wonderful feeling. You can set your own hours, wear whatever you want, and have the freedom to come and go. However, beware of the munchies syndrome. It may begin with a cup of coffee and a sweet, then some chips or nuts. Before you know it, it’ll turn into a habit, and every time you sit down to write, you’ll expect a delicious sweet or crunchy snack nearby. DON’T DO IT! The chips have tons of sodium in them, which makes your body retain water and will make you swell up like a balloon. So think twice before you dip into those salty chips or nuts.

The brain is like a reliable machine. It will work hours for you on end if you take care of it. Just like you oil and gas your car, you need to do the same for your brain. The brain cannot work endlessly without some reinforcement. It needs energy foods as well as bouts of rest to operate at its best.

Although the brain loves sugar, hence the urge to eat sweet foods like cookies, cakes, donuts, there are drawbacks to feeding it sugar all the time (weight gain, diabetes, etc.). Sometimes substitutes like a granola bar or fresh fruit will do just as well, thank you. Carrot sticks work for me!

Don’ be like those squirrels munching away constantly. If you catch yourself going to your writing desk carrying plates loaded with goodies, etc., then beware. Go right back to the kitchen and set those plates down. Promise yourself that you’ll have your snack, but only at certain times (like mid-morning, or mid-afternoon). Your brain will get used to it, believe me. It will adapt. Habits can be broken.


  1. 5 servings of vegetables and/or fruits

  2. 2-3 servings low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.)

  3. One serving of protein (meat, chicken, fish, soy, legumes)

  4. 5 servings of grains (cereal, bread, pasta)

  5. Vitamins – take your multivitamin, your calcium (as we age, we need more), and any other vitamins you feel are helpful. Vitamin B complex, Selenium, Zinc, Fish Oil, and Vitamin E are also good for you.

Also, make it a point to drink plenty of water. Around 6-8 glasses of water a day are good for you. Sometimes we are thirsty and we think we’re hungry. So next time you go for the bag of chips, get yourself a glass of water instead.


Exercise boosts your metabolism, gets those endorphins streaming through your body to make you feel good, gets the blood coursing through your arteries and veins, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. There are so many benefits linked to exercise, it would be foolish not to include it in your daily activities. Exercise makes you look younger (who doesn’t want to look younger?) and has also been known to lower one’s craving for food.

There are three intensities of exercise (low, moderate, and high):

  1. Low intensity exercise is leisurely walking - you don’t really get sweaty. If you are beginning to exercise, start here. Do this for a couple of weeks.

  2. Moderate intensity exercise is when you bicycle, or jog, or even walk fast, and usually start sweating around 10-15 minutes into the exercise. This is a good level intensity, geared to those who have already done low intensity for awhile.

  3. High intensity exercise is when you run, bike, play tennis competitively and sweat within 3 minutes of beginning this exercise. Not recommended if you haven’t exercised in awhile. Muscle cramps, and pulled muscles can result if you’re not in shape. If you think you’d like to try this, ease into it by alternating between moderate and high intensity in the same exercise session.

Always remember to stretch before and after each session, and drink plenty of water. Check with your doctor first if you have health problems before beginning any exercise program. It’ll take about 5-6 weeks for results to show. So give yourself plenty of time and be patient. It does work.

Winter is the hardest time to stay fit because the weather can be so cruel during this season, particularly if you live in the north and you’re an outdoors type person (jogger, swimmer, tennis player, etc.). There are ways to get around it.

  1. Get an aerobics videotape and do a dose of aerobics (30-40 minutes/day) in your home. At least 5 days a week.

  2. Get an indoor treadmill or stationary bicycle. They’re worth it. Again, five days a week, 30-40 minutes.

  3. Join an indoor swimming pool, tennis club, etc. and make it a point to go there faithfully.

  4. If you’re broke, go to the mall and walk around there for 45 minutes a day.

  5. If all the above aren’t for you, just keep moving (household chores, up and down the stairs, shopping, etc.).


How will you know if you are doing well if you don’t keep track of your progress? One way to do this, is to keep a log. Write down your initial weight, and your goal weight. Each day jot down what you eat, and the amount and type of exercise you do in your log. Since writers like to write, this won’t be a problem to write in the log. Right?

In order for your weight loss to work, you have to be faithful to losing the weight, and to yourself. Try it for a few weeks. Over time, you’ll start seeing an eating pattern, good or bad. If you notice you didn’t lose weight for a certain week, check your log to see what happened (maybe ate out more, or partied). That’s ok, you can always get on track the following week. Don’t be hard on yourself. Every pound you lose is one less to worry about.


I know this may sound contradictory, but go slow on your wellness program. Take your time. It doesn’t pay to add stress to your life. If you lose a pound a week, that’s a good benchmark. If you’re losing 5 pounds a week on average, that’s not so good. You’ve heard the term “easy come, easy go". It also applies to weight loss. Quick weight loss means quick weight gain down the road. You need to feel comfortable with what you are doing, or else it won’t work.


If you’ve tried losing weight and it’s just not happening, then maybe you might consider joining a weight loss program. Some people do better if they’re in a supportive group setting. That’s fine. Just be wary of the weight loss programs that sound too good to be true. One rule of thumb that works for me is if you can’t stick to the diet for life, then don’t do it.

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