Niki Campbell by Niki Campbell

Sometimes the biggest pressure at work isn't a looming deadline, a demanding client or an upcoming performance review. It's the pressure to stick to your health and fitness goals in the face of pizza lunches, birthday cake celebrations and Friday happy hours. While being a part of the office fun is important and builds a team atmosphere, it can also derail health and fitness goals.

The first step in achieving better health and fitness is setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals. For example, if you have a SMART goal to lose 10 pounds in 60 days by walking at lunchtime three days a week and cutting back on sugar, going out for lunch or taking part in the office holiday cookie exchange can quickly derail both fitness and nutrition goals. So how can you stay focused and still be social at work? How can you turn SMART goals into long-term, sustainable habits?

Here are five tips to help you stay accountable, reach your goals and still be part of the fun:

  1. Remember why you started. Don’t just set it and forget it when it comes to a goal. Remind yourself regularly why this goal is important. Subtle reminders around your workspace can help you stay focused. It could be a sticky note on a monitor with the goal itself or an inspirational quote as a reminder. Or you could make the screen saver on your phone a picture of a pair of shoes you want to buy or a vacation spot you’d like to visit with your family. Keep these reminders front and center so you see them before grabbing that birthday cake or chipping in for take-out.
  2. Find a partner. Once you set a goal, it’s important to find other like-minded people for accountability. To help navigate office temptations, find a colleague who has similar goals and help each other stick to them. An accountability partner can remind you of your goals and support you when you’re tempted to veer off the healthy-living path. Use the buddy system at happy hours and work dinners to remind each other to make healthy choices and exhibit moderation.
  3. Track food and progress. To manage temptations and treat yourself (on occasion), it’s important to be aware of what and how much you are eating. That means tracking food daily and recording results such as weight, measurements and energy levels each week. One study found keeping a food diary could result in twice as much weight loss versus not keeping a food diary. And being aware of how many calories you’ve consumed allows you to know when you can indulge a bit.
  4. Plan and prep. Some weeks have too many temptations, especially around the holidays. It may include multiple dinners and celebrations, or business travel that requires you to eat at restaurants for every meal. Map out the week by planning for what you might indulge in and then preparing for the rest. Pack healthy lunches if you know there will be multiple take-out days, satisfy that sweet craving with a small piece of dark chocolate before heading into the breakroom for cake, and research restaurant menus in advance so you are prepared to make the right selection when you travel.
  5. Lead the change. Chances are you aren’t the only one at work who is trying to be healthy, lose weight or exercise more. Be a leader by offering to find healthy alternatives to pizza for the next lunch-and-learn session. Or suggest starting a wellness committee that creates opportunities for employees to eat well and move more at work. By setting an example at the office you may make the team healthier and you’ll stand out as a leader.

You will spend up to 90,000 hours at work over your lifetime, and you don't want to miss out on the fun and socializing that comes with having a career you love. Ultimately, you can’t avoid every temptation at work, but with some planning, preparation, awareness and accountability, you can have your cake (or pizza) and achieve your goals, too.

Learn more about creating sustainable behavior change with a health coach certification.