Dietitian’s Mailbag #3: To Sit or Not To Sit?

Okay, everyone.  It’s confession time.  Last month, I was inspired to do something that I’ve never done before.

I’ll preface this by saying that when December 31 rolls around each year, I have some major doubts when my friends share with me their lofty plans for New Year’s resolutions.  Are you really going to stick to that for more than a couple weeks? I often think. Personally, I’m not one for making resolutions at the New Year, but I do try to implement positive changes year-round when the timing and circumstances seem optimal for success. But last month I was inspired to make an immediate change, and in January, no less—I was forced to acknowledge that I was making a New Year’s resolution.

Now what could possibly have prompted this anti-New Year’s resolutionist to change her ways, you ask?  Believe it or not, this was spurred on by none other than one of my own EAT Club co-workers. Unbeknownst to her, Sarah Hau of EAT Club Member Services did something that prompted me to do things differently.


Looking around the EAT Club headquarters in Palo Alto, there’s a sea of desks, some carefully organized with not a right angle out of place, others stacked with bags of gourmet coffee beans and artisanal pour over tools, and a few lined with wireframe sketches and packaging prototypes.

But one desk stands out among the rest.

If you’re someone who likes to stay up on the latest health recommendations, you may have seen the recent press that standing desks have gotten—there’s quite a buzz. Even in this week’s mailbag, Karen C. wrote, “I want to maximize my health.  I’ve been ordering your Healthy Picks from the menu, but am wondering what else I can do besides eating better.  I’ve read articles about how sitting all day can be harmful to your body.  What do you recommend?

Sitting is developing a bad rap for concerns about poor ergonomics, disk damage to the spine, muscle wasting, increased risk of disease, and even slowed mental function due to decreased flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.  Current evidence is piling up against sitting all day and in favor of standing desks.

Some workplaces have started offering their employees sit-to-stand adjustable desks, while at other offices, resourceful workers create make-shift standing desks by stacking books or boxes to the appropriate height. I think you’ll agree that Sarah took things to the next level.  She has feng shui’ed her way into creating an amazing DIY standing desk, the inspiration for my first ever New Year’s resolution—a standing desk of my own.

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Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your desk as Sarah did:

  • Get comfortable. Sarah stands on an anti-fatigue mat. Basic mats will run you $15-30 online, and are well worth it for the comfort of firm cushioning, offering relief from pressure on your back, legs, and heels while standing daylong.
  • Ease the transition. Going from sitting for eight hours per day to standing isn’t easy for most. When you feel like you need to sit, try sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This engages your core abdominal muscles, promoting better posture.
  • The stack exchange. If you’re currently using a cardboard box to raise your desk to the proper height, try swapping it out for something more aesthetically pleasing. Sarah uses two beautiful old leather briefcases with brass hinges. Remember to aim to have your elbows at a 90 degree angle relative to the floor, and adjust the height of all monitors to be at eye level.

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  • Work it out. Sarah keeps free weights at her desk and lifts periodically throughout the day. You don’t have to do a full-on work out in the middle of the office, but take a few 5 minutes breaks throughout the day to engage your muscles. Breaking a sweat not required!
  • Stay hydrated. Remember all the fun facts about water from last week’s blog? Well, Sarah keeps the water flowing by leaving a reusable water bottle at her desk and refilling it throughout the day. Not only does this keep her hydrated, it also helps her to keep track of how much water she has consumed.
  • Add your own flair. Sarah’s desk has a lot of style going on—it feels a little trendy, like boho hipster meets steampunk. Above all, it feels warm and inviting. Think about what makes you feel most at ease. Whether it’s plants, photos of family, or other decorations, this should be somewhere you wouldn’t mind being all day!

Do you have a stand-out stand-up desk?
Tweet us a photo (with you in it) for a chance to win this bacon anti-fatigue mat!