Are sedentary jobs (like management consulting) making us fat? That’s the question behind this week’s Figure It Out. We’re obviously burning less calories in a day’s work than say, David Beckham, but do we need to be exercising more to account for the consulting lifestyle?

Our model took 2 Capgemini consultants, Helen Brown-Paper and Paul Racey, and looked at what they did and what they ate in a typical working day. Helen is working from our office in Wardour Street; Paul is currently working on client site in Leeds.
Helen is 5’ 5’’ and weighs 10 stone (giving her a Body Mass Index of 23.3 – which is in the “Normal” range). She has a waist measurement of 31”. She is lightly active – she goes for a 30 minute walk twice a week. In a typical weekday, while working in Wardour Street, she eats the following:
Breakfast: Bowl of Special K with skimmed milk and an apple
Lunch: Avocado Salad wrap, fresh fruit salad and Vitamin Volcano drink
Dinner: Chicken, asparagus, carrots and rice with a glass of white wine
Snacks/drinks: 5 Mints from the 1st floor, a Tall Skinny Latte, a banana from the kitchen on the 4th floor and a coffee from the coffee machine, with milk
Using the Katch-McArdle method for calculating Helen’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), we can figure out how many calories she needs a day if she were to stay in bed and not move around at all for an entire day. We then factor in her activity rate (lightly active) to get her Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which is 1639. Helen, however, ate approximately 1872 calories, so she took in 233 more than her body needed. Over a year, if Helen was to stick with only 2 half-hour walks a week and eat this same diet every day, being a management consultant (i.e. having a fairly sedentary job) could mean that she will gain 19 lbs in weight.
Paul is 5’11’’ and weighs 12 stone (giving him a Body Mass Index of 23.4 – which is also in the “Normal” range). He has a waist measurement of 34”. He doesn’t do any exercise at all. In a typical weekday working in Leeds on client site, he eats:
Breakfast: Weetabix with milk, a low fat muffin and a glass of orange juice
Lunch: A baked potato with turkey and cheese, a packet of crisps and a can of coke
Dinner: Seafood linguini, ice-cream and 2 glasses of red wine while out for dinner with the Capgemini team in Leeds
Snacks/drinks: 1 can of red bull, 3 machines coffees with milk, a large banana and 5 sweets from the box of chocolates at one of the client’s desks
Using the same method, Paul could gain 39 lbs in a year if he ate this every day and continued not exercising.
It can’t all be bad though can it? Management consultants tend to travel more during the day than those with other office jobs, and so will burn more calories. For example, sitting at a desk and typing, writing or doing desk work for 8 hours will burn approximately 448 calories for an 11 stone person but if a consultant is involved in workshops and off-site client meetings, they will burn quite a bit more (probably about double that on a particularly busy day). A waitress, on the other hand, assuming they walk for 80% of an 8-hour shift and stand talking for the remainder will burn over 1000 calories. So what can we do to make sure we burn more calories at work?
Walking from the ground floor to the 5th floor of Wardour Street:
This burns about 10 calories, depending on your weight, about 15 if you run. While this burns about 10 times more calories than sitting at your desk, it only burns off about 5% of a chocolate bar. If you take the stairs every time you need to move floors in Wardour Street though (and the same principle could be applied to client site), you could burn about an extra 100 calories per day – which would equate to losing half a stone in a year.
Walking from Oxford Circus instead of Piccadilly Circus:
If you decided to walk from Oxford Circus tube station to Wardour Street every working day for a year instead of walking from Piccadilly Circus – you would walk an extra 0.4 miles a day. Walking at a medium pace, an 11 stone person would lose about 2 lbs over a year (this would obviously be more if you walked at a faster pace).