Brutal travel schedule?
Working dinners with pizza or take-out every night?
Yep, you’re a consultant.
To outsiders, it might sound like a cushy office job with a great salary and lots of exciting travel perks.
But consultants know that the consulting lifestyle can wreak absolute havoc on your weight, fitness, and overall well-being.
I’m not personally a consultant, but my wife is! She’s routinely expected to work 60+ hours a week and fights like crazy to find time and energy to workout. I’ve also spent hours browsing online discussion forums like Quora, Reddit, and industry specific online meet-ups where consultants from places like McKinsey and Deloitte shared their best tips with one another.
To stay fit as a consultant, you have to seize control over the little things. You may have to stay at the office late and miss your after-work fitness class, but you can wake up early in the morning and get in a quick sweat before work. You can’t control where the higher-ups order dinner from, but you can make sure you have healthy lunch options ready to go as often as possible.
(Those are just a few examples.)
I’ll get deep into these tips and more below!
Here are 14 health tips for consultants that’ll help you lose weight, stay fit, or just maintain a healthier mindset when you’re traveling and working crazy hours.
1. Prioritize your health and wellness…. now!
It’s awesome that you’re already looking for some healthy consulting lifestyle tips.
This industry is notoriously brutal on workers with a lot of people burning out and leaving after 2-3 years, and things only get worse if you decide to pursue a leadership position like partner, VP, director, etc.
The long hours, bad diets, and high stress can take a serious toll.
In fact, over 50% of consultants polled by Consulting Success said they felt they were only in somewhat good shape, or not in good shape at all.
It’s not only important for your overall well-being and health to start taking better care of yourself now, it’ll help you do better work, be more effective in your role, and ultimately have a more successful career.
You can only burn the candles at both ends for so long!
You may have to make some sacrifices to carve out time for yourself now, but that decision will pay dividends down the road.
2. Use your data skills to track calories religiously
Maybe you want to lose weight.
Maybe you just want to stay trim or keep off the unwanted pounds.
Either way, I highly recommend you start tracking your calories.
(Your logical, data-driven mind is practically built for it!)
Keep tabs on every calorie going into your body, either with a convenient app like MyFitnessPal or by just writing down quick estimates on a pad of paper.
Once you’ve gathered a couple of weeks of data, you’ll see where the problem areas are.
Maybe you’re having too many late-night working sessions with greasy pizza.
Maybe that splash of creamer you add to your coffee adds up over the course of 15 mugs per day.
Maybe you’re overdoing it on snacks througout the day.
As a really rough, generic starting point, your bodyweight x 15 calories per day is usually about what most people need to maintain their current weight.
Bodyweight x 12 calories per day is a good starting point for weight loss for consultants.
Even if you don’t initially set yourself a calorie goal, start keeping tabs on what you eat and where you might need to cut back.
3. Limit coffee & drink more water
Speaking of coffee, if you’re like most consultants, you probably use it as a crutch to get through long days.
An alarming 12% of consultants polled in the Consulting Success study linked above admitted to drinking 4, 5, 6, or more cups of coffee in a typical day. And over a third of them regularly had 2-3 cups every single day.
(Same goes for truck drivers and lots of other busy professionals.)
Believe me, beyond a cup or two in the morning to get started, it’s not helping as much as you think.
Overdoing it on coffee and caffeine can dehydrate you (which makes you more tired) and cause you to sleep worse at night (which, you guessed it, makes you more tired).
(And if you’re adding lots of cream and sugar to your coffee, it could be hurting your waistline, as well.)
Hydrate yourself by drinking lots of water throughout the day.
It’ll perk you up more than you think, and help prevent mindless snacking.
4. Learn to meal plan & scout healthy restaurants
Chances are your consulting schedule is pretty unpredictable when it comes to meals, especially when you’re traveling on the road.
Here are two things that should help:
- Prepare healthy meals ahead of time
- Locate healthy eating out options near the office or client site ahead of time
One of our favorite tricks is to make double batches of healthy dinners at home; usually something high in lean protein and packed with veggies, with a little bit of whole grains on the side.
The extras can be frozen or refrigerated and grabbed for a healthy lunch option at work. Or, if you get pulled into a lunch meeting outside of the office, that tupperware meal can become dinner if you stay late at the office.
Another great idea is to find some healthy spots near your office or client site you can recommend for meals and meetings. Instead of hitting that burger or taco joint by default, find some places that offer salads, fresh juices, or any lower-calorie options and suggest those instead.
5. Master the art of lightning fast workouts
Short on time in the morning, evening, or when traveling for a project?
Don’t let that be an excuse.
You can get a pretty awesome full body workout and burn around 100 calories doing a simple, 7-minute bodyweight HIIT workout.
(I can highly recommend the official 7 Minute Workout app — find it on the app store for free!)
You can easily knock this out before you hop in the shower first thing in the morning, or in your hotel room during consulting travel.
These short, micro-workouts won’t revolutionize your fitness levels, but they’ll help offset some of the inherent unhealthiness of the consulting lifestyle and give your mood and energy levels a boost for the day.
6. Make early morning workouts your friend
If you can stomach early wake-ups, the wee hours of the morning are often the only hours that truly belong to you.
My wife, who is a revenue management consultant, wakes up for 5:30am yoga classes a few times per week.
It’s the only time she has.
Once she’s at work, she might get stuck there late or have an after-work function to attend. Once work is over, there’s school pick up for our daughter, dinner, and bedtime at the house.
If you’re serious about making time consistently for full-scale workouts (rather than quick HIIT sessions), you might have to set your alarm a little earlier.
7. Prioritize your sleep
That said, don’t sacrifice your sleep on both ends of the scale at once.
It’s imperative to get as much good-quality sleep as you can, at least 7 hours if possible.
If you’re working late and getting up early, you’ll likely have to train yourself to get into bedtime mode quickly and efficiently, falling asleep on time and not spending hours tossing and turning.
A few quick tips:
- Avoid late-day caffeine
- Read a book before bed rather than binge TV
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Build and stick to a sleep routine to develop consistency
8. Get familiar with the hotel gym
When traveling for consulting projects, you’ll usually have access to some kind of gym in the hotel.
It may not be the nicest in the world, and you may not have a ton of time to use it, but it’s available to you nonetheless.
Remember, you only need a few minutes of high-intensity exercise to build your cardio endurance and burn calories.
Running sprints on the treadmill or doing a quick weight circuit can work wonders if you only have 10-15 minutes to workout before you need to shower and meet up with the team.
Bonus tip: If you have a little more time to spare and want to access nicer facilities, ask the hotel if they have any partnerships with local gyms. You may be able to use a bigger box gym nearby for free during your stay.
9. Block your calendar for exercise & self-care whenever possible
If you do have some time back at the office, don’t let your calendar get overwhelmed by meetings and requests from other people.
If at all possible, make blocks on your calendar for:
- A quick walk at lunch
- A lunchtime workout
- Time to eat your lunch in peace! (You’ll enjoy your food more and end up snacking less)
- Time to decompress
- Leaving work on time in the evening
I know it’s not always possible, but if you can add just one or two blocks per week on your calendar to prioritze your own wellness, it can make a big difference!
10. Limit the booze & opt for mocktails
Consultants love to drink.
There’s happy hours, hotel bar working sessions, work parties, client dinners, and more.
You’re usually expected to have a few drinks at all of these events, which can really add up!
Not only does a ton of boozing pile on a ton of calories to your diet, it kills your sleep, energy levels, and healthy-eating willpower.
Set some limits for yourself at work functions.
Try having only 1 or 2 drinks instead of 3 or 4, or take a few nights off every week with just some club soda or a low-calorie mocktail.
Your body and liver will thank you!
(Getting up early the next morning to work out will be WAY easier, too.)
11. Maximize your weekends
You’re finally done traveling for the week, woohoo!
OK, so maybe you brought a little work home with you, but for the most part, your weekends are yours.
Don’t let them slip away binging Netflix and eating even more takeout.
If your weekdays are just totally out of control, now is your chance to make some healthy meals, get more sleep, and be active — get in those workouts, take a fitness class, or go for a hike.
Be intentional about how you spend the 2 days of the week that actually belong to you.
12. Find a workout or exercise activity that you love
If getting up at 5:30 and doing quick HIIT workouts isn’t working for you, don’t give up.
What you need is to find a workout that you love doing, so you’ll be motivated to make the time to do it.
Makes sense, right?
Try local fitness classes in your area or drop-in to different gyms with a guest pass; it’s almost always free to try.
Some ideas that might be up your alley:
- Distance running
- Weight lifting
- Spin class
(And check out my guide with more tips on how to stay motivated to workout.)
13. Give yoga or meditiation a try
Whatever you end up choosing, I highly recommend you consider trying yoga at least a few times if you’re a consultant.
Not only is it a great conditioning and strength-building workout, so much of yoga focuses on mindset and worldview, giving you tools to cope with high-stress situations in your daily life.
If yoga isn’t your thing, you can try meditiation through an app like Headspace which is great for beginners looking to learn.
Consulting is really high pressure and high stress; it’s imperative you find a healthy way to manage those emotions.
14. Get on a program
Finally, if the idea of working out just seems too overwhelming, maybe you need to eliminate the decision-making aspect of it.
Get on a workout program that tells you exactly what to do each time you workout (and sometimes, even, how to eat to get the best results).
This was a total gamechanger for me when I started a basic weight lifting program and started to see results for the first time in my life.
I really love Aaptiv, an app full of audio-guided workouts for:
- The treadmill
- Strength training
- And anything else you can think of
If you love the idea of going to the gym or working out but just don’t know what to do, you’ll love the structure and guidance from an app like this one.
So there you have it, all of my best healthy lifestyle tips for consultants who want to finally get in shape (or stay fit)!
Overall, I know that the consulting lifestyle is crazy, hectic, and inherently unhealthy. My best advice is to grab control of the few areas you can (healthy lunches, weekend workouts, and getting enough sleep, for example), and make the most of them to start.
You can continue to layer in more and more healthy choices as you build better habits over time.
If you’re a consultant, what are your best tips for staying fit on the road or when working long hours? How do you do it?
Tell me in the comments!
Hope this helps, everyone.
(And psst, check out my guide to what to do when you have no time to workout because you work too much.)