7 Healthy Habits to Keep Freelance Writers Slim

Carol Tice

It’s hard to stay thin and fit as a freelance writer. After all, we’ve got all those hours at our desks sitting and writing.

And we’ve all heard the bad news about sitting — it’s the new smoking.

Still, it’s not impossible to stay fit in this line of work. Plus, staying fit can go a long way to keeping your self-employed health insurance costs down!

I’ve been working brutal hours between Freelance Writers Den and my own freelance writing assignments, but I still recently managed to slim down a dress size and get back into the single digits.

Which felt great!

I had a recent physical and my doctor was impressed — apparently my cholesterol levels are great, too.

How did I do it?

Here are my seven fitness tips for freelance writers:

  1. Exercise first thing. My best-case scenario is to go for a one-hour mostly uphill walk before I sit down at my desk. My kids go on early school buses and during the school year I try to walk straight from their bus stop so as to avoid any excuse-making. I’m already out of the house…let’s go! I find having to put on special gear or drive to a gym is time I don’t have, so I just walk, in whatever I’ve got on. The backup plan is to exercise after work, but I find it never ends up being as vigorous or as long as if I can get the workout in at the beginning of the day — and it’s too easy for life to intrude and the workout to get skipped when I wait until after work.
  2. Healthy snacks. I don’t know about you, but when I’m working on a complex writing assignment I’m a bit nervous about, I tend to crave a snack. If you put a bag of Cheetos or cookies in front of me in a scenario like this, I’d probably rip right through the whole bag. That’s why we strive to keep unhealthy snacks out of the house. My best writing snacks are nibble carrots or edible-pod peas. They’ve got nice crunch, healthy fiber, and satisfy my nosh craving without piling on a lot of calories.
  3. Portion control. I try never to bring a whole container of anything to my desk, even something healthy. Instead, pick up the smallest plate or bowl in your house and fill it with your snack item. Return to your desk, and don’t come back into the kitchen again.
  4. Sit on the ball. Speaking of sitting up straight, I sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. (I gather everyone at Google does it, too.) The ball forces you to sit upright — there’s no chair back to slump against. Also, you have to make constant small adjustments to keep your balance, which tones your abs. Even better, I like to roll back and do mini-crunches while I’m waiting for poky websites to load. Which beats tearing your hair and wishing they would load faster, while you stare hatefully at that stupid beachball graphic. You get a bit more workout, improve your posture, AND reduce stress, all at the same time. It also makes you feel a little more like you’re at play and less like you’re at work.
  5. Free weights. Typing exercises a few weird little muscles in our arms while neglecting the big ones. I counteract that by doing an arm workout while I watch TV with 5-pound free weights. Keep those arms toned, ladies!
  6. Inverted poses. If I’m stuck on a piece of writing or just feeling tired or frustrated, I might do a slow yoga-style headstand. Always energizing and refreshing — and it gets you up and moving.
  7. Weekend exercise blitz. Especially if I haven’t gotten in much exercise time during the week, I try to line up some major outdoor workouts over the weekend to up the total exercise time I’m getting in the week. Favorites include wheelbarrowing loads of dirt around my garden (work on that six-pack!), long bike rides, canoeing, or hikes in the woods. This is your chance to get in longer workouts and build some muscle — so grab it.

I know these tips really work because more recently, I lost my discipline for doing many of these fitness points above…and the weight crept right back on. So it’s time to get that ball back out and get back to exercising early instead of late.

How do you stay fit as a writer? Leave a comment and share your tips.


  1. Di

    I try not to sit too long without taking a break and try to leave the house for a walk and perhaps the shops (on foot) after two hours. Strangely through a period of long walks last autumn (2011) I made more headway – wordcount wise – despite walking for several hours a day. Yes, I agree that ideas tend to come to you when you are walking. I carry a notebook in my back bag, plenty of water and something to read when I get to a peaceful place. Once I am back home I make a beeline for the computer and seem to achieve much more than I would if I hadn’t gone off for the long walk. Try it and see what happens to your creativity.

  2. Madeleine Kolb

    I don’t necessarily recommend it, but in all the packing, hauling, cleaning, lifting, and unpacking with our recent move back to Seattle, I’ve lost about 11 pounds. I’m never moving again, so it’s back to walking and running.

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! I hate moving…I’m always joking they’re taking me out of here in a box. But I actually might move again sometime. Been like 18 years here.

  3. Kat Tate

    Great post, Carol.

    I’m seven months into my full-time freelancing career and my issue is that whenever I’m not writing, I feel that I’m missing out on an income. However, as so many of your readers have said, just taking an hour or so a day (or taking little breaks here and there) really helps clear my mind and work more efficiently.

    I just need to start silencing that voice that says, ‘You should be working! You don’t know when this work will all dry up!’ and start pounding the pavement!

  4. cassie hart

    I think what helps me most is that I’m writing very part-time right now…chasing after a toddler during the day definitely keeps me moving! But I also belong to a very affordable gym that opened last year super close to my home ($10/month). My neighbor and I signed up together and work out together 2x/week. I also try to snack on what I want my kids to eat: yogurt, cheese sticks, fruit, etc. (Although those cookies my husband insists on having around at all times are tempting!)

    Thx for the post…this is a great topic!

  5. Neil

    Awesome post! Can’t wait to someday follow the tips.

    Seriously, the whole working from home thing is still new to me, after having spent the last 34 years working for others at their locations. Now it becomes a mental focus to make myself start a regimen. One thing new is my son and I have started taking a martial arts class once a week and that creates cardio. But , to get a focused regimen going is something else.

    Since I am not a fast typer my time seems taken up with keyboard usage, so I have to get up and walk around aa bit after a period of time.

    Just need to create time I guess.

    • Carol Tice

      Consider taking a typing class to improve your speed — it’ll be worth it. I type about 120+ wpm and I don’t know where I’d be without that speed.

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