Feature – The Devolution of the Desk Dweller

Feature – The Devolution of the Desk Dweller

Gymbox VPT Ray Buckton has one challenge on his mind, and that's how to help you find a work/fitness balance which will not only make you fitter and leaner, but will also ensure a better level of productivity. "An unhealthy workforce equals an unproductive workforce" he says. "Despite being desk bound, better lifestyle choices can improve productivity, vitality and body composition".

I spend a lot of time with desk dwelling individuals. If you're unfamiliar with the term 'desk-dweller', this refers to individuals who spend more time at their work station than they do anywhere else, and in the current age the majority of the western civilisation – especially in the bigger cities like London – this accounts for most people. The evolution of humans has been occurring for the last couple of hundred million years. We evolved from small microbes, to organisms that move around, stand tall, walk and run! However, in the last thirty years or so, in the Western world we have seen devolution in our species. We move less, consume food and drink in which our bodies were never designed to digest, and have therefore become less abled, and more sick, as a consequence. This dis-functionality and continuity to regress over the past few decades has meant that in the present day we have more lifestyle inflicted illnesses and diseases than ever before in human history, and the bill to take care of this is ever-mounting.

The stress and workload of the workplace very often leads people to make poor nutritional and lifestyle choices. All of this combined is a snowball accumulating to a devastatingly tragic ending. Big businesses are now starting to cotton on, and are realising that an unhealthy workforce equals an unproductive workforce. I have had the privilege of presenting to a few big businesses around the city on how their staff, despite being desk bound, can make better lifestyle choices, and as a result can improve their productivity, vitality and body composition. This article will provide you with some quick tips and knowhow to make the simple choices. And also provide you with the platform to improve your lifestyle. This will consequently surmount to positive influences in your own wellbeing and fitness, enabling you to move better, feel better and who knows, the extra productivity may even get you a promotion!


'Skinny Fat Syndrome' (SFS) is a term referring to the condition that is instigated by the Western diet. This is a diet rich in sugary and processed foods. SFS is very easy to diagnose. If you have particularly skinny limbs but harvest a lot of fat around your midsection, you can include yourself in the SFS category. You look great in clothes but when naked, you would rather the light was off! Sugary and processed foods are very much a part of our lives, and it's only when we truly understand how what we are consuming will affect how we look and feel, that we can make better informed choices with regards to our nutrition and lifestyle.


Sugar is the most addictive and life threatening drug in the world! Deaths related to consuming too much sugar such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes far out weigh those caused by consuming too much alcohol, smoking too many cigarettes, and even those caused by heroin. Sugar comes in various forms, including glucose which are what starchy foods like bread, pasta and cereals are broken down into, and also fructose which is found in fruits. Regardless of the form it takes, and where it comes from, once it's in your system, the biochemistry and hormonal response is all the same. Understanding that hormones are more influential than calories on fat storage in your body is pivotal if you are ever going to understand nutrition, and how to best fuel yourself. A diet high in sugar will cause too much of the hormone insulin to be secreted. Our bodies have different hormonal receptor sites, which, depending on your nutrition and lifestyle will cause you to store fat in different areas. Your insulin receptor sites are found primarily on your subscapular, abdominals and kidneys. Now if you're a desk dweller, it is unlikely you will need this extra energy in your muscle cells so until you get a grip on the amount of sugar you are consuming, your midsection will continue to cultivate and grow in circumference.


The other relevant hormone responsible for SFS and poor productivity and vitality is cortisol, the stress hormone. As well as obvious external stresses in our lives which come from things like work – which can sometimes be out of our control – cortisol output is also exaggerated by things we can control like high caffeine intake, dehydration, lack of sleep and a diet high in processed foods. The receptor site for the hormone cortisol also happens to be predominantly on the abdominals, bad news for those seeking a six-pack. I have had the pleasure of dealing with an array of different clientele and when they first come to me, they all tend to have the same things in common:

  • they are desk bound daily
  • they skip breakfast
  • they do not drink enough water
  • they eat too much starch and sugar
  • they do not get enough sleep
  • they drink too much coffee

If you can relate to some or all of the above, you will likely be suffering from SFS and poor well-being and are looking for a protocol to rectify this.


All diets work. There is an endless list of diets available out there, all of which are competing for your attention, so you use them for your next 'weight loss challenge'. Generally speaking, they all aim to achieve the same thing: to improve insulin sensitivity through a lower starchy carbohydrate intake. The problem with most diets is that they are unsustainable. They fail to factor in performance and functionality, and can therefore only be utilised as short-term solutions. The key is to wean yourself away from your sugar addiction, and beat cravings to prevent tidal waves of insulin in your system alongside maintaining good energy levels and giving the body what it needs to function optimally.

Eat whole foods. Real foods. The foods we evolved to eat. The Paleo diet aka 'Cave Man' diet has the right ethos. It requires you to eat a balanced diet of meat, vegetables, berries and nuts – basically the same food we ate as ape became man and therefore the optimal choices for our bodies to draw resources from. This approach however, doesn't tend to have too much longevity when it's applied due to unfulfilled satiety, and quite often, people on it will have digestive problems. This is caused mainly by not eating enough vegetables. The 'Slow Carb Diet' (SCD), made famous by writer Tim Ferris has long been my go to approach for desk dwelling clients and those suffering from SFS. It works perfectly for fat loss and optimising body composition, great for maintaining energy levels as well as improving digestion and satiety. The Crucial difference between SCD and the Paleo diet is the inclusion of a lot of pulses like lentils and beans. Applying the SCD to your life at the desk as well as trying to drink more water and getting more sleep will contribute considerably to upgrading your body, improving your productivity and enhancing your well being as well as combating the evolution of the desk dweller.

For personalised nutrition programs to help you stay on track whilst you are desk bound please visit my website www.raybuckton.com or email me oat [email protected]. You can also follow on Twitter @ray_buckton or Facebook 'Ray Buckton Fitness' for more tips!