We all know how difficult to stay at a healthy weight while living the Biglaw lifestyle. Too many hours sitting down, with desk drawers nicely stocked for a quick bite in between phone calls. Sitting inside office buildings all day, with easy access to vending machines stocked with soda and junk food. Carb-heavy breakfasts for client meetings and lateral interview sessions. Food orgies masquerading as CLE sessions and firm meetings. Business development lunches and dinners at fancy restaurants with comprehensive wine and scotch lists. Seamless Web. Two cities, three depositions, one week — equaling plane snacks, room service, and more restaurants. Year in, year out, for a decade or two or three. No wonder your typical Biglaw partner has seen better days waistline-wise.
I know firsthand that it is not easy to drop those Biglaw pounds. But the effort is worth it. In my case, it took some real discipline to arrest what threatened to be a constant addition of one or two pounds a year. I was getting chunky, and as I noted in my first column, I only saw extremes in my older colleagues. I am not a runner, and while working out at home added on some muscle, there was no way I was going to see real results without changing my eating (and drinking) habits.
Everyone has their favorite weight loss tips. Here’s what has worked for me, in terms of keeping the extra pounds away….
My program consists of continuing the weight training; adding in some body-weight exercises on off-days, so that I am doing some exercise every day; and totally revamping my workday diet. My mid-morning snack is now carrots or celery. Afternoon and post-dinner snacks are now primarily fruit. Plenty of water. Surprisingly, once I cracked the Biglaw pounds barrier — in my case, I estimate that Biglaw added 10 to 15 pounds to normal post-marital/age weight gain — it became easier to lose even more weight.
And while summer keeps me active with pick-up basketball and swimming with the kids (on weekends of course), I hope this current run of form sticks during my busy upcoming fall travel schedule. What I do know is that the Biglaw food carousel is unlikely to stop turning.
Be rude, and stare at your colleagues during the next lunch meeting. Watch as the plates are filled as everyone lines up elementary-school style for a crack at the cuisine of the month. Get there early and take a look at the dessert tray when it is full. Take another look after the meeting wraps up. There is a decent chance you will see whatever scraps are left getting neatly folded into a napkin for some partner’s afternoon deskside sugar fix. See how even the fancy tailoring on the expensive clothing your colleagues wear cannot hide the jiggly bellies and hips. Or how the double chins overwhelm standard and cut-away collars alike.
And then, when you visit the restroom after the meeting, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. If you have managed to resist the Biglaw food frenzies, congratulate yourself during your next treadmill session. But if you do not like what you see, get started on changing your habits. Preferably today. Because you owe it to yourself (and if you have one, your family) to look and feel your best.
No one is saying that all Biglaw partners need to look like Olympic swimmers. And this is not a call for anyone to start up an eating disorder or get a recommendation for a bariatric surgeon just yet. All I am saying is that we all have “fit” and “fat” versions of ourselves. There is a good chance that the “fit” version will be happier and more successful.
We are all different, and there is no path to fitness that will work for everyone. From a Biglaw firm perspective, firms should get more serious about attorney fitness. For one thing, whoever orders the lunches should be instructed to do away with the pastry plate, or at least cut it down. Wraps and healthy sandwiches should replace heavy buffet-style entrees. No more regular soda at meetings — people end up drinking one with lunch and taking another one back to their desk. Firms could also work with their health insurers to offer attractive weight-loss/wellness programs at work. Offices could start “Biggest Loser” contests with prizes to tap into competitive streaks. Perhaps Biglaw partners could carry their own bankers’ boxes instead of loading them onto a hand cart. Unlikely, but possible. I am sure there are other ideas.
We have all seen articles exploring how America’s obesity problem is putting us at a competitive disadvantage. And while Biglaw attorneys are all successful in some measure, this is not the Ottoman Empire. Just because you are a partner does not mean you should strive for a pasha’s potbelly.
We can all try to be as fit as we can be, under the circumstances. And if we do, maybe the image of a beach stocked with Biglaw partners in bathing suits would not be so scary.
Anonymous Partner is a partner at a major law firm. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.