Is Your Job Making You Fat?

Yesterday, I came across an article about job-related weight gain. According to a new study of U.S. workers, 44 per cent have gained weight at their current job. Here were some of the top factors respondents cited for their weight gain:

– Sitting at a desk most of the day
– Stress-related eating
– Eating out regularly
– Skipping meals because of time constraints
– Workplace celebrations
– The temptation of the office candy jar
– Pressure to eat food that co-workers bring-in

I can definitely relate to many of these but after almost a year of working in an office, I still fit into all of the clothes I bought when I started working full-time (which is great since I now have a mortgage and can no longer afford new clothes). Here’s how I deal with (and struggle with) all of the above situations:

1. Sitting at a desk most of the day – I try to balance this out by doing something active most days of the week but according to all of the studies, this is not enough to negate the effects of sitting in a chair all day and I’m therefore still a likely candidate for a host of unpleasant ailments and diseases.

The “experts” recommend getting up and walking once an hour but other than frequent trips to the ladies room (and the water cooler… which lead to more trips to the ladies room), I have no idea how to implement this suggestion into my day.

I don’t know what your office is like, but if I just left my desk to go for a walk every hour, I don’t think my boss would be too pleased. Not even if I waved a bunch of studies in her face to prove that exercise increases productivity (NB: studies also show that aimless Internet surfing also increases productivity; I’ve got that one bookmarked in case I ever find my browsing history under scrutiny).

Sometimes I take a walk on my lunch break if the weather is nice but overall I find it challenging to fit in exercise outside of my regular gym routine (anyone have any suggestions?).

2. Stress-related eating – whenever I’m tempted to grab something sugary to distract myself from a particularly hellish task, I tell myself this: the task will still be there once I’ve finished the cookie and then I’ll feel even more crappy for having eaten empty calories (not to mention lethargic when the inevitable sugar crash hits). If you must distract yourself from the misery of your job, try making a cup of tea, chewing gum or squeezing one of those stress balls.

3. Eating out regularly – if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m the queen of re-heated leftovers. Planning and packing my weekday lunches isn’t the hard part; for me it’s the social isolation that occasionally comes with it.

Many of my co-workers go out for lunch several times a week and I admit I sometimes feel like a big loser when everyone’s getting ready to hit up McDonald’s and I’ve got my reheated chicken and vegetables.

Luckily, most of my co-workers bring their take-out back to the office and we all eat together, which minimizes that feeling of isolation. But still, I go out with them once in awhile to be social and on those occasions, try to stick to healthier menu options (or eat half of whatever I order).

4. Skipping meals because of time constraints – this really isn’t a problem for me; once my stomach starts grumbling, I can’t focus on anything else. If I’m strapped for time, I’ll just eat at my desk. Preparedness is key here. If you pack your lunch and snacks, you’ll have easily accessible food on hand for when you get hungry.

5. Workplace celebrations – honestly, I don’t bother trying to eat healthy at workplace celebrations. If a co-worker is celebrating a special occasion, then I will happily enjoy a slice of cake with everyone. That being said, I work in a smaller office so there aren’t too many celebrations happening on a regular basis. If you work in a large office where someone is celebrating a birthday every week, stick to celebrations for people you actually interact with regularly.

6. The temptation of the office candy jar – oh man, everywhere you turn in my office, there is junk food readily available. For me, knowing I have tasty, filling food in the fridge helps me avoid the candy jar (or box of cookies, cupcakes, etc). If you’re starving and have nothing to eat, you’re much more likely to cave and dig in.

Occasionally, I get tempted to eat treats out of boredom but overall I adopt the policy that food should not be a distraction from the daily grind – it’s either for nourishment or pleasure (or both) so if I’m going to eat empty calories, it should be to enhance an already enjoyable experience  – nights out with friends, date nights, parties, etc. – in a setting where I can actually savor what I’m eating and remember it fondly. Not just “I’m bored at work and some sugar would really make the next 10 minutes a lot more fun.” Is a few minutes of distraction from your work really worth hundreds of empty calories? Probably not.

7. Pressure to eat food co-workers bring in – a lot of my co-workers regularly bring in baked goods from home. If they offer one to me specifically, I’ll be polite and accept it. I won’t necessarily finish it all depending on whether or not I’m in the mood for a treat (I’m a sucker for homemade baked goods so I’ll sometimes make an exception to my rule of not eating junk at work). If, however, I don’t really love what they’ve brought, I’ll just toss it in the garbage once they’ve left my area. That way, nobody’s feelings get hurt and you don’t have to regret eating something you didn’t really enjoy out of obligation.