Is your work affecting your waistline? It might be. Forty-one percent of workers reported gaining weight in their current jobs, according to a 2013 survey. Individuals with mostly sedentary jobs were the most likely to gain weight, as well as those in high-stress positions, including administrative personnel, engineers, teachers, nurses, IT professionals, and attorneys.
Your job can influence your weight in several ways — from where you work to who you work with. Continue reading to see if any of these common situations apply to you and gain strategies to deal with work-related weight gain.
1. You sit all day
Many of us have desk jobs, and that means sitting in front of a computer all day. Studies have linked prolonged sitting to a number of health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased blood sugar. If your job requires you to be mostly sedentary, find ways to add short periods of activity into your day.
2. You drive to work
Driving to and from work means another hour of sitting for most people, and research shows that people who drive to work tend to have higher BMIs than those who use public transportation. Trying walking to work or taking public transportation if you can. If not, allow some time over your lunch break to walk around the neighborhood or around the building to help balance out the effects of sitting all day.
3. Your job is stressful
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain by triggering consistently high levels of the hormone cortisol. Work-related stress has also been linked to type 2 diabetes. We can’t always control the external factors that create stress in our lives, but we can learn healthy ways to deal with stress so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on our health.
4. You stay up late to get work finished
Working all night to meet a deadline may be necessary every once in awhile, but too many late nights can jeopardize your health — and your weight. Lack of sleep and irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the hormones that control feelings of hunger and satiety, causing people to eat more than usual. Make it a priority to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night. Being well rested will help your work performance, too.
5. You work near a lot of fast-food restaurants
If you work in an area with a lot of drive-thrus, you’re more likely to choose unhealthy options for lunch. Research shows that greater exposure to fast food is associated with increased consumption of fast food and a higher BMI. To avoid the takeaway temptation, plan ahead and bring your own lunch to work. Prepare extra food for dinner so you have leftovers, or keep plenty of greens and veggies on hand so you can throw together a healthy salad in the morning.
6. You go out to lunch with coworkers
Even if you’re not eating fast food, going out to eat with coworkers can be dangerous. You’re more likely to order unhealthy foods if everyone around you is doing the same. So even if you’d normally order a salad, if your coworkers are all getting pizza, their habits are likely to rub off on you. If you must eat out, find a lunch buddy who is willing to make healthier choices with you. Having an accountability partner is a powerful tool for helping you meet your health and wellness goals.
7. You’re indoors all day
If you work indoors and don’t have a window, you’re missing out on a natural health aid: sunlight. Research shows that exposure to the sun helps regulate sleep cycles and circadian rhythm, which in turn help regulate weight. If you can’t walk to work, take breaks outside when weather permits.
8. You eat at your desk
Even if you bring your lunch to work, make sure you’re taking a few minutes to get away from your desk while you eat. Eating in front of the computer or TV usually means you aren’t focused on your food, and you can end up eating more than you realize. Eat lunch in a break room — or better yet, outside — and finish your lunch break with a brief walk.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 12, 2017