Is your job making you gain weight?

It happens to the best of us – weight gain.  It wasn’t like you went to bed one night skinny and the next morning you woke up plump.  No, the weight gain was gradual and you may be blaming everything under the sun except for one thing – your job.  Before you decide to find a new place of work, consider the fact how hard it can be to meet diet and exercise goals when stuck in an office all day.  The way many jobs are set up can make it difficult for losing and keeping weight off but not impossible.  There are things you can do to help remove office roadblocks getting in the way of beating the battle of the bulge.

Here are some common things we all do at work that can lead to unwelcomed weight gain but also how we can change that:

Sitting on the job for hours

There are a many jobs that involve a lot of sitting all day.  And that lack of movement not only burns fewer calories but is harming our health in other ways.  Research has linked sitting for long periods of time to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.  Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How to change this – Try to get up and walk around at least every hour but preferably every 30 to 45 minutes – even just 5 minutes of movement helps.  Always take the stairs instead of the elevator or get up from your desk and stretch, walk around the office or better yet, invest in a standing desk or treadmill. 

Eating at your desk

We get hungry during the day but eating at our desks is frowned upon.  Keeping a food stash in your desk or eating lunch at your desk is too risky.  It tends to lead to overeating and eating of not the most healthful foods.

How to change this – It’s okay to have a snack but have a rule you have to get up from your desk to go get it.  Eat the snack somewhere other than your desk.  At lunchtime, use the opportunity to be away from your work by eating at a common dining area or taking your food to a local park to eat.  The change of scenery and environment is good for your body and mind.

Staying inside all day long

When you have a fast-paced, hectic job, never venturing outdoors all day long is easy to do.  But the lack of sunshine may be contributing to a higher body mass index (BMI).  A 2014 study explored the relationship of timing and duration of daily habitual light exposure with BMI.  It showed that sun exposure is associated with a lower BMI.  In fact, getting a majority of daily light exposure earlier in the day appears to be linked with a lower BMI.

How to change this – It may be hard to do, but make it a priority to take a few minutes, preferably mid-morning, to step outside and soak up the sun.  It may be a brief walk up the sidewalk but it could make a difference in your outlook and weight.

Your co-workers have unhealthy eating habits

You know who they are.  The co-workers who like to bring a box of donuts or the one who brings the decadent dessert they made last night at home to share with everyone at work.  Or maybe it’s the office co-worker who always has a tempting bowl of chocolate kisses sitting on their desk.  These co-workers may mean well but they can sabotage your efforts at keeping a healthy body weight.

How to change this – You may not be able to completely stop or persuade the office junk food junkie from bringing in their wares.  But one suggestion is to bring in your own healthy snacks helping to prevent temptation.  It might be a popcorn mix, flavored low-fat yogurt cups or healthy dark chocolate. Avoiding the area where food is brought to work is another strategy to use.  Being upfront and honest telling the person that you are trying to eat healthier and that you’d appreciate the support in doing so can help.  Also, change the office snack culture.  Make suggestion to help steer co-workers toward healthier snacks or at least limit junk food to only one day a week.  On the other days suggest snack offerings of a fruit plate with yogurt dip, veggie chips or lower-calorie cheese sticks to share. You may be surprised how many other people will support this idea.

You let the stress of your work get the best of you

How much did you weigh when you started your job and how much do you weigh now?  People with high stress jobs will often cite that they have gained weight in the process of building their portfolio and corporate success.  Chronic stress can trigger cortisol, a stress hormone that leads to fat storage and sugar cravings.  This unhealthy combo of chronic high stress and high levels of cortisol will only lead to a bigger waistline and higher health care costs.

How to change this – One of the best antidotes for relieving stress is to exercise.  If your job has an onsite wellness program with a workout center, take advantage of it.  Other stress-relieving tricks to try at work is to learn to act rather than react, eliminate interruptions, take deep calming breaths, give yourself small breaks or go for a walk when stress levels are sky high.