Are you finding yourself piling on pounds in your current job? You are not alone. Your level of physical activity, diet, and stress levels all play a role in weight gain. Certain careers require very little physical activity, and extremely long hours. Some careers are so stressful, that even the healthiest eaters amongst us put on weight through the effect of workplace anxiety on their bodies. And let’s not mention drinks after work…
Low activity, food on the go, and stress stress stress
Extended time spent at the office can lead to quick, but not so healthy, meal choices. Grabbing a quick bite to eat at a fast food restaurant, rather than cooking a healthier meal at home, because a project at work ran on. After-work celebrations when a project is completed, for a birthday, or simply to let of steam at the end of the day. Oh, let’s not mention the doughnuts during the day! If your workplace has magically appearing cakes and candy, you might be in trouble.
Adding an hour’s commute to your day won’t help either, driving or sitting on a train, almost immobile, doesn’t help.
Desk based jobs, customer service, IT, banking, accountancy, administration, recruitment, design, even managerial roles, are all likely to lead to some weight addition without careful dietary choices, and a good exercise plan. Add stress to these roles and it’s even worse. You may find you’re in a more active career, but stress levels are so high that its outweighing the physical activity day to day. Doctors, teachers, first responders, and engineers still have trouble with their weight and mostly due to stress and/or poor diet fitting around a tough schedule.
Our work styles today, compared to 50 years ago, when far fewer of us sat at a desk, or in front of a computer, have led to the average number of calories burned at work, falling dramatically.
A few facts
In 1960 a woman at work burned an average of just over 1300 calories during that time, in 2010 it was under 1200. For men in 1960 average calorific expenditure at work was just over 1550, but nearer 1400 calories per work day in 2010. (Source: TS Church. US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
A deficit of just 105 calories in a day, that’s eating 105 more calories than you burn, can lead to a weight gain of a pound every month. (Source)
So how does your stressful job make you gain weight?
In any given career, pressure to meet deadlines, and from above, may load stress on an employee. Some occupations are just naturally more stressful than others. Sometimes it’s about the people you work with, or financial pressures, which raise anxiety. A bullying colleague, or a demanding boss. And, we can all be guilty of putting pressure on ourselves to progress our career, outdo our peers, or be sure of that next pay rise.
Elevated stress levels can cause weight gain, FACT. With high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body, don’t be surprised if you start craving fatty foods, and sweets. Cortisol can also cause the body to store fat in the belly area. If you find yourself under a significant amount of stress, and are wondering why your midsection is starting to grow, you now know there is a correlation between stress and weight gain.
What can you do to stay healthy at work?
We’re not suggesting you avoid your desk, the pastries, the bar, or your work colleagues! Far from it, an active brain, a night out, and a healthy level of treats, can all contribute to a healthy balanced diet and lower stress levels. We are saying, make good choices when you can, and don’t overdo the less healthy ones!
Get some fresh air
As hard as it might be with a demanding job, or working long hours, try to schedule some form of exercise into your week. You don’t have to join a gym, take a lengthy walk a couple of times a week, the exercise AND the fresh air will work wonders for your body and mind. Take a yoga class, or find some time to play ball, or a ride a bike, with your children or family.
Don’t think about exercise as just being an out of work thing. Try and find ways to exercise at work, without of course getting yourself into trouble! So many of us work through break and lunchtimes, thinking we are saving valuable time, when often we are no more productive. Take that break, have a quick walk, go shopping (and walk!), again both mind and body will benefit. Fresh air and sunshine will help your mood, your efficiency, and stop you gaining weight. You will return to your desk refreshed, and having burned away the morning doughnut.
Create your own chance to exercise
Think about how you can exercise while you are working, need to make a call – walk around if you can while you do. Offer to make the coffee, or run an errand to another floor, take the stairs not the lift! Need to talk something through with a colleague, if it’s not private and you don’t need a PC, walk around while you talk, outside if you can. You may need to sell some of these ideas to your boss, or your colleagues, prove that you are more productive when you are healthier, and you’ll have no problem here.
If you commute – can you change the way you commute? Can you cycle to work? Or even park a little bit further away from your workplace to add a 15-minute walk on the way in, and the way home. You may even save money on parking.
Exercise is proven to reduce stress levels, so you are hitting two birds with one stone here, exercise will burn calories, prevent weight gain, and reduce stress levels to, yep you’ve got it, prevent weight gain.
Make good choices, most of the time!
We all have a vice, chances are we don’t relish every vice that is available. If you want to head to the bar after work with colleagues, try and make better dietary choices during the day. Take your coffee without sugar, choose the healthier option at lunch, and ditch the doughnut. If coffee with sugar and a morning doughnut is your preference, but you prefer to head home straight after work, do that, and choose a healthier evening meal. It’s all about balance. Had a bad week full of caffeine, sugar, fatty foods and alcohol, take some additional exercise, and make sure the next week is healthier.
If you are finding that you are putting on weight regardless it may be time to consider a stricter diet or a more stringent exercise regime. Take action sooner rather than later.
It’s not going to be easy to limit stress all the time, but where you can, do so. Keep ahead of your work, and set realistic project goals. If an issue in the workplace is causing you anxiety try and meet it head on, have the awkward discussion, share your feelings with your manager, ask for the pay raise. You may well feel better once you have, and can stop worrying about it. Whatever the outcome.
Teach your body how to cope with stress, and relax
Exercise is a fantastic way to let off steam, and cope with stress. The feel-good endorphins that exercise produce act as natural painkillers, make you happy, improve your ability to sleep, and think. As your body gets healthier, your well-being grows, and you are more able to cope with stressful situations. You will also be more productive at work, potentially overcoming deadlines, and other hurdles faster.
Yoga, meditation and simply taking some time of an evening for a hobby that you enjoy will all help you deal with stress at work. Basic meditations and other stress relieving techniques: including just breathing deeply, and calming your mind, are things you can practice whilst at work.
Initiate wider changes
If you work in a stressful, challenging, or fast-paced environment, and you know that you are not the only one to be suffering. Consider working together with your colleagues on ideas to reduce stress. Talk to your management, they may be open to implementing some well-being strategies, or even an event. You don’t know until you ask!
Healthy employees are happier and more productive
Cliché we know, but it is true. Being healthy gives you a sense of well-being and allows your body and brain to function at their optimum ability. If you can be happier at work, you will also be happier outside of work.