Is your job literally killing you? With all the ways it can tip the scale, your 9-to-5 lifestyle can do some serious damage to health.
Since starting your current job, have your pants gotten tighter? You’re not alone. Forty-one percent of the U.S. workforce has gained weight since starting their current position, a 2014 survey conducted by the job search website CareerBuilder.com discovered. But get this: Among those who have packed on the pounds, 59 percent gained more than 10 pounds—and 30 percent have added more than 20 pounds to their frame. Although many people say sedentary desk jobs are to blame, there are a number of other reasons your job may make it hard to stay trim.
1. Your Wellness Isn’t a Priority
to Your Company
Several progressive companies have helped set the tone for encouraging employee wellness by offering reimbursements for gym memberships, scheduling regular on-site health appointments, and even carving out a workout space. But aside from those big, buzzy companies, the truth is that only 25 percent of large companies–and only 5 percent of small ones!—offer comprehensive wellness programs, according to researching in 2014 from Hampshire College.
Just because your company doesn’t want to help its crew doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Try rallying your coworkers with a weight loss challenge during the new season of The Biggest Loser or the brand-new show “My Diet Is Better Than Yours.”
2. You Take Frequent Business Trips
“I’m traveling on business” sounded cool when you were 22 years-old and still skinny. But 10 years later, with an extra layer or two on your body, you now know the truth: Business trips often mean indulgent meals or I’ll-take-what-I-can-get room service and a heck of a lot of sitting and waiting. In fact, 81 percent of business trips are taken in cars, with the travelers more likely to make poor food choices, according to a 2011 Columbia University study. The same research revealed that people who travel for work two week or more each month have higher BMI and higher rates of obesity.
Keep a couple healthy snacks—like one of these 27 Healthiest Snacks Under $1—in your purse or satchel so that you’re less likely to overindulge once you get to your long-awaited meal. Squeeze in mini flat-ab workouts when you can, and don’t worry about using up every penny of what you’re allowed to expense.
3. You Arrive Late and Stay Later
When you work later, you also eat later and go to sleep later, both of which lead to unwanted pounds. A study in the journal Nutrition Research found that those whose last meal was closest to bedtime took in more calories during the day. If you typically log late nights at the office, you could be diminishing the quality of your sleep and increasing your odds of weight gain. The blue light emitted from electronic devices like your office computer or iPad could negatively affect sleep quality, according to recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research. Blue light emissions impair the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder to doze off. When you don’t feel rested, ghrelin–the hunger-stimulating hormone–goes into overdrive, increasing feelings of hunger even when the body isn’t in need of food.
Invest in F.lux. Throughout the day the software gradually changes the light emissions from electronic devices from blue to a warm red, a hue that minimizes blue light’s stimulating effects.
4. Your Coworkers Are Terrible Influencers
We’re not saying you can’t think for yourself, but people do tend to conform to “eating norms” when in social settings, according to a 2014 review study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. found that people tend to conform to "eating norms" in social settings. Even if you’re not literally eating lunch with a coworker, you still see what they’re chowing down on, where they’re picking up lunch, and what they think is normal.
Be the odd man out! Order the tempeh at lunch; bring your overnight oats to work; just say no to another massive salad drenched in a high-calorie dressing and toppings. Seek out the healthy-eating coworker and align yourself with him or her during lunchtime; you two may just start a chain reaction!
5. You Commute by Car
Commuting to work by car isn’t doing your waistline any favors. A 2014 study published in theBritish Medical Journal found those who walk, bike or take public transportation to work tend to have lower BMIs than those who commute by car—which is bad news for the 90 percent of the workforce who drive.
If you travel by car, park at the far end of the parking lot to get in some extra steps before settling in at your desk, and take a ten-minute walk before sitting down to have lunch. Every bout of exercise you can get throughout your day will help combat weight gain. You may also want to fat-proof your house. Keeping bad-for-you fare out of your home and healthier picks on-hand will ensure you always have foods to eat that will help you maintain a healthy weight.
6. You Stay Glued to Your Seat
We sit an average of 67 hours a week — that's nine hours a day sitting, six hours lying down, and only about seven hours out of every 24 spent actually moving. And our sedentary jobs now cause us to burn 100 fewer calories a day than we did 50 years ago. That alone translates to gaining an extra 10 pounds a year.
A recent study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that a two-minute walk every hour can offset the effects of too much sitting.
7. You Get Zero Sunlight
If you don't have a window near you at work (at least 20 feet away), seek one out. Employees with windows near their desks receive 173 percent more white-light exposure during work hours and an additional 46 minutes of sleep per night than employees who don't have exposure to natural light. And those without windows get less physical activity. Plus, a new study inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Workers found that being exposed to artificial light leads to weight gain regardless of what you eat.
If you're a prisoner of cubicleland, try to get as much morning sunlight before work as you can; in studies, sun exposure between 8 in the morning and noon is associated with higher fat burningand significantly lower BMIs, regardless of exercise, calorie intake, sleep or even age.
8. You Order Lunch
A study found that just having a lot of take-out options near your work or along your commute to work makes you twice as likely to be obese. Think about that for a moment: Just the mere presence of take-out food increases your risk of obesity.
The best thing for you to do is pack your lunches and at least two snacks to make sure you don't have to go searching for food elsewhere. If you absolutely must order takeout or run out for something, first scope out our fast food survival guide.
9. You Forget to Eat
Chances are that you either inhale a huge meal once you’re finally home and famished, or you just call it a day and live off of what you had. The first situation isn’t hard to see a problem with, but the latter one is dangerous, too. When you eat far too few calories, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which slows the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which is burns calories because it goes into survival mode—it tries to conserve the fuel it's got. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN helps to explain this by saying, “Many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, it can actually have the opposite effect on weight loss.”
Why not prep a healthy and delicious breakfast or lunch the night before?
10. Your Elevator Takes You Everywhere
To the 9th floor to your desk; to the 4th floor for a meeting; to the 6th floor to drop off some paperwork. This kind of day can give you a false sense of confidence, as if you’ve been running around all day—when in fact you aren’t getting in all that many more steps than you would usually.
Take the stairs! This is an obvious one, but you may be surprised how much weight you can lose by doing it. Picture it: You have a file you need to deliver to the 15th floor, but your office is on the 10th. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, and you'll burn twice as many calories as you do walking the same distance! A 150-pound person could lose about 6 pounds per year just by climbing up two flights of stairs every day, according to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Bump that up to six flights of stairs, and you could drop 18 pounds without ever hitting the gym.
11. You Give in to Work Stress
When you're stressed at work, you are more likely to gain weight because you're more likely to want to hide under the covers when you get home. A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people with high levels of job stress are 26 percent more likely to be inactive during their downtime than those with low-stress jobs. A University of Rochester study echoed these results, finding that stress at work leads to behaviors like watching TV and less exercise.
It's one thing for your job to make you unhappy. But if it's turning you into an unhealthy person you don’t recognize, it might be time to start looking around.
12. You Have Easy Access to a
As if there aren’t enough reasons you might gain weight throughout your day, a conveniently-placed vending machine full of unhealthy snacks and sodas is a landmine for office employees. Because guess where they go when they’re too busy to pack lunch, run out for a bite, or somehow grab something to calm their hunger? The evil vending machine.
Choose either the nuts or trail mix option, which is most likely to have some healthy fats and a little bit of protein to keep hunger at bay. Do not even look at the price of the Famous Amos, Cheetohs, or Diet Coke.
13. You Work In a Toxic Culture
Maybe it’s an over-the-top petty coworker or a boss who micromanages your every move. These little stressors still add up—and not only can stress cause headaches, stomach distress, high blood pressure, chest pain and sleep disturbances, it also causes the body to metabolize food more slowly, according to research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. To add insult to injury, the types of food we crave when we’re stressed out tend to be fat and sugar-laden treats like doughnuts and chocolate. Researchers say that the combination of high-calorie cravings and a stress-induced snail-paced metabolic rate can result in significant weight gain.
To keep your metabolism running strong, plaster a smile on your face and fight stress with some good cheer. Research shows that smiling and laughing causes levels of stress hormones to diminish. Combine that with another effective outlet—a mini workout at lunch, a walk around the block to get a dose of nature, or some yoga stretches—and you’ll keep your stress levels more balanced.
14. You Hit Up Happy Hour
on the Reg
After a long day at the office, it’s totally normal to want to blow off some steam with your favorite co-workers; it can be good for bonding, too. And while drinking in moderation every so often won’t do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit—more than once a week—can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has to break down a cocktail, it cuts in front of line of any food that you’ve already eaten. This slows down the entire metabolic process. In fact, some researchers claim boozing can decrease the body's fat-burning ability by up to 73 percent!
Stick to low-calorie drinks, aternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. If you're a wine drinker, try one of these 16 Wines for Weight Loss. Finally, avoid ordering high-cal bar food like chips, fries, burgers and fried appetizers.
15. You Have Too Much Responsibility
Long-term stress caused by things like too much job responsibility had a significantly larger effect on weight gain than short-term stressors brought on by things like quarterly reviews and once-in-a-while big assignments, a Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study of nearly 3,000 people found. Why? When you’re under stress, you’re more apt to skip the gym after work and spend time doing sedentary things like vegging out in front of the TV to unwind. When every single day at the office leaves you feeling fried, these unhealthy coping tactics become daily occurrences and can lead to significant weight gain.
To counteract after-work laziness, incorporate more activity throughout your day like these 25 Cheap and Easy Ways to Lose Weight. If you take the bus or subway to and from your office, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way. If you work in a high-rise, take the elevator half the way up to your office and then switch to the stairs. Working in bouts of activity throughout the day takes up very little time and can help keep the pounds from creeping up on you.
16. You Work the Night Shift
Night-shift workers are more prone to weight gain than people who log daytime hours, a 2014Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study revealed. To arrive at these findings, University of Colorado at Boulder researchers studied 14 healthy adults for six days. For two days, study participants slept at night and stayed awake during the day, then they reversed their routines to mimic the schedules of night-time workers. When participants slept during the day, researchers found that they burned 52 to 59 fewer calories than they did while mimicking a “normal” sleep-work schedule. This seemingly small difference can add up over time. Researchers hypothesized that participants burned fewer calories because it threw off their circadian rhythm, the body's internal clock that plays a major role in lowering or boosting metabolism.
Aim to cut 50-60 calories from your daily diet. There are tons of easy ways to do this: Leave the cheese or the top piece of bread off your sandwich, order a tall latte instead of a venti, opt for whole fruit instead of the dried variety, or replace one serving of soda or juice with water.
17. You Constantly See Candy and Cupcakes
in Your Office
Whether it’s a candy bowl, a coworker’s birthday, or just a well-meaning gesture from a client or partner company, baked goods and packaged foods are common in some offices. And when you’re stressed, hungry, or just looking for a mood-booster, it can be nearly impossible to turn down the temporary high.
Don’t look to see what’s in the candy bowl; split that client cupcake with someone else; make up an excuse that you can’t have birthday cake because you have a headache and sugar makes it worse. Remember that you’re in charge of what goes in your stomach—no one’s forcing these sweet treats down your throat.
18. You Work in an Open-Plan Office
Once such a cool concept, the open-plan office with your C-suite just a few chairs down is now recognized as a bit of a health nightmare. People who work in fully open offices are out sick an average of 62 percent more than those with offices, according to a 2011 study of more than 2,400 Denmark employees. And guess what happens when your immunity is compromised? Your fat-fighting abilities diminish, too.
Boost your immunity with smart food choices like tangerines and buy a few hand santizers to place around the office. If you know others are sick, work from home whenever it’s cool with your boss—and stay home when you’re sick, for the sake of everyone else!
19. You’re Stuck in Sandwich Land
White bread is a waist-widening guarantee, but another problem with Sandwich Land is that you’re less likely to get the decent amount of protein you need. Eating protein keeps your hunger at bay and your metabolism kicking.
The Sandwich Land your office is in probably has some coolers and aisles of other products as well. Look for good sources of protein like Greek yogurt, black beans, chicken, fish, beef, pork, hemp seeds, and quinoa. Research has found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent.
20. You Rely on Diet Soda
It's easy to rely on a diet soda to get over that 2 p.m. slump—and you’re pretty sure your boss has several sodas a day. But a University of Texas Health Science Center study found that adults who drank diet soda experienced a whopping 70 percent increase in weight circumference when compared with non-soda drinkers. Plus, aspartame is shown to raise glucose levels to a point where it's converted into fat.
Drink water! According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking 17 ounces of water increased the metabolic rate of participants by 30 percent. Add an extra 1.5 liters of water to your workday intake, and you could burn 17,400 calories a year. Bonus: What happens to your body when you give up diet soda is simply amazing.
21. You Love to Grab a 3 p.m. Coffee
We wouldn't dare ask you to forgo your morning cup of coffee...or even your 10 a.m. cup. And hey, What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coffee is amazing stuff! But you might want to skip that 3:00 coffee run. Too much caffeine can lead to insulin resistance and increased fat storage, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
When the 3:00 slump hits, go for a walk or work out instead.