Considering that many of us spend more than one-third of our lives on the clock, our office behavior has a huge impact on our health and our weight. In fact, in a CareerBuilder survey released earlier this year, 44 percent of workers said they’ve gained weight at their current gig—and more than one-quarter of workers gained over 10 pounds. Sure, it’s no secret that office birthday cake can pad your waistline, but watch out for these less-expected culprits too:
Whether you’re entertaining clients or just loathe bringing lunch from home, eating restaurant food for your mid-day meal may sabotage your weight-loss efforts. In a study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who ate out often lost less weight than those who didn’t—and the strongest link was with eating lunch out. Those who ate lunch out at least once a week lost about five fewer pounds than those who did so less often. The effect may be a combination of eating less-healthy food and also bigger portions.
The Fix: The obvious solution is to bring lunch from home more; an easy way is to make bigger dinners and tote the leftovers the next day. When you do eat out, do your homework in advance: scope the healthiest options on restaurants’ online menus so you know exactly what you’re eating.
It’s becoming increasingly normal for many of us to spend an hour or more each way in cars or on trains or buses, which strikes a double blow: It makes us cranky, tired, and stressed, priming us to eat more food for comfort, and it also steals some precious free time we could spend exercising.
The fix: Since exercise is a known stress-fighter, find little ways to bake more movement into your commute. If you take public transportation, could you get off a stop earlier and walk for 10 minutes? If you drive, park as far away from the office door as possible. And if you’re like me and tend to feel famished and ravenous when you walk in the door at home after work (it’s a recipe for pre-dinner pigging out), keep a healthy snack on hand to munch while you ride.
Working overtime can send your stress levels soaring and eat into your sleep time; which is a bad combination for your hunger hormones. It’s been well-documented that people who sleep too little have more junk-food cravings and are prone to weight gain.
The fix: This is a tough one, since today’s economy has many of us working extra hard to keep up. One thing is just to be extra aware of possible junk-food hankerings and plan in advance. You’ll be better equipped to say no to the office candy bowl if you have a shiny red apple and a jar of peanut butter at your desk.
“Sitting disease” is a serious matter—it’s associated not just with weight gain, but cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early death. If your fingers are the only body part that consistently get a workout during your work day, it’s time to make a change.
The fix: Find a like-minded coworker so you can help keep each other active. Make a point to get up from your desk and walk over to hers to chat a couple of times a day, and take a 10-minute (or more if you can) walk at lunch time. I’ve also seen colleagues stand during short-ish meetings to avoid sitting down or take some phone calls standing up.
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