Can Your Job Make You Fat?

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

While there are many factors that play into weight gain, your job may be one that you have never considered before. Do you spend most of your time at work sitting in front of a computer? Does your job encourage you to make unhealthy food choices? These and other factors are explored in this article about job-related weight issues.

The Culprit Behind Work-Related Weight Gain

At the beginning of the century, many people had jobs in the industrial and agricultural industries that required a lot of physical activity. In later years, many people began working in offices, but even then there was still a decent amount of activity and travel involved. In recent years, more people than ever before are spending the majority of their workday sitting in front of a computer. Now, coworkers can communicate without even getting up from their desk thanks to email and instant messaging.

It’s no surprise that sedentary workers tend to gain weight. In fact, being deskbound is one of the leading contributing factors to weight gain. One study followed people in different professions and found that secretaries and teachers both took less than 5,000 steps a day even though the recommended daily goal is 10,000 steps. Want to know something really scary? Having a sedentary lifestyle, like sitting at a desk all day, can have adverse effects on your health (see: How Prolonged Sitting Can Affect Your Health).

Inactivity is definitely a major culprit behind work-related weight gain. However, there are several other factors about your job that may lead to a few extra pounds. reports that, in addition to being deskbound, work-related causes of weight gain may include:

  • Workplace celebrations like potlucks, holidays and birthdays
  • A tempting office candy jar
  • Pressure to eat the food that coworkers bring in
  • Skipping meals due to time constraints
  • Eating out regularly
  • Eating due to stress

Ways To Create A More Active Work Lifestyle

The reality of job-related weight issues can be hard to face, especially if you’re not looking to change careers any time soon. Fortunately, there are several things you can do at work that can help combat weight gain. Plus, some of these methods may even boost your productivity. Try these tips in order to maintain a healthy weight despite having a job that makes you mostly immobile:

  • Fit fitness into your workday: Take advantage of fitness facilities at your office for a quick workout during your lunch break. If you don’t have access to a gym, use your breaks to go for a walk or a jog instead and even consider creating a five-day office workout.
  • Don’t take the easy route: Park your car farther away from your building. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to your coworker’s office to ask a question rather than emailing. Doing these little things to be more active really adds up.
  • Talk to HR: Meet with someone from your human resources department to discuss having more fitness options for employees, whether it’s through fitness classes in the conference room, healthier snacks for meetings or incentive programs for weight loss.
  • Bring in healthy food: Instead of eating out, pack a healthy lunch. Keep healthy snacks like fruit and yogurt available as well so you can fight off cravings throughout the day.
  • Drink more water: Instead of refilling your coffee cup all day, drink water. It’ll help you feel full faster and cuts down on the calories you’re consuming.
  • Use an exercise ball: Sitting on an exercise ball allows you to move more and engage your muscles without really having to think about it.

[For more office workout tips, check out How To Stay Slim At Your Cubicle.]

Increasing Your Activity Outside Work

In addition to starting some healthy habits at work, keep in mind that you’ll have to go the extra mile during your free time if you job has you being inactive for most of your workday. Get a gym membership, take up running or join a sports team. Play with your children outside or take nightly walks with a friend. Get a pedometer and try to hit the 10,000 step goal each day. Doing these things outside of work will help make up for the fact that you aren’t getting much activity in during your workday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following fitness goals for most adults ages 18 to 64:

  • Option 1: 2 and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) per week and muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week
  • Option 2: 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (like running) per week and muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week
  • Options 3: An equal mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week and muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week

When it comes to your job making you fat, remember that it’s about more than just your weight. Being inactive at work can also increase your risk of cancer, diabetes and even death. That’s why it’s so important to take the initiative to get healthy and be more active.


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