You arrive at work, with your kopi in one hand and the takeaway nasi lemak you intend to scoff while at your desk in the other hand. As you rush off to your first meeting you quickly grab a kaya toast to get you through the morning. Then when you sit down, you notice that your work wardrobe is getting a little tight these days. And come to think of it you’re feeling sluggish and a little less productive than when you first started…sound familiar? While you may be trying to grow your career, you find the only thing expanding is your waistline!
We uncover 8 ways your job is making you fat, plus how you can make a corporate take-over of your work nutrition habits.
1.Managing stress with food
Similar to emotional eating, it is common to turn to food to alleviate stress. Who can deny that little bit of calm you get from munching on a chocolate bar? Unfortunately, like too many chocolates, stress is a precursor to weight gain. Being stressed means you produce more of the hormone cortisol. If this happens for prolonged periods, your body takes it as a signal to ‘store fat’. So that chocolate bar ends up causing more stress than the momentary relief!
Tip – Stress can be managed in numerous ways including exercise, listening to music, focusing on what you can control, time in nature and breathing techniques. You can tick off a few of these at once. Get your headphones on and take a brisk walk in a park for 20 minutes during your lunch break!
2. Trapped at your desk
If your role at work means you sit all day, then there is a good chance your job is making you fat! Inherently we know that sitting at our desks for long periods of time is not good for our health. But, hey, we will just do an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill and surely that will make up for it, right?! Well, not according to science! Sitting for even 3 hours, unbroken time has a negative effect on your heart health, risk of diabetes and metabolism – meaning weight gain. The scary part is, these health impacts were still observed when people engaged in moderate-to-vigorous activity at other times. It seems you can’t undo the effects of long hours of sitting at your desk (or on the couch for that matter)! The good news is, you can prevent these adverse effects by taking regular breaks from sitting.
Tip – Get up now! Not everyone has access to a standing desk, but that isn’t stopping you from getting out of your chair and moving every hour. Make the most of moving from your desk by grabbing a drink of water at the same time!
3. You hear the vending machine calling
When we say get up and take regular breaks from sitting, we don’t mean to walk to the vending machine for a quick sugary fix, which is often feeding your procrastination not your hunger!
Tip – Recognise if you are hungry or just searching for a distraction. If you know you seek out the vending machine because you want that quick, convenient snack, try prepping some snacks for your office drawer. Nut and seed mixes, wholegrain crackers or a fruit bowl on your desk are easy snack alternatives.
4. The meeting room mirror
You’re waiting around for the meeting to start, chatting with your colleagues when you mindlessly start nibbling on the donuts, croissants or jalebi. Often, you are subconsciously influenced by the actions of those around you, mimicking what they do…including eating! Think about it for a moment, if you see someone you’re talking with scratch their nose, you suddenly feel an itch too. This is known as the mirroring effect and tends to occur when you are seeking acceptance or trying to be persuasive. Obviously, you can’t control what others eat, but you can now be aware of your actions!
Tip – Hijack the person in charge of catering for your office meetings – ask for fruit platters, vege sticks and dips or more healthy options to counteract your mindless eating! Or, simply avoid the food table by having your hands full with a glass of water and your laptop.
5. Birthdays, retirements and ‘we made it to the end-of-week’ celebrations
The never-ending cycle of ‘some-sort-of-celebration’ is like a smorgasbord of sugar and fat on a daily basis. Treats are almost forced down your throat and you’re made to feel like the party pooper if you try to refuse. If this is your main reason you think your job is making you fat, don’t worry. It’s okay to indulge every now and then. Don’t beat yourself up, instead be mindful if it’s what you really want to eat or if you’re simply being polite!
Tip – Have your cake and eat it – well yes, that’s what life is about. If you want it and you’re hungry, just remember to consider your serving size! If you really don’t want it, learn the art of the polite decline. You can apply it to so many aspects of your life to ensure you’re in control without offending!
6. Desk dining
Apart from crumbs in your keyboard or sauce on your paperwork, you harm your health and your productivity by eating at your desk. “If we eat at our desk, we also answer emails and read reports…we’re distracted, so we eat more. Yet we haven’t savoured that food, so we feel unsatisfied and then we reach for an afternoon snack” says Jaclyn Reutens, Active8me dietician. Both your body and brain need breaks from work. Research suggests when you take an active break from your work, you improve both your vigor and presenteeism (the notion you are present at work but disengaged).
Tip – Obviously, move away from your desk to eat – go outside or to the common area to eat, but really take note of the taste and texture sensation of your food. Chew your food well and notice when you feel full.
7. Afternoon snack attack
We’ve all felt that afternoon slump but reaching for a sugary pick-me up to accompany your caffeine hit spells disaster for your healthy habits. That afternoon slump happens because your blood sugar levels dive after a big lunch. It’s amplified if that lunch was a sugary feast of instant energy.
Try to avoid creating the bad habit (or look at replacing it) of telling yourself you ‘need’ a sugary snack to get through the afternoon lull. This is an association you have built with fatigue not hunger. While reaching for a sugary snack may momentarily snap you out of your lethargy, it spikes your blood glucose and starts a vicious cycle of mindless snacking. Jaclyn recommends “Acknowledge that a craving is a want not a need. It reaches a peak and then subsides, just like a wave. Recognise what you’re feeling, pause or distract yourself with another non-food related task, and learn whether you are feeling hungry or something else.”
Tip – Choose low-GI foods such as brown rice or wholegrains with veges and lean meat for lunch. These foods will give you a slow release of energy without a dramatic drop in blood glucose. Jaclyn adds “Don’t forget to drink water, as dehydration depletes energy levels. Most offices have air conditioning, adding to dehydration”.
8. Café, Kopi Tiam or Cappuccino Temptation
The aroma of freshly ground coffee is so alluring! A takeaway coffee on your commute or a quick business meeting at a café can result in more than you bargained for. Coffee is not the enemy when it comes to weight gain, it’s all the ‘extras’ that give it a bad rap. A small, low-fat latte is approximately 100 calories, while a large blended variety can be up to 340 calories. That’s a small meal worth of calories!
Tip – Save money and calories by sticking to the smaller size coffee and avoid the added flavour syrups and sugars!
So, your job is making you fat?
Given we spend a huge proportion of our lives at work it makes sense to be wary of our working environment. While you think your job is making you fat, it’s really YOU allowing this to happen. It comes down to the choices you make on a daily basis and the habits you create. If you want to make a change, lose that weight you’ve gained, take responsibility for your health and feel better than ever before then perhaps it’s time to accept some help! Active8me is your perfect workplace partner when it comes to transforming your body and your habits. It is like a personal trainer, dietician and lifestyle coach in your pocket. Stop believing your job is making you fat, download the Active8me app today and start believing in yourself.