herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Is working making you fat?

If your waist is expanding faster than your pay packet it may be time for change

We all have work colleagues who walk around with water bottles and bring in their homemade lunches of raisins, carrot sticks and salad. Then there are those of us who aren't so virtuous when it comes to healthy eating and munch on crisps and chocolate in the afternoon to give us an energy boost.

And that's after we have already consumed a lunch which we purchased from a deli and which was fairly generous with the mayonnaise and the coleslaw.

There are other reasons why our working lives may be contributing to our expanding waistlines. Not only are we more likely to eat unhealthy food at lunchtime, but we are less likely to move about much during the day if we are office workers, preferring to spend our lunch breaks surfing the internet or emailing our friends. Fatty lunches and lazy lunch breaks have been shown to make us a podgy workforce. Meanwhile, a study has shown that people under excessive pressure at work can end up fatter than colleagues in less stressful positions.

Dr Eric J Brunner of University College London Medical School followed 6,895 men and 3,413 women in their workplaces for 19 years -- all were 35 to 55 years at the study's outset. The men and women who reported excessive job strain on at least three occasions during the study were 73pc more likely to become obese than those who said they were never stressed on the job.

The irony, however, is that boredom at work can also contribute to us eating more than is good for us during our the day. It is all too easy to be eating constantly while at our desks. We can absentmindedly pop snacks into our mouths without realising it.

And it doesn't help when there is a vending machine full of chocolate and crisps in the vicinity, meaning that the temptation to treat ourselves after a gruelling few hours, is way too easy to satisfy. Yet there are a few simple adjustments we can make to decrease the chances of us getting fat as a result of our jobs. For example, we can make sure we get up and move about at least once an hour if we work sitting down.

Or, if we have a message for a colleague, we can walk over to their desk instead of sending an email.

Little things like this do add up and make a difference in preventing weight gain in the workplace. And here are five more changes we can make to keep the weight off at work.

1 Bring in a pre-packed lunch

In a recent study, an estimated 40pc of the people surveyed said that they eat out at least three times during their working week, and one in 10 said that they eat out every day.

The benefits include having a break from the office and socialising with colleagues. However, when eating out there is a tendency to eat larger portions and consume more calories. And the same applies to buying a sandwich in a deli or shop. By bringing in a pre-packed lunch, you will be eating smaller quantities, fewer calories and spending less money.

2 Turn off your computer during your lunch break

Email makes it easy to stay glued to our chairs all day. And with the advent of the internet, more of us are spending our lunch breaks at our desks surfing the internet, or checking out what our mates are up to on Facebook. Also, take the stairs instead of the lift whenever you can, and if you drive to work, park as far from the office as possible so you have a short walk in. Even 10 minutes of walking per day can help kick-start your metabolism.

3 Avoid the vending machine

A survey found that 35pc of employees snack at work at least three times a day, while 43pc admitted to eating less healthy snacks when at work than they would at home. So the trick is clearly to bring in some healthy snacks to work; try satsumas, plums or bananas.

4 Keep a bottle of water on your desk

Many of us reach for food when we're bored or stressed. And the sweeter the taste the better -- which means we're consuming more calories. However, by simply sipping on water throughout the day, we will feel fuller and be less tempted to snack when stressed.

5 Use your lunch hour more efficiently

There are many things which can be done during a lunch break as well as eating -- such as going for a brisk walk, paying a bill, shopping for birthday cards, popping out to pick up dry cleaning, shopping for bargains or, if you're up for it and are based in the city centre, going for a quick ride on one of the city's free bicycles.

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