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Weight & the Workplace: 43 Percent Gaining Lbs. Over Economic Anxiety

May 28, 2009

Yes, swimsuit season is fast upon us… and ridiculously mouth-watering temptations like this aren’t helping the cause. The waistlines of American workers are expanding, as four out of ten American workers have reportedly gained weight at their current jobs, according to a newly released CareerBuilder survey.  You can blame delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches directly if you like, but as it turns out, there’s something else making us turn to one of our most consistent comforts: The recession.

The survey, conducted from February 20 through March 20, 2009 among more than 4,400 workers, reveals that one in ten workers report increased snacking during the day due to economic concerns, and almost half (43 percent) of workers say they have gained weight in their current jobs. A quarter have gained more than ten pounds, and 12 percent have gained more than 20 pounds in their present positions. That’s a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.

While we can point fingers at the recession for our weight-related woes, other factors are likely at play here as well — factors that contribute to weight gain with or without a struggling economy in the mix, like:

  • Restaurants – Nearly two in five (39 percent) employees surveyed eat out for lunch twice or more per week, making it difficult to control portions and calorie intake.
  • Vending machine meals — 12 percent buy their lunch out of a vending machine at least once a week.
  • Snacking — Two-thirds (67 percent) of employees surveyed snack at least once a day, including 24 percent who snack twice a day.

“Weight gain in the office is common and is a result of a variety of issues including today’s economic stress and poor eating habits,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources for “Making little adjustments to your routine, such as bringing your lunch to work, getting up from your desk during the day, and walking instead of driving or taking public transportation will help curb some of your financial worries, while making you healthier.”

So how can employees stay healthy and keep those waistlines from growing, despite growing concerns over our economic state?

Haefner recommends the following tips for fending off workplace weight gain:

  • Allow enough time in your morning for a balanced breakfast - While 23 percent of workers say they eat breakfast at their desks each day, it may make more sense to try to have breakfast before coming to the office. That way you can prepare something healthier and actually finish it before having to start answering the phone or responding to emails.
  • Drink plenty of water - Often a snack craving can be mistaken for dehydration. Be sure to keep water or another healthy beverage at your desk throughout the day so that you can hydrate freely.
  • Keep track of your eating - Experts say that when you see what you are actually eating, you will be more inclined to make adjustments to your eating habits and become healthier.
  • Add movement to your routine - Especially in this economic environment, every little bit of activity helps, so take the stairs to your floor, walk over to co-workers instead of calling or emailing them and get off the train or bus one stop further from your home or office to get a few extra minutes of exercise.
  • Control your stress - Added pressure can fuel poor eating habits, as you can tend to overeat or make inadequate food choices when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Try to manage stress with regular exercise and speak with a supervisor if your workload is drowning you.