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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Weight Maintenance

How to Avoid On-the-Job Weight Gain

Avoid Packing on Pounds Behind Your Desk

-- By Rebecca Pratt, staff writer
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Even if you love your job, it may be killing you.
 
Australian researchers found that men sitting at their desks more than six hours a day are nearly twice as likely to be overweight than those who sit for less than 45 minutes a day. While women fared slightly better—spending on average 20 more minutes on their feet at the office than men—researchers conclude that a sedentary job is a major health concern for both genders.
 
And it’s no secret that sedentary jobs (and lifestyles) have contributed dramatically to the accelerating obesity rate of the past 20 years. Put emphasis on the word ‘dramatically’—a study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2001 found that a worker in a sedentary career may end up with a Body Mass Index 3.3 units higher than someone in a highly active job. If you’re 5'5" this can mean an increase in weight from 140 pounds to 155 pounds!
 
Now that you’ve heard the bad news, let’s turn to the good news… 
 
You CAN love your less-than-active job and be fit. Here’s how:
 
  1. Be sure to eat. It’s easy to slog through a day of meetings, e-mails, and phone calls to discover at 4 p.m. that you haven’t eaten since breakfast. But, your body needs energy to get you through the day. Make it a priority to have a healthy and tasty meal—along with 1-2 healthy snacks. It is not a sin to opt for such shortcuts as microwave meals, as long as you read labels to avoid items with excess calories and sodium.
     
  2. Compensate, compensate. Get physical to compensate for your sedentary workday. Join a gym, take an early morning run, or find time for fitness fun with your family. Buy one or two pieces of home exercise equipment that will allow you to exercise no matter what the weather.
     
  3. Rework your network. Chances are, your friends and co-workers need help with their love handles just as much as you do. So, try some new activities that don’t revolve around food. Organize a bi-weekly volleyball game, walk during lunch, or play a quick round of mini-golf after work. 
     
  4. Bring your buddies on board. While you’re coaxing co-workers to modify those after-work habits, see if you can’t involve them in a friendly get-fit challenge during work hours. By sharing healthy potluck lunches, exchanging recipes, and providing moral support, you’ll find that getting in shape can be a team-building triumph. (You might even check with Human Resources or management to see if you can involve them in a fun or meaningful way—since healthy employees save $$$.)
     
  5. Don’t eat due to boredom. Blacklist the office vending machine by stashing strategic healthy snacks (apples and almond butter, low-cal energy bars, nuts, or hummus and pita bread) that will give you a lift without adding to your waistline. If you know that occasionally you’ll fall—and most of us do—pick out ahead of time the items you can live with so that your dip doesn’t become a dive. Keep water at your desk; it’ll give your hands something to do when you’re stressed and will divert you from eating when you’re not really hungry.
     
  6. Vary your routine. We all have them— those daily social rituals, like heading upstairs to the cafeteria for a mid-morning latte and muffin. You can still have those items…but make it sometimes, not all times. If you want to change your life in big ways, try some small changes, like substituting a yogurt and black coffee with skim milk half the time. You’ll save about 470 calories (660 vs. 160)! (And you’re taking the stairs up to the cafeteria, right?)
     
  7. Lose the technology. Modern advances are great, but do you control them or do they control you? As much as possible, take advantage of opportunities throughout the day to get up and move! Deliver that memo in person, sit on a stability ball at your desk to improve your posture, park at the far end of the parking lot for a brisk walk to your building. You’ll be surprised how quickly minor changes can improve your energy level and help you get fit.
     
  8. Choose wisely. Whether you normally go out for lunch or eat in the cafeteria, try to make your meal choices conscious ones. Learn how to eat out wisely, and remember how much better you feel come mid-afternoon when you eat healthy. If you find that your cafeteria or workplace doesn't offer healthy choices, check with the person who’s in charge of food service—you may be the person who tips the balance to get better options!
One in five Americans is obese; three in five are either overweight or obese. But sitting at a desk doesn’t have to mean you’ll be just another statistic! Incorporating these simple strategies into your workday will bring you one step closer to being a healthier, more energetic you. 
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • Good tips - 8/7/2013 9:08:42 AM
  • Great article. Wouldn't let me save it. - 8/4/2013 5:39:28 PM
  • They left out - avoid the breakroom! My co-workers are always bringing donuts, cookies, cake... etc.. for all to enjoy. - 8/4/2013 11:58:00 AM
  • I found this article very helpful. I wish I had seen it sooner. Recently I have passed up sweets at work on the counter. I was even extra careful about what I consumed at the fair. - 8/4/2013 9:30:45 AM
  • DMORGAN16
    good article and i do some these already. since i started back at work 3 months ago, i have been walking to the bus stop to get work and back from bus stop to home. it takes about 22 minutes back and forth, adds up to 44 minutes walking everyday; not counting the weekends.

    salad, fruit, water or turkey sandwich is all good, when working at a desk job. slowly losing weight and i like, not going to bother with the scale. - 8/4/2013 8:39:13 AM
  • Thanks for the advice! I work with kids (substitute teaching during the school year, working at a summer camp now) and am constantly surrounded by treats. It's really difficult to say no to a cupcake when you have a smiling six year old giving it to you! - 6/25/2013 1:21:47 PM
  • I have a desk job working from home. I have a treadmill desktop... love it. I work and walk and hardly notice the time goes by and 16,000 steps later? ahhhhh - 6/25/2013 10:17:09 AM
  • Funny enough, I lost more weight after getting my (mostly) desk job! I think part of it actually had to do with having more defined times for eating. When I was spending most of my day at home, I ate whenever I felt like it, and I could easily cook myself up a big lunch. Now that I'm at work, I always eat a light breakfast to start my day, I pack a portioned snack or two, and my lunch is typically lower calorie than something I'd make at home. That said, I also walk a minimum of 1.5 miles as part of my commute every day and try to take the stairs as much as possible. - 10/21/2012 9:57:16 PM
  • I know Joani. I had an addiction to crunch too! I think it came from frustration. A lot of people don't like their jobs or some other aspect of their lives that leads to cravings. When I took a look at my life in greater detail, I was able to shake the crunch craving. Plus our modern lifestyle tends to keep us at our desks, or behind steering wheels. We definitely need to compensate by moving our bodies in other ways. I find walking for an hour or two with a friend helps the time pass quickly. Yoga is good too. - 10/20/2012 2:58:18 PM
  • JOANI1955
    I have been on vacation (at home) all week. I have not really worked extra hard at anything but have lost 6 lbs since being away from the office. Boy did this wake me up to stress eating. I have an addiction to crunch. Not munch, but something crunchy. Rice cracker , celery here I come!!! - 10/20/2012 5:56:31 AM
  • Overall helpful tips, but "deliver that memo in person" had me laughing my head off. Who types "memos" on paper anymore? They are generally sent as emails. If someone delivered to me a paper memo, I don't know what I'd do with it. - 10/20/2012 2:57:57 AM
  • I read this article standing, so that at least I won't be sedentary all day long... - 5/15/2011 8:30:14 AM
  • I bring a portable DVD player with me to work, and during the lunch break or one of the 10 min. breaks I pop in a 'Walking Off the Pounds' video . Also, have marked out an area in the call center when I need a bit of excercise 40 laps is one mile. So marking off an area at your job can also get you up and moving. If you put out the examples, others will come !! - 5/14/2011 5:19:38 AM
  • I'm glad to have worked in retail the last 15 years, or I would be in worse health than I am. I get lots of exercise walking my floor and moving stuff around. I have to stand at my computer on the floor.
    So I have to really go to the gym or prioritize more exercise outside of work to lose weight. - 3/7/2011 10:42:38 PM
  • This article rings so true for me and another reason why I love SP. I've been implementing these strategies for the past two months and have had great results so far. After working in desk jobs for 25 years, this lifestyle has taken its toll on my health. Fortunately, I'm still young enough to turn my situation around and create a new way of being! - 3/7/2011 8:07:54 AM