The most obvious cause of work-related weight gain is the lack of physical activity many employees get from (at least) 9 to 5, and in the CareerBuilder survey, workers pointed to “sitting at my desk most of the day” as the number-one reason for their expanding waistlines. Though it’s true that research shows people who stand or walk throughout the day burn more calories, which can translate to fewer pounds gained over time, a 2013 British study failed to find a strong link between time spent sitting and obesity. The authors say that while sedentary behavior certainly doesn’t help, there are clearly other factors fueling weight gain as well.
In addition to time spent at a desk, the average American spends 25.4 minutes commuting to work and then again to get home, according to the US Census Bureau, and the American Community Survey shows that 86% of workers commute by car. Those who take public transportation to and from work tend to have lower BMIs than those who drive or ride in a car, found a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal
, as do those who walk or ride their bikes. “Businesses need to think about ways to turn commuting into a healthy activity, like offering bike racks and showers to their employees,” says Dr. Tryon.
Boss on your case again? Try not to freak out: High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can trigger fat and sugar cravings, and can also cause the body to hang onto fat and store it around the midsection. And a 2014 German study found that work-related stress is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
You may also feel like you need to forget healthy habits in order to get ahead, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Eating in Color. “Maybe you used to go for a walk at lunch but then you change jobs or get a promotion, and suddenly all eyes are on you,” she says. “You may feel like your daily break from the office is no longer acceptable, so you put in the extra time and your weight suffers.”