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Reaching for that Extra Donut? You’re Not Alone: More Workers Gaining Weight Due to Office Stress

DonutsSeeing more co-workers stuffing large quantities of cupcakes left after meetings into their purse, or frantically kicking the vending machine to try to trick it into giving them two candy bars? Hopefully not, because that would be messy and violent, respectively — but if you’re eating a little more and are seeing everyone around you do the same, you may be happy to know there’s a reason for all the eating madness: Work stress and economic pressure.

The combination of these two negative forces seems to be a factor in the U.S. labor force’s weight gain, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 4,800 workers. But how much of a factor, really?

Here’s the skinny:

Forty-four percent of the roughly 4,800 workers surveyed say they have gained weight in their current jobs – and 32 percent of those workers attribute the weight gain to stress. 

Do you celebrate every co-worker’s birthday with a big ol’ cake, which you eat at your desk, before going out to lunch to celebrate? You’re not alone. Workers’ other reasons for weight gain at work include:

  • Sitting at a desk most of the day (49 percent)
  • Eating out regularly (25 percent)
  • Workplace celebrations  like potlucks and birthdays (16 percent)
  • Skipping meals because of time constraints (14 percent)

What do the scales say?

  • 28 percent of employees report they have gained more than ten pounds, and 12 percent say they gained more than 20 pounds while in their present positions.
  • Comparing genders, women were more likely to put on weight — and more weight — than men.
  • Half of female workers (50 percent) say they have gained weight in their current position, compared to 39 percent of their male counterparts.

What can you do to help your employees — and should you?

Employers are divided as to how deeply they should get involved in employees’ personal fitness and health. However, it’s hard to deny that an abundance of stress at work isn’t good for employee morale — and can lead to weight gain in the workplace, unhappy employees, lower productivity, and health issues.

In contrast, company wellness programs have been shown to lower employees’ stress rates, improve health and quality of life, and also save companies money in the process.

“Especially in this economy, it is easier to pick up unhealthy eating habits in the office as workers spend more time on heavier workloads and less time on themselves,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.

“Employers know that employees who are healthier and have less stress are more productive and ultimately stay longer in their positions. Because of this, we continue to see employers taking a more proactive role in their staff’s health by offering perks such as gym passes, onsite workout facilities, wellness benefits and even contests that promote healthy living.”

Even if you don’t want to get too involved as an employer — or involved at all — it’s smart to have available resources for employees should they reach out to you. Haefner recommends the following tips for employees trying to workplace weight gain:

1. Set an eating schedule. Planning out all your meals and snacks will help control your hunger. Set up alerts through your work calendar — or even on your phone — when it is time for you to eat something (and then don’t forget to eat!).

2. Pack a lunch and snacks. You’re less likely to eat something unhealthy if you bring food from home, because you can control portions, take in less calories — and save money while you’re at it. Consider lower-calorie foods for the office such as lean lunch meats, fat-free or reduced calorie chips, celery and carrots, fruit, or low-fat yogurt.

3. Go the extra mile. Especially in this economic environment, every little bit of activity helps, so take the stairs to your floor, get up and walk around the office periodically, and get off the train or bus one stop further from your home or office to get a few extra minutes of exercise.
Read the full press release on workers gaining weight at the office.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
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