Have you ever thought that your job could be the most unhealthy part of your life?
No? Me neither. But there’s new evidence to suggest that it could be.
This profound statement isn’t based on my pontificating after a glass of wine or two or any other loose based anecdotal conjecture, no, it’s based on analytical fact and research by Ken Lloyd and Stacey Laura Lloyd, who’ve written a book called “Is your Job Making You Fat?”
If you’re anything like me, a title like this is intriguing, and the book had to be explored further, not that I think plumpness should be an issue with regard to body image, but I don’t take too kindly to excess blubber for its impact on my health.
Your workplace could be unhealthy
Quickly, in an easy to read and entertaining style Ken and Stacey reveal a multitude of reasons that help explain why the modern workplace is indeed unhealthy in ways we can hardly imagine.
Perhaps you’re brain is ticking over too and you’re thinking: “But I work hard. My job is labour, I exert myself to achieve outcomes, I have great work friends and colleagues, so why would my job be bad for me?”
While this might be so, there are many insidious ways your job could be impacting your health.
Jobs are more sedentary than they’ve ever been, and we have easy access to many more unhealthy lunches and office snacks not to mention high levels of job stress and longer working hours.
This book unravels some of the sources of weight gain, firmly laying the blame on our 21st Century lifestyles and inactivity in the workplace. But it also offers tips and tools to remedy the situation.
You can’t have your cake and eat it
As the workplace has become more technical, many of us aren’t burning calories doing physical labour anymore because we are more likely to be sitting on our bums in an office eating cake.
While you might refute the cake bit, I bet, if you’re anything like me, that many of you spend a fair amount of your time sitting at a desk, pounding the keyboard or talking on the phone.
If I think about it, I can see that during the course of my life there have been major changes in the way we work and these days we’re inclined to do much less pounding the pavement and more piling on the pounds.
When I began working back in the day, I was away from my desk as much as I was at it. Rushing from one room to another, no video conferencing but real life meetings instead, no webinars, no texting, no social media, an errand for my boss here (work pressure wasn’t that great), walking to the photocopier or printer there, and always walking to speak to my colleagues because there was no mobile phone or email.
Yep. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that calories were not being ‘waisted’ to the same degree as they are today.
In those days we didn’t have numerous gourmet distractions in the way of TV cookery shows showing us how to whip up elaborate meals which we might share perhaps at pot lunches at work, in fact there were no regular pot luck lunches, and birthdays were more likely to be celebrated at home, not at work. And as boring as it sounds, a vegemite sandwich and an apple were my staple lunchtime fare, whereas today there are so many tempting cafes or fast food joints where we can grab a quick calorie laden lunch and a marvellous milky coffee.
Have you recently stepped on the scales and stared at the numbers in abject horror? I know I have. And it’s not surprising really because although I try to do my 10,000 steps (doesn’t always happen), the majority of my blogging day is spent firmly on my bottom, flexing my digits.
My fingers, it should be said are probably in good shape, so I guess that’s a small bonus.
Physical activity in the workplace in decline
Throughout recent decades though the amount of physical activity associated with a many jobs has been in decline.
“While approximately 50% of all jobs in 1960 required at least moderate physical activity, that number has dropped to a mere 20% today.” Is Your Job Making you Fat? Ken Lloyd and Stacey Laura Lloyd.
The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.
“In a landmark 2012 study conducted by CareerBuilder, after surveying more than 5,700 workers from a variety of industries, the irrefutable conclusion was that when people are at work, they tend to gain weight.” Ken Lloyd, PhD and Stacey Laura Lloyd,
But wait there’s more …
“A two year study of over 9,000 Australian women found that those who worked over thirty-five hours per week were more likely to gain weight than those who worked fewer hours or were outside of the workforce altogether.” Ken Lloyd, PhD and Stacey Laura Lloyd,
So it seems the smoke signals are puffing messages, loud and clear – the more you work, the more you gain.
But it’s not just weight gain which is worrying, because with the extra kilos come other more alarming health issues. There’s apparently, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and type 2 diabetes.
Yikes. Hold on a minute. I’m just going to have a little jog around my desk.
Then there are other nasty little traps which add to our unhealthiness at work. Like the candy bowl at the front desk (who can refuse dipping into these), the platter of bagels at a work meeting (don’t be fooled by their zero shape, I’m told essentially it’s the equivalent to four pieces of bread), the ubiquitous donuts bought in for a tea time treat (also shaped like an 0 with zero nutritional value), and breakfast on the go from a fast-food joint because our lives are too hectic to prepare food at home.
Organise your morning madness
Let’s face it. Mornings are chaotic, perhaps getting the children to school, driving through rush hour traffic to work, and whatever other pressures you face at home. And gobbling up work emails or devouring snippets of news on your smartphone as soon as your eyes snap open, does not equate to a healthy breakfast.
Tip: Don’t read your emails as soon as you get up. Disconnect from the internet. Establish a schedule to transform your morning from chaos to calm, have a proper breakfast at home and pack a healthy lunch to take to work.
Why is sitting bad for you?
“There’s no question that protracted sitting is one of the worst things you can do for your well-being, as it’s not only linked to obesity, but also to problems associated with mental health, heart disease, and even a greater likelihood of being disabled.” Ken Lloyd, PhD and Stacey Laura Lloyd.
I have had a sneaking suspicion that I’m becoming round by sitting around, and studies in the United States and Europe have found that the average office employee sits between 65 to 75% of the time at work.
Yep, that would be bloggerly me. It’s paltry relief to know I’m not alone.
And sitting around can be disastrous for our waists but also more sinister, it can be injurious to our health, even deadly. The book says sitting around like a sloth has been associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, increased levels of bad cholesterol, various cancers, hypertension, weakened muscles, slower brain function, increased risk of back problems and shortened life expectancy – to name a few!
Anyone want a jog?
The downside is that prolonged sitting can apparently undo all of the good things that come with fitness activities and even if you jog or go on a bike ride prior to work, the sad reality is that sitting for hours and hours each day at work undoes most of the health benefits gained from the morning trot.
Sitting for five hours they say could eliminate 40 percent of the health benefits of a one hour run.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s evidence to suggest a strong relationship between stress and weight gain, and it’s not only your job that could be stressing you out but your daily commute to work could also include stress from gridlocked traffic, or sharing a car in a car pool with a dodgy driver.
Often the crafty commute might include a pit stop for fast food along the way. Double wammy.
So really it’s time to get on your bike or take Shanks’s Pony out for a trot.
What can I do?
In the book there’s tons of advice, tools and coping strategies to help you prevent weight gain at work in but the top advice I took from “Is Your Job Making You Fat” is to look at my office chair as an unfriendly, unhealthy weight gaining machine, and to rise above it as much as I can.
I’m also going to be more aware of what I stuff down my face during the day. to make sure I walk or stand up to do as many work related tasks as possible, engage often in some light stretching exercises, go for a walk or bike ride at lunchtime, keep stress levels down as far as possible, and keep my phone switched off until I’ve had a healthy breakfast, prepared a healthy lunch and got myself together for the day. Phew!
There’s lots more applicable advice in this easy to read book, but here’s the thing: When you’ve read it you’ll probably want to retire from your job immediately.
Anyway, it’s goodbye from me as I need to get on my bike, so to speak.
For more information about how your job could be making you fat and for counteractive measures, tips and exercises to put you back in control then buy, beg borrow or steal “Is Your Job Making you Fat,” the book from which I’ve taken ideas, quotes and information while writing this post. It’s written by Ken Lloyd, PhD and Stacey Laura Lloyd, Published by Nero Books www.nerobooks.com.au. Printed by Griffin Press gifted to me by Champagne Cartel.
I can identify with SO MUCH of this article!
I went from a fairly active job (managing a video store – haha now that is so vintage!) to a desk bound job in a travel call centre… in fact we had a nickname for the inevitable weight gain: the Sunlover Spread.
I try and do things to keep me off the dreaded seat (walk to the far away loos, take the stairs, take all my phone calls standing up), and am now in the process of researching a standing desk to try to keep my caboose from spreading any further, but it’s a freakin challenge…
It’s actually quite scary how our jobs have changed in the last few years, and I can imagine managing a video store had you running around, rather than bumming around on your bum, which I do much more of these days (and so do the people I talk to). Let me know if you find a good not too expensive stand up desk … I’m currently standing at the kitchen counter!