Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Food for Thought: Worker Weight Gain

 For those who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle or lose a few pounds, the corporate workplace is the biggest battleground. With office birthdays, fresh desserts, and special occasions such as “Bagel Fridays,” it is no wonder that workers are complaining of expanding waistlines. According to a survey of over 5,000 employees conducted by Harris Interactive, 44 percent of workers admit they’ve gained weight at their current job, while almost half blame their weight gain to food in the office. These findings correlate with last year’s findings, revealing that the situation is not improving.
Exactly how much weight are we gaining? Twenty-six percent of workers say they’ve gained more than ten pounds at their current job, while 14 percent admit to gaining more than 20 pounds. However, 16 percent have said that they’ve actually lost weight since they started at their current job, revealing that some are resisting the cookies, doughnuts, and sodas that are readily available.
Some occupations categorized as sedentary or higher-stress work environments see a higher incidence of employee weight gain. Careers for high-risk weight gain are travel agents, attorneys/judges, teachers, administrative assistants, and physicians, to name a few.
If you or your employees work through lunch or barely take breaks even for a drink of water, you have company: more than half of workers blamed their weight gain to sitting at their desk a majority of the day, also admitting they eat their lunch there, too.
Alternatively, 53 percent of workers say they eat out for lunch at least once a week, 23 percent at least three times a week and 11 percent at least five times a week, which results in unhealthy choices. Snacking is also a jean-tightening culprit – 10 percent of workers say they eat lunch out of the vending machine at least once a week, and 71 percent say they snack during the workday. Also contributing to expanding waistlines is stress, skipping meals, and workplace celebrations.
To combat weight gain, exercise is the obvious solution. However, while 59 percent of workers say they exercise regularly, one in ten workers say they don’t exercise at all. To reinforce healthy habits and help make exercise more convenient to workers, companies are implementing healthy living initiatives in the workplace, including gym passes, workout facilities, or wellness benefits for their employees.
It is wise to have resources or advice for employees regarding their health in the office, especially if they reach out to you. Practice the following tips and encourage your employees to do the same for a healthier workplace.
1. Take more steps. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or stop by a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email. If you use public transportation, get off at an earlier train stop or bus stop to walk part of the way to the office.

2. Snack healthy. Make sure you are eating the right kind of snacks. Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand so you have a healthy option when the hunger pangs start.

3. Pack your lunch. Not only does bringing your lunch save you money, it also helps you control your portions.

4. Drink water. Instead of caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda, drink water. This will help you feel full and satisfy your thirst better, cutting down on calories.

5. Exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym for hours for some exercise – take a daily walk with a co-worker, replace your chair with an exercise ball for part of the day, or keep weights at your desk.
A healthy lifestyle is important for happy, productive employees. Become involved in your employee’s health and be aware of any concerns to ensure a healthy workplace.
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