Out of Shape? These 7 Jobs Can Actually Make You Fat

overweight and out of shape man buttoning pants

An overweight man buckling his pants | Source: iStock

Worried your job might make you fat? You may be right. Roughly 44% of American workers say they’ve gained weight since starting their current job, with 25% admitting they’d put on more than 10 pounds, a 2016 CareerBuilder survey found. These overweight and out-of-shape workers said sitting at a desk all day, not having enough time to exercise, and stress-induced snacking were to blame for their weight gain.

The survey found that the higher stress a person’s job, the more likely they were to say they were overweight. Seventy-seven percent of people in high-stress jobs said they were overweight, compared to 41% of those in extremely low stress positions. But the link between high-pressure work and weight gain isn’t clear. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2015 found no link between job stress and obesity.

Whether stress is to blame or not, some companies have recognized the toll unhealthy, out-of-shape employees can have on their business and have introduced workplace wellness initiatives to try to battle the bulge. Yet of the 25% of workers who said their company offered wellness perks like on-site gyms, 55% confessed to not taking advantage of them. But even if workers did hit the treadmill or weights after work, it’s not clear that would halt the obesity epidemic in America’s offices.

“People eat better and exercise more today than they did in the 1970’s, yet obesity rates continue to rise,” Carl-Étienne Juneau, the author of a 2010 study linking increasingly sedentary jobs to an increase in obesity, said. After analyzing health data on tens of thousands of Canadians, Juneau and his colleagues at the Université de Montréal concluded that being less active at work could account for a 10% increase in obesity between 1978 and 2004.

man running on a treadmill

A man running on a treadmill | Source: iStock

If you do find your pants fitting a bit tighter after a few months at your new job, you can take steps to halt weight gain. People who didn’t eat lunch at their desk, exercised more, and didn’t snack at the office were more like to lose weight at their current jobs than those who were out of shape, according to CareerBuilder. Even small changes to your daily routine, like taking the stairs at the office, can help you keep your weight under control, Juneau said.

Prefer to skip the job-related weight gain in the first place? Then you might want to avoid these seven careers. According to CareerBuilder, jobs in these fields were most likely to make you fat.

7. IT

Thirty-eight percent of IT workers said they’d gained weight in their current job. A 2012 report from the Milken Institute found that the more a country invests in information technology, the more obesity rates climb as people spend longer hours in front of their screens and less time exercising. Is it any wonder that the IT workers charged with keeping this technology infrastructure running are among those more likely to report putting on a few pounds?

6. Manufacturing

Thirty-nine percent of manufacturing workers said they’d put on pounds in their current position. A separate study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) found that roughly 31% of people working in the manufacturing industry were obese.

Though some blame an increase in sedentary desk jobs for America’s obesity epidemic, working a manufacturing job is no guarantee you’ll be able to avoid weight gain. Research suggests that people in high demand/low control jobs – which might include some manufacturing positions – experience more stress, which can in turn contribute to weight gain. Shift work, common in the manufacturing industry, has also been linked with weight gain.

5. Retail

walmart employee

A Walmart employee rings up a customer’s purchases | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Retail workers may spend much of the workday on their feet, but that doesn’t seem to help them stave off weight gain. Forty percent had seen the numbers on the scale climb since they started ringing up sales for customers or stocking shelves.

People working in retail make an average of $12.67 per hour. Studies have shown that low-wage workers, though often physically active at work, may struggle with finding enough time to eat during the day (especially if they work at a job where they’re pressured not to take breaks), don’t have the energy to exercise, and may not be able to afford healthy food.

“I don’t have the desire to do exercise after standing for 15 [to] 16 hours … I just want to eat and sleep … The next day is the same thing all over again,” said one low-wage worker interviewed by researchers at the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace.

4. Sales

Forty-six percent of people with careers in sales said they’d gained weight in their current job. Stress could be a reason why this jobs seems more likely to make you fat – 73% of people working in this field rated their job as high stress, according to a survey by Payscale. People working in sales were also somewhat more likely to smoke and less likely to get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet compared to the general population, a survey of workers in Washington state found.

3. Financial services

wall street sign

The Wall Street sign near the front of the New York Stock Exchange | STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Financial services tied with sales in the number of workers who said their pants size had increased since their first day at their current job. Roughly 24% of workers in the finance and insurance industries are obese, according to the AJPM. Financial services encompasses a broad range of jobs, from bank tellers to hedge fund managers. For some workers, a high-stress work environment or long hours may contribute to weight gain, while others might be struggling with low salaries that make it difficult to afford healthy meals.

2. Health care

Even health care workers can’t avoid on-the-job weight gain. Forty-eight percent had gained weight since starting their job. A high-stress environment and long hours could be to blame, according to a study from the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing, which found that 55% of nurses were overweight or obese.

In a separate survey by Medscape, 42% of male physicians and 32% of female physicians said they were overweight or obese. Many doctors reported exercising infrequently, with roughly half of those under 40 saying they worked out once per week or less.

1. Transportation

trucks on highway

Trucks on a rain-covered highway | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jobs in transportation were the most likely to make you fat, according to CareerBuilder’s survey. Nearly half of workers in this field – 49% — had gained weight since starting work.

Studies have shown that transportation workers, such as bus drivers, are at high risk for obesity compared to workers in other fields. For bus drivers, long hours, shift work, not having easy access to healthy food, and few options for physical activity create an environment where it’s easy to gain weight, according to a researchers writing in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Long-haul truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese as the general population, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The 2010 survey of 1,670 truck drivers found 69% were obese. Long hours on the road, poor sleep habits, little opportunity for exercise, and having to rely on unhealthy road food are among the reasons trucking jobs lead to weight gain.

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