Are your jeans fitting a bit more snugly since you started your latest job? Join the club. Nearly half of Americans job search website CareerBuilder surveyed in early 2017 said they’ve gained weight at their current job, with 25% admitting they’d put on more than 10 pounds. Of the 3,420 full-time employees who responded to the questionnaire, 56% also said they thought they were overweight.
On-the-job weight gain can be a problem for both your health and your career. Being overweight or obese comes with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other physical problems. Your professional life can suffer, too. Employers discriminate against obese people and tend to see them as less competent than their normal-weight colleagues, a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology found. Overweight women earn less, a study by researchers at the University of Exeter found, and they are more likely to end up working in physically demanding jobs with little interaction with the public, according to a Vanderbilt University study.
All that is a good reason to fight the office bulge. But how can you put a halt to work-related weight gain? Watch out for these 10 triggers, which employees surveyed by CareerBuilder said were major reasons they packed on extra pounds.
10. Happy hour
After-work drinks are a ritual at some offices, and not participating can make you seem like the odd person out. But 4% of people CareerBuilder surveyed said all those beers and bar snacks were causing them to gain weight.
You could skip happy hour if you’re trying to stay slim, but that’s not always an option. Instead, try to order low-calorie cocktails — a vodka soda has under 100 calories, compared to a frozen margarita, which can clock in at 500 calories or more. Or pass on the booze entirely, and stick with sparkling water or diet soda. Meanwhile, skip the jalapeño poppers and nachos, and share a plate of hummus or munch on bowl of edamame, suggested the folks at Eat This, Not That.
Next: Are your co-workers to blame for your weight gain?
Food-pushing co-workers were an issue for 8% of survey respondents. Office feeders who always show up with plates of cookies to share, who urge you to try their salty, fatty snacks, or who always want to grab lunch out can make it hard to stick to a diet. The obvious solution is to just say no, but that’s not always as easy at it sounds.
Twenty-nine percent of dieters say their colleagues make fun of their diet, pressure them to eat, or deliberately order them forbidden food at restaurants, the Wall Street Journal reported. Some of them might feel threatened by your attempt to eat healthy, while others might miss the camaraderie of shared lunches or want to hear you praise their cooking skills. Politely and repeatedly declining treats might get the message across that you don’t want to indulge. Or you could bring in healthier snacks to share or suggest alternate activities, such as taking a walk in the park at lunch instead of grabbing a burrito.
Next: Many people said sweet treats were sabotaging their diet.
8. The office candy jar
The temptations of the office candy jar are legendary. Sixteen percent of people surveyed by CareerBuilder said nibbling on Hershey’s Kisses or tiny Snickers bars was sabotaging their diet. You could try to avoid the co-worker who has the bowl of candy on her desk, but resisting the siren song of sweets is harder than it seems.
In a 2006 study involving 40 secretaries, researchers found the closer chocolate was to a person’s desk, the more they ate. People also ate more candy when it was in a clear container than when it was in an opaque one. Even for people who promised they’d stop snacking, having candy within arm’s reach is just too tempting, Brian Wansink, one of the study’s authors, told the Wall Street Journal. Asking your co-workers to keep the candy under wraps might help, or you could counter the attack by providing your own bowl of healthier nibbles.
Next: The candy jar isn’t the only food temptation you’re likely to face at work.
7. Office celebrations
Birthday parties. Holiday celebrations. Random potlucks. Eighteen percent of people blamed office celebrations for their weight gain. Medical professionals agree constant office parties are bad for our health. In the U.K., doctors at the Royal College of Surgeons are urging people to put a stop to office “cake culture,” which they say is contributing to both weight gain and tooth decay.
Providing healthier snacks for team celebrations can help fight the bulge, as can choosing treats that come in smaller portion sizes, the British health officials said. Another option is to combine celebrations. Rather than having a cake for every person’s birthday, schedule a single celebration for all birthdays in a week or month.
6. Not having enough time to eat
Many people blame their work-related weight gain on overindulging in office snacks, but some people have the opposite problem. Not having enough time to eat caused 19% of survey respondents to gain weight. Although it might seem counterintuitive, skipping lunch to finish a big project can cause you to put on extra pounds, experts say.
Missing meals can trigger abdominal weight gain, a 2015 Ohio State University study found. Mice that ate one large meal a day rather than multiple smaller ones developed insulin resistance, a sign of prediabetes that could lead to weight gain, researchers said.
Although skipping meals to save either calories or time might sound smart, such a move “sets your body up for larger fluctuations in insulin and glucose and could be setting you up for more fat gain instead of fat loss,” said Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition and senior author of the study. Instead, take a few minutes to eat a proper lunch — your waistline will thank you.
5. Eating out too often
You already know eating out at lunch is bad for your wallet, but it’s also bad for your figure. Nearly one-quarter of people surveyed said dining out too frequently has caused them to gain weight. Twenty-four percent of respondents dined out for lunch more than three times a week, while 12% sometimes “eat out” by grabbing food from the vending machine.
It’s not surprising our addiction to convenience foods is leading to weight gain. Many restaurant meals are high in calories and fat, and your mid-morning coffee can also be a diet-buster. Choosing healthier options when you eat out can help, but that can be hard when your favorite lunch spot doesn’t provide calorie or nutrition information. Instead, bring a healthy lunch from home. Brown-bag meals that include whole fruit, cruciferous vegetables, and lean protein can be good choices.
4. No time to exercise
The old 40-hour workweek is a thing of the past. The average American workweek has swollen to 47 hours, according to Gallup, and a significant minority of people — 39% — work 50 hours a week or more. Given that we’re spending more of our day at the office, it’s hardly surprising 38% of people said not having time to exercise before or after work was causing them to gain weight.
When a packed schedule leaves you no time to work out, you can try to incorporate physical activity into your workday. Parking in the far corner of the lot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking at lunch, and doing a quick workout at your desk might help you stay slim and healthy. But there’s no substitute for hitting the gym. People who said they worked out at least four days a week were more likely to report having lost weight on the job, according to CareerBuilder.
Have a tendency to snack when you’re stressed? It could be making you heavier. Thirty-eight percent of people CareerBuilder talked to reported that stress-related eating was causing them to gain weight.
Stress can trigger appetite-inducing hormones and make you crave comfort foods. It can also screw up your sleep cycle, slow down your metabolism, and leave you too anxious or frazzled to eat. Keeping work stress under control can be a challenge, but learning coping mechanisms, meditation, and identifying your stress triggers so you can avoid them can help.
2. Too tired to exercise
Some people don’t have enough time to exercise, and others are just too tired. Nearly half of people who responded to the CareerBuilder survey said their job left them too exhausted to work out.
The good news is exercising can actually help you fight fatigue. Getting up to stretch or going for a 10-minute walk can make you less sleepy and help with overall fitness and health. Meanwhile, incorporating activities, such as yoga, into your fitness routine might help reduce stress. That said, if your tiredness is due to a lack of sleep, you should also think about how you can get more (or better) rest because sleep-deprived exercisers can injure themselves, according to Shape.
Next: The No. 1 cause of job-related weight gain can be tough to avoid.
1. Sitting all day
Fifty-one percent of people CareerBuilder surveyed said sitting all day was the reason for their weight gain. Science backs up their theory that too much time behind a desk was making them fat. A study conducted at Tel Aviv University found sitting for long periods can lead to a larger behind, while other research has linked too much chair time with an increased risk of serious health problems and death. Even regular exercise might not be enough to combat the negative effects of a largely sedentary lifestyle.
The good news is simply moving around more often during the day can help you stay healthy. Standing desks are one option, but just standing while talking on the phone or walking during meetings can help, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound. For starters, you’ll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body,” James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in an article for the Mayo Clinic.