There are a lot of ways your job can make you fat. If your job makes you do one or more of these things, it’s going to be harder – but not impossible – to maintain a healthy weight.
1. Puts a lot of stress on you.
Sources of stress are different for different people. Reaction to stress also varies. Some jobs only cause stress for people who are easily stressed. Some jobs will stress anybody who does it regardless of their stress threshold. Stress hormones can cause overeating and weight gain. It’s not the hormones themselves that make you fat, but rather how they affect your behavior.
For people who can’t cope with stress, stress can make them very fat and unhealthy.
2. Keeps you sitting for extended periods of time.
We are learning how sitting for long periods of time affects both weight and health negatively. Sitting decreases the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which helps burn fat.
People who are “chained to their desk” for hours at a time, may find weight gain as their reward for their dedication!
3. Mentally exhausts you.
Being in a constant state of mental exhaustion is draining. A common response to feeling drained is eating and a predisposition for sedentary behavior. It’s hard to distinguish mental exhaustion from physical exhaustion.
People who are in a constant state of mental exhaustion from their jobs find it hard to get up and get moving and that might make them fat.
4. Interrupts your eating schedule.
Some jobs are more demanding and intrusive on your life than others. Some jobs are very routine – start at 8:00, lunch at noon, go home at 5:00. Other jobs are not routine. Maybe lunch is supposed to happen at noon, but there’s nobody to cover the phone, so no lunchtime today. Maybe the job is just so hectic there’s never time to eat a meal so eating becomes something you can quickly shovel into your mouth when you get a chance.
People who work jobs that interrupt their eating schedule have a hard time managing their weight. Skipping meals can slow metabolism. Grabbing something handy and eating it quickly can contribute to a diet high in added sugars and fats. All that sugar and fat increases daily calorie intake. Combine that increased calorie consumption with a job that’s mentally exhausting (those two things tend to go together) and weight gain is inevitable. Too many calories going in and too few getting burned through physical activities = getting fat!
5. Interrupts your sleeping schedule.
Jobs can interrupt sleep schedules in a variety of ways and none of them are good. Some jobs are so stressful that you can’t let go of the day’s events to be able to fall asleep. Some jobs have workers working shifts that vary from week to week. One week they work days, the next week they’re working nights. This makes it difficult to establish a sleep pattern that gives the shift worker any quality, restful sleep. Some jobs have no respect for its workers sleep and will rouse them out of a sleep to respond to an emergency.
Inadequate sleep can cause people to get fat. Some people use sugary snacks to try to stay alert. That increases calories and the lack of sleep causes mental exhaustion so they tend to be sedentary.
Inadequate sleep can also scramble the hormones that control hunger and satisfaction. Recent research shows that inadequate sleep may increase levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes us feel hunger. It can also make a person leptin resistant. That means after you have eaten enough to satisfy your body’s physical needs for fuel you can’t recognize satiety so you continue to eat.
If your job does even one of these five things, you may find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. If it does all five things, it becomes four times harder to maintain a healthy weight!
That doesn’t mean you’re going to get fat, or if your job has already made you fat that you can’t lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Knowing how your job affects your weight helps you build strategies to overcome the obstacles.
If you think you’ve tried all the conventional ways to manage stress, avoid mental exhaustion, eat on schedule and get quality sleep, try some unconventional ways.
Black and white thinking exacerbates the negative effect some jobs have on its workers. It helps to let go of the thought that “only perfection is good enough.” The reality is that some jobs are never going to allow workers to be perfect, but all jobs can support progress. Progress is all you need. (also read Why Are So Many Nurses So Fat for 5 easy ways to make progress.)
Being aware, doing the best you can under the circumstances, reaching out for help and support, learning better coping strategies for stress and mental exhaustion, saying “no” more often and delegating tasks are all very helpful ways to manage weight.