Ever have those moments when you pause, reflect on the past decade or less, and just wonder where the heck all those extra pounds came from? Weight gain has a way of sneaking up on you. Especially if you have a desk job that demands you sit for hours upon hours. But this repetitive sedentary work routine needs to stop because it not only takes a harmful toll mentally, but physically as well. Below, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why you continue to gain weight at work and how to minimize or even stop it from happening.
6 Common Reasons You’re Gaining Weight at Work
For everyone wondering where this unexplainable weight came from, we may have some answers for you.
1st Problem: Sitting for long periods of time (and not only at work)
Chances are most people you know work a desk job and they may love it! But that doesn’t mean their bodies do. Speaking of bodies, the body of research exploring the effects of prolonged sitting or standing (at or outside of work) continue to grow. In two crucial studies (one published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews and the other in the American Journal of Epidemiology), researchers concluded that prolonged sitting a significant influence on weight gain and other metabolic signs that increase your risk of chronic diseases.
Try this instead: Get up from your desk once or twice an hour to walk around. Whether you take a trip to the washroom or water cooler, or have walking meetings instead of sit-down ones, these little trips will help improve your circulation and burn some extra calories. In fact, here’s what walking for only 15 minutes a day can do for weight and other areas of your health.
2nd Problem: Not Planning Ahead
While your intentions are good, sometimes eating not-so-healthy food is the easier (or only) option. It’s true, pre-packaged snacks and fast food offer a convenience almost no home-cooked meal can offer. But, on the flip side, no pre-packaged snack or fast food menu item can match the health benefits of a home-cooked meal. So, when you’re faced with the decision of what to eat for work…
Try this instead: Sit down sometime this week and make a list of everything you eat throughout the week. Highlight what you should not be eating, or the pointless snack you don’t really need. Replace it instead with a healthy snack or choose to omit that ‘snack time’ completely. Next, try to prepare simple, nutrient-dense meals ahead of time. In addition to money and time, you’ll save yourself from unnecessarily gaining weight.
3rd Problem: Working overtime, even at home
Whether you need to or choose to, working extended hours can take a toll on your weight. Especially when you recall the effects of prolonged sitting. Let’s say you finish work at 7pm instead of 5pm when you’re supposed to. Let’s say you get home around 8pm. By this time, the last thing you want to do is exercise and cook, so your weekly workout gets skipped and you’re picking up the phone to order in. It’s easy to see how this lifestyle can become a habit, especially when so many people find identity and meaning in their careers.
Try this instead: If you have to work, you have to work. We understand. But when it’s not necessary, prioritize your health as much as possible over putting in extra work; it may even make you more efficient and productive the next day.
4th Problem: Less than ideal working environments
You may not realize it, but factors such as temperature and lighting can affect your appetite for better or worse. One study published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that booth cooler and dimly lit rooms can actually boost your appetite. If you want to minimize the amount you eat…
Try this instead: If your office temperature is on the cooler side, keep a cozy extra layer by your desk to throw on when it dips too low. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be surrounded with floor to ceiling windows, make sure you get outside at least once throughout the day. The natural light will help offset the hunger pangs you may be getting right about now.
5th Problem: Unhealthy stress and pressure of deadlines
Deadlines are good. Since childhood, they have helped us develop a sense of urgency and desire to complete things properly and on-time. For whatever reason, however, work has reached a point for some of us where the consistent weight of stress and pressure is causing exactly that – weight. During these extended periods of stress, your body’s cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone) levels rise and, as a result, fat and sugar cravings increase. A 2017 study conducted by University College London even discovered that people who suffer from long-term stress are at a higher risk of gaining weight and even becoming obese.
Try this instead: Incorporate some of these natural stress-relieving methods into your home or office work space, such as using aromatherapy, meditation or taking adaptogen herbs. Also remember to advantage of corporate perks such as registered massage therapy benefits, counselling or paid vacation.
6th Problem: Staying up past your bedtime
While this reason isn’t necessarily happening at work, it can have a huge impact on your work life. Depriving yourself of sleep – even minimally – can affect your eating habits. Instead of eating healthy, people often end up reaching for quick sugar-filled energy boosts that lead to increased cravings and weight gain.
Try this instead: In addition to working on all the suggestions above, we suggest you start thinking of sleep in a slightly new way. Sure, treat yourself on the weekend to a late night out or your favorite series. But during the workweek, treat sleep as the beginning of your day. If the moment you lay down your head to sleep becomes the start of your day, your body will have already been working throughout the night to prepare you for a full day of work.
A lot of these examples of may seem repetitive, but that’s because they can really work. However, you have to want them to work if you want to stop gaining weight at work. Pro tip: don’t feel pressured to start doing these all at once. It will probably only overwhelm you. Instead, try one at a time and slowly build it into your day-to-day. You may surprise yourself when you start feeling better and getting ride of excess weight.
With better awareness, you can make better choices, which should lead to better end results. In this case, it’s not gaining so much unnecessary weight at work. So, although work is a necessary part of your life, we hope you feel at least a bit more aware of how to make your job work for you and not against you.
 Smith, P., Ma, H., Glazier, R. H., Gilbert-Ouimet, M., & Mustard, C. (2017). The Relationship Between Occupational Standing and Sitting and Incident Heart Disease Over a 12-Year Period in Ontario, Canada. American Journal of Epidemiology. doi:10.1093/aje/kwx298
 Owen, N., Healy, G. N., Matthews, C. E., & Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too Much Sitting. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 38(3), 105-113. doi:10.1097/jes.0b013e3181e373a2
 Biswas, D., Szocs, C., Chacko, R., & Wansink, B. (2017). Shining Light on Atmospherics: How Ambient Light Influences Food Choices. Journal of Marketing Research, 54(1), 111-123. doi:10.1509/jmr.14.0115
 Jackson, S. E., Kirschbaum, C., & Steptoe, A. (2017). Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25(3), 539-544. doi:10.1002/oby.21733