Is your workplace making you gain weight?

Is your workplace making you gain weight?

The convenient vending machines full of junk food, the candy bowls on co-workers’ desks, the leftovers from meetings and events, the vendor-supplied snacks, the staff member who likes to bake, unhealthy cafeteria selections,  long hours seated at multiple meetings or behind your desk are all signs of an “obesogenic” workplace – an environment ripe for promoting weight gain.

Obesogenic‘ is a recent medical term for factors tending to make individuals overweight. It’s even been added to the Merriam-Websters dictionary.  An obesogenic environment is one that encourages people to eat unhealthily and not exercise enough.

If your workday consists mainly of sitting, while eating snacks throughout the day, you may notice that your clothes are feeling a little snug.

“The typical person makes about 200 food-related decisions a day, but she believes she makes 25 to 30. And it’s those 175 that you’re not aware of that can push you to eat more,” Brian Wansink, Ph.D., the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab said in Real Simple magazine.

And many of those decisions are tied to where you spend the majority of your day, health experts say.

“Your habits are tied to your environment,” says Dr. Diana Teresa Zamojski, a family practice physician on staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.

”While you probably don’t want to change your employment, there are things you can do to change your work environment,” says Dr. Zamojski. “If you always have a piece of chocolate when you meet with a co-worker in his office, suggest meeting in your office instead, or ask him to put the candy away when you meet. You want to change your mindset and stop picturing ‘chocolate’ when you think of meeting with this person.”

Dr. Zamojski  offers some more tips to improve your work environment and overall lifestyle for a healthier you:

  • Join your work’s lunchtime fitness program, or start a lunch hour walking club.
  • Pack your own healthy snacks and lunch, so you are not tempted by the candy bowls, unhealthy snacks and poor cafeteria selections.
  • Ask your cafeteria’s management to provide healthier options.
  • Ask your employer to provide healthier vending machine selections.
  • Take the stairs as often as possible.
  • Park as far away from the entrance as you can.
  • On your break, head outside for a walk instead of heading to the break room.
  • Wear a pedometer or a Fitbit® to challenge yourself to move more each day.

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  1. Ernst Lamothe Jr. January 22, 2015 at 9:24 am · Reply

    This article makes sense. Working in a newsroom previously I never had a cafeteria that was open throughout my shift or had these many vending machine options. That is why I try to bring a healthy snack to work to resist the vending machine cravings.

  2. Especially around the holidays – in my office it’s non-stop snacking. I think it takes the whole team to make the decision to not bring in sweets and snacks all the time, and go with the alternative. At my previous office we had Fruit Week – where we alternated people bringing in a fruit to share that week.

    • . . . I think you meant to say “. . . around Christmas time. .. ”

      Anyways, I eat two pieces of fruit everyday and considering so many folks are going without raises and cost of living adjustments, if you are lucky enough to work in a business where your customers/clients/principals send over a some toffee, or fancy cookies or a nice box of chocolates between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I say go for it. There are 50 other weeks in the year you can share fruit.

  3. Of course it makes sense, Ernst. One of your Advocate colleagues wrote it!

  4. Of course the article makes sense, Ernst. One of your Advocate colleagues wrote it!

  5. What is Advocate doing about this? I think it’s ridiculous that we even have soda, donuts, and deep fried food in a hospital setting. There are a few healthy options available, but at least 80% of what is served in the cafeteria is junk food.

    • I guess the eye sees only what it wants. Personally I love that I can grab a cup of oatmeal, naked juice, cup of fresh cut fruits/veggies, bag of unsalted nuts or hummus any day I don’t have time to plan ahead. Not to mention the made from scratch Home station or fresh chicken always available off the Grill.

    • Yes, this. Advocate as a whole would be wise to step up and offer healthier choices. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I consulted a nutritionist here and asked her what I could eat in my site’s café. She looked at me and said, “Basically — nothing.”

      And my site’s cafeteria offers fewer choices in a global sense than they did even a year ago. I don’t know why.

  6. Your workplace is not Making you do anything. The foods you put in your body are a freedom & a choice. Learn to make better choices for yourself instead of scapegoating your environment. As adults we should all be aware that delaying immediate gratification and sometimes enduring mild discomfort is often necessary and capable of producing bigger payoffs later on.

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”