The next time you ask the boss for a raise based on your hard work, maybe you should ask instead for a bonus based on your belly fat. Because the more hours you spend at work each day, the more you’ll weigh. It’s really that simple, according to a study in the journal Preventive Medicine—those of us who put in more than 40 hours a week are more likely to get fat.
And it’s not because your demanding work schedule interferes with the hours you’d otherwise spend training for the Olympics. The average workplace is riddled with weight gain triggers, regardless of whether you’re a fortune teller or a Fortune 500 CEO. But knowing what you’re up against can make a huge difference. Here are 7 things you’re probably doing at work that are causing you to pack on the pounds, compliments of Eat This, Not That!.
Fat Work Habit #7: Arriving Late and Staying Later
When you work later you also eat later and go to sleep later, both of which lead to unwanted pounds. A study in the journal Nutrition Research found that those whose last meal was closest to bedtime took in more calories overall throughout the day than those who gave their bodies time to recover before heading off to bed.
Do This! Instead of staying later, get home, get to sleep, and get to the office earlier. You’ll get more done, with less impact on your belly. And consider a new trend, intermittent fasting. Your body needs 12 hours of fasting in order to get all of its fat-burning pathways fired up. If you give yourself that time without eating, you can almost eat whatever you like for the other 12 hours and not gain weight. (And studies show that among obese patients, this plan was easier to stick to than any other kind of weight-loss program.)
Fat Work Habit #6: Driving to Work
Those who drive to work gain more weight than those who take public transportation, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. And the real bummer is that exercise doesn’t help. According to the study, commuting by car slaps an extra 5.5 pounds on your body, whether you exercise or not. Ouch.
Do This! Obviously, walk or cycle to work, if you can. But also consider public transportation. Reachers found those who trained or bussed to work were slimmer than those who drove, because they usually had to walk at one end of the commute.
Fat Work Habit #5: Staying Glued to Your Seat
We sit an average of 67 hours a week—that’s nine hours a day sitting, six hours lying down, and only about seven hours out of every 24 spent actually moving. And our sedentary jobs now cause us to burn 100 fewer calories a day than we did 50 years ago. That alone translates to gaining an extra 10 pounds a year.
Do This! A recent study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that taking a two minute walk every hour can offset the effects of too much sitting.
Fat Work Habit #4: Drawing the Blinds
If you don’t have a window near you at work (at least 20 feet away), seek one out. Employees with windows near their desks receive 173% more white light exposure during work hours and 46 minutes more minutes of sleep per night than employees who don’t have exposure to natural light. And those without windows get less physical activity. Plus, a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Workers found that being exposed to artificial light leads to weight gain regardless of what you eat.
Do This! If you’re a prisoner of cubicleland, try to get as much morning sunlight before work as you can; in studies, sun exposure between 8 am and noon is associated with higher fat burning and significantly lower BMIs, regardless of exercise, calorie intake, sleep, or even age.
Fat Work Habit #3: Ordering Lunch
A study found that just having a lot of take-out options near your work or along your commute to work makes you twice as likely to be obese. Think about that for a moment: Just the mere presence of take-out food increases your risk of obesity.
Do This! The best thing for you to do is pack your lunches and at least two snacks to make sure you don’t have to go searching for food elsewhere.
Fat Work Habit #2: Grabbing that 3 p.m. Coffee
We wouldn’t dare ask you to forgo your morning cup of coffee…or even your 10 am cup. But you might want to skip that 3:00 coffee run. Too much caffeine can lead to insulin resistance and increased fat storage, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Do This! When the 3:00 slump hits, go for a walk or work out instead.
Fat Work Habit #1: Giving in to Work Stress
When you’re stressed at work you are more likely to gain weight, because you’re more likely to want to hide under the covers when you get home. A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people with high levels of job stress are 26% more likely to be inactive during their down time than those with low-stress jobs. A University of Rochester study echoed these results, finding that stress at work leads to unhealthy behaviors like more sitting and watching TV and less exercise.
Do This! It’s one thing for your job to make you unhappy. But if it’s making you unhealthy, it might be time to start looking around.