Can working lead to weight gain?

Work can lead to weight gain!

Wow – imagine that. How many of us would stop work right away?

I am here to tell you that work can indeed make you gain weight. Not just because you might be sitting at a desk but due to other reasons.

Understanding why we gain weight is important  if you are trying to lose it. I know from years of consulting that working can lead to weight gain!

I have analysed people’s eating habits; activity levels; hormones and weight and often the only variable factor in people’s weight loss success stories are their work habits. So let’s explore them more.

I believe there are three reasons we gain weight at work (separate to poor food choices) and these include:

1. Head on, gut off

2. The 9-5 “I am too tired” syndrome

3. Gender hormone and work differences

1. Head on, GUT off

Our body needs to be relaxed in order to digest, release the needed enzymes, feed back to the brain that you are full and then absorb nutrients.

This state is called the parasympathetic state and occurs when your body is NOT stressed and not aroused (ie brain in “on” mode).

Often people tell me they are so busy, so snowed under, have unrealistic deadlines (often self imposed) that they don’t have time to eat away from their desks, or computers. Instead they are eating while working, eating while driving, eating on the run and this denies the body the chance to digest properly.

You see the aroused state (when your body is running around, your mind is switched on or you are feeling stressed) is a sympathetic state. Lots of adrenaline, lots of cortisol and increased insulin.

The adrenaline signals to the body to switch digestion off, the cortisol and insulin affect how glucose is handled and in women can lead to increased testosterone (making us cranky or develop PCO and abdominal fat).

It is critical that we only eat (and drink) when we are relaxed and focused on our food. Even eating in front of the telly can have a negative effect.

I like the Italian approach, buy yummy food locally, create a few salads, take some time off, sit in the sun and digest whole-heartedly.

2. The 9-5 Mentality

The second area people are increasing weight and short-changing themselves is with the 9-5 or “rat race” mentality.

Typical thoughts or verbalised frustrations are : ” I am too tired to exercise after work”, ” its too dark before work” and ” I don’t get a long enough lunch break” .

I get it. I understand that leaving home at 730am and not getting home until 530pm is majority of the day and limits time for activity. This is when you really need to question “is the money, is the security worth it” and is there another way I can work smarter, not longer?

Only you can answer these BIG values questions but if you want optimal health and weight it is a life long commitment to putting yourself first, eating good food daily, exercising daily and being in the sun daily. Ideally time for reflection and “down time” as well. This is the recipe you need to be modelling yourself off not the “work more, reap benefits when you have paid your house off” model. So many people slide into a 9-5 mentality and forget to enjoy the journey.

Ask if you can work from home one day a week, finish at 1 on Wednesday, only work a 3 day week, get a new job, create a new business. Do what you need to do to stay ahead of the 9-5 conditioning.

3. Gender hormone and work differences

The third area I believe work can lead us to gaining weight is a little unconscious and is around the gender differences we bring to the work place. I honestly don’t believe working women should be starting at the same time as men. Now everything I type here I have thought about, I am not being antagonistic nor anti-feminism or pro-. I just believe women thrive when they have attended their own needs first – maybe dropping kids off and mothering included.

They are more settled when they have connected with other women and exercised, then bring them into work. For many this will mean starting at 1030-11am.

Women are great workers when exercised and connected. They can often polish off an eight hour day in 4. Then let them go at 230pm. Many need to shop, cook meals and calm before assuming their other roles.

Stressed women push their male hormone: testosterone up, which leads to increased insulin, increased tummy fat, facial hair, in some acne and aggression. This can happen in minutes. And similarly this can be lowed in minutes with the right technique which I will share in another blog.

Men also need to be mindful in the workplace and eating when stressed will lead to increased belly fat. Any fat on a man will start to produce it’s own levels of estrogen which will further increase their weight and make it harder for them to lose weight.

So in summary:

Try to eat (ONLY) when you are relaxed

Try to defy and delete the 9-5 mentality

Be mindful of your expectations both as a woman and as a man in the workplace and when eating.

For more information, be sure to check out my 8 Week Program (good for anyone and included ideas about eating, stress management tips, eating plans, and my books explaining hormones more).