• Business

If You’re Overweight, Can You Blame Your Job?

3 minute read

Here are the weighty facts: Almost 70% of Americans weigh more than they should. More than a third are obese and another 6% are classified as having “extreme obesity.” There’s no single reason behind these depressing statistics, but a new survey uncovers evidence that our jobs may contribute more to this situation than previously believed.

CareerBuilder.com polled more than 3,000 workers and found that, for a lot of us, work is making us fat. Almost 60% of respondents said they felt overweight (the government data above counts people who aren’t in the workforce as well, which could be behind the discrepancy, or there could be a fair number of us who don’t realize we’re carrying around some extra poundage).

More than four in 10 respondents say they’ve gained weight at their current jobs, up from less than 40% last year, and more than 20% say they’ve gained 10 pounds or more. CareerBuilder calls today’s workplace “an enabler of Americans’ ever-expanding waistlines.” Workers in professional and business services and IT are most likely to be losing the battle of the bulge at work. (Retail workers are the least likely to gain weight.)

According to workers’ responses, there are a few culprits here. (Respondents could choose more than one reason.) More than half say they gained weight because they just sit at their desks most of the day, and 43% say they’re too exhausted from work to exercise. People who have gained weight at their current job are more likely to eat lunch at their desks and snack more, and less likely to exercise three or more times a week or take advantage of fitness benefits (like gym membership) their employer offers. In fact, although 27% of workers have access to fitness benefits of some kind, nearly two thirds of those who have them don’t use them — potentially ignoring a tool that could help them ditch that spare tire.

Another 37% of workers blame stress eating for their weight gain. There’s a pretty strong link between stress and being overweight: While fewer than half of respondents in low-stress jobs are overweight, 70% of those in high-stress occupations weigh more than they should, CareerBuilder finds. Another recent study, though, says the key to lowering workplace stress isn’t hitting the vending machine: It’s taking a walk. Australian researchers found that lunchtime walks made workers less anxious and more enthusiastic about their jobs.

This is something employers should be paying attention to, because it’s starting early: Almost 40% of workers under the age of 35 are already gaining weight at their jobs, and obesity leads to a lot of healthcare expenses down the line. Workers, if you’re watching that scale creep up on days you check your weight before starting your morning commute, see if your company offers fitness perks. If they do, use them. If not, see if you can start a walking group at your job, or at least ditch that desktop lunch and go take a stroll.

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