Is your work making you unhealthy or fat?

8 work hazards that interfere with your health and some easy solutions: easy swaps to avoid workplace weight gain:

Starting too early.

If you’ve got a long commute or an important job to jump onto, then you might be tempted to skip breakfast and start the day with only a coffee. But this approach is costly for your body’s health. Breakfast skippers tend to grab something less healthy to eat later in the day. Their hunger becomes exaggerated and they overeat.

So what can you do if you’ve got an early start?

Take breakfast from home – plan and pack it the night before so you don’t have to think too hard about what to eat. If necessary, save your 'breakfast' for a little later in the day when you have time to eat. Think: Yoghurt tubbed with berries and then topped with muesli when you’re about to walk out the door. Bircher style muesli prepared the night before. Eggs to go, either cold boiled eggs or take them raw to zap in the microwave at work. Bread (to toast at work) and a can of sardines, baked beans or cheese slice. A mini carton of long-life UHT milk (if you don’t have fresh milk at work) and a portion pack of crunchy cereal. Or you could always crawl out of bed that little bit earlier to squeeze in a fast breakfast at home of toast and peanut butter!

Shift work.

This is super whammy or should that be sad, bad whammy that can really screw your body up. Disrupted sleep patterns interrupt natural body rhythms that keep you slim. Strange meal times corrupt your body’s natural hunger triggers and you’ll find yourself confused about how much to eat, and what to eat when you do get a break. And unless you’re organised, shopping and cooking go out the door and drive-thru fast meals start to replace quality foods.

Step back. Look at your roster and write down where your eating plan is falling down.

Does it start with time for shopping? Order online and get groceries home deliveries on your days off. Is the kitchen the stalling point? Maybe you’d be better off with pre-made meals, either cooked in bulk by yourself or delivered by a ‘diet meal’ company. Perhaps you’re fueling up with more snacks than you need just to keep awake or stave off boredom?

Maybe your sleep cycle is at fault and once this is solved, your energy levels will improve.
Once you see where the problems are, you can work out ways to tackle them. The first solution may not work and you might need some expert input or tips from colleagues but you can become a healthy weight, shift worker.

Total sit down job.

Calling all console operators, taxi drivers, long haul truckies, bloggers, gamers, and call centre employees – this is about you and all those other people whose jobs glue them to a seat. Get up and out of your seat any chance you have. Incidental movement helps keep you slim and healthy. The human body is designed to move – walk, lift, jump, run – not just sit there like a lump of lard. Fidgeting is an example of incidental movement – get those feet and hands tapping when you come to a stop.

Each day, overweight people spend 152 minutes less time standing than healthy weight people. If you’ve got a seated lifestyle and you are overweight, you need to find a way to get standing for another 2.5 hrs each day.

Stand up while talking on the phone. Ask your employee to raise your computer console so you can stand for at least part of your day. Suggest stand-up meetings with the bonus being the meetings will be over quicker! Stand on public transport and when watching TV. Stand in the garden rather than lounge on a chair. Got the idea?

Keeping a snack supply in full view in your work area.

See it, eat it! Experiments have proven that you’ll eat more when food is on display so rather than keeping your snack in eyesight, pop them out of sight. If you haven’t got a drawer or cupboard, them place your food into a container that you can’t see through. Out of sight, out of mind!

Fruit in eye's view is not such as bad decision so if you must keep snacks on the desk, make them fruit.


Fund-raising chocolate and snack displays are positioned prominently to tempt. They are a workplace hazard. Donate coins to the fund-raising campaign but don't take the snack out of the honesty box.

Friday night drinks.

You may have got through the week perfectly with well-organised meals and snacks, great hydration and a perfect fitness routine only to wreck it with after work drinks with colleagues. Alcohol is wicked. A few drinks stimulate your appetite. That makes you more vulnerable to snacking and making impulse decisions around food choice: “What the heck, I’ll eat whatever’s on the menu”. Sound familiar?

But the more alcohol you drink, the harder it is to lose weight. And breast cancer rates are higher in women who drink alcohol.

Plan to slow the pace of drinking or claim to be the designated driver so you can cut down.

Working over lunch and breaks.

Working and eating at the same time means you’re probably not paying good attention to both tasks. And because eating is such a practiced skill, it will be the eating task that is switched over to auto-pilot. When this happens you won’t notice how much you’ve eaten or in fact may forget that you’ve eaten because you have no memory of the food!

This is called mindless eating. People who eat mindlessly eat more and don’t feel as satisfied with the food/meal. If you can’t or choose not to or ‘aren’t allowed’ to break away from the workspace then at least stop work for at least 5 to 10 minutes and pay attention to your eating. Don’t answer the phone. Turn the computer off to hibernate. Turn your chair away from the workspace.

Time out also allows your brain to refresh and your body relax so you’ll be even more productive when you return to work.

If you’re skipping food entirely and over-riding your body’s signals of hunger and cues to eat, then you may be setting yourself up for a binge or over-consumption later in the day or evening. By the time you get to eat you will be so hungry that your brain and stomach will misjudge how much you need and over-eat in an attempt to catch up on the day’s food supplies.

Catering at meetings.

Bad coffee, cold tea and the obligatory assorted sweet and cream biscuits. Does this sound like your meeting room?

Biscuits offer a temporary pleasant escape from an otherwise unexciting meeting. Sure they stay fresh in sealed bags, they’re not too messy, they’re quiet to eat, and they’re probably on the corporation’s approved shopping list but biscuits are not exactly a productivity booster.

Suggest a swap to snacks that store equally well but add more sustenance. Nuts and dried fruit are the obvious choices and even though they don’t save you calories and kilojoules, when nuts are on the menu, you will get a nutrition boost. If you choose mini-packs of dried fruit, then you will cut the kilojoules.

Although sometimes a little messier, fresh fruit (whole or segmented) and yoghurt are the next snack choices if your workplace is committed to a healthy workforce.

Hydration choices.

If you want to keep your weight in check, you’d be smart to skip sports drinks, energy drink, regular soft drinks, cordial, milk coffee (cappachino), milky tea (chai tea), hot and cold chocolate drinks, fruit juices, and flavoured milk. Stick to water, tea and coffee served with or without a dash of milk, low joule/low cal diet soft drinks, low joule/low cal cordial, and pure vegetable juice.

Good hydration equals better skin and clearer thinking with better mental concentration. There’s less chance of constipation, kidney stones, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and gout.

If you’re working on a construction site or mine, then you’ll need a better hydration plan in hot weather to make sure you drink enough water as the day progresses. Keep a water cooling esky, wear a water hydration back-pack, or keep frozen bottles of water close by. If your urine is dark yellow, you’re not drinking enough water! If it has a strong smell, you’re probably not drinking enough water.

What other workplace hazards have you come across?

Have you solved it or would you like solutions for your workplace hazard? Email Trudy with your comments, questions and solutions.