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:

Start your busy day too early

Picture this. You’ve got a long commute or an important job to jump onto. You start the day with only a coffee and skip breakfast.

The day seems to start really well on full power and you dive into the job all fired up. Come mid morning, you begin to flag and hunger for a top-up but in your haste, you didn’t bring anything from home and the only choice is something that doesn’t deliver health. This approach is costly for your body’s health.

There’s no evidence or rule that says ‘it’s best to eat breakfast on waking before getting on with the day’, but disorganised breakfast skippers tend to grab something less healthy to eat later in the day.

Their hunger becomes exaggerated and they overeat on kilojoules.

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 and want 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.
    • Bagged 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.
    • A fresh corn cob to microwave at work.
    • Work trail mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
  • How about crawling out of bed a little earlier to squeeze in a fast breakfast at home? Toast and peanut butter, an egg or smoothie are fast.

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 body weight in check. Strange meal times corrupt your body’s natural hunger triggers and appetite regulators.

You will 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? Invest in pre-made meals, either cooked in bulk by yourself or delivered by a ‘healthy 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? Once this is addressed and improved (e.g. heavier curtains, ear plugs to cut daytime noise, sunnies to cut light stimulation), 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 work mates but you can be 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 your body healthy. This is not about weight, it is about improving your blood glucose, liver condition and blood pressure.

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 notice your body not moving - but there are better ways to move your body more.

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. How to do this?

  • 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 potential bonus of shorter meetings!
  • Stand on public transport and when watching TV.
  • Stand in the garden rather than lounge on a chair.
  • Stand rather than sit beside your vehicle when waiting for passengers or a load, whether you’re a professional driver or family taxi.

Got the idea?

Snacks in full view in your work area

See it, eat it! Experiments have proven that you’ll eat more when food is on display.

  • Rather than keeping your snacks in eyesight, pop them out of sight. If you haven’t got a drawer or cupboard, place your food into a boring looking container you can’t see through. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Fruit in eye's view is not such as bad decision. If you must keep snacks on the desk, make them fruit.
  • Fund-raising chocolate and snack displays are a workplace hazard, positioned prominently to tempt. Donate coins to the fund-raising campaign but don't take the snack from the honesty display.
  • Tidy the kitchen and set all edibles away out of sight before you start home-based work.

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?

  • 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 to cut down how much you drink. Say you brought the car and can not drink. Be the designated driver so you can confidently say no.

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 even forget that you’ve eaten because you have no memory of the food!

This is called mindless eating. People who eat mindlessly eat more (if the food is not pre-portioned like a sandwich) and don’t feel as satisfied with the food/meal.

Mindless eaters will eat more at the next eating time.

Can't tear yourself away for a break? Do yourself a favour:

  • Turn your chair away from the workspace.
  • Stop work for at least 5 to 10 minutes and pay attention to your eating.
  • Don’t answer the phone.
  • Stay away from FaceBook, Twitter and other un-smartphone distractions.
  • Switch the computer off to hibernate.

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 skip food entirely and over-ride your body’s signals of hunger and cues to eat, you may set 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 cream biscuits and pastries. Does this sound like your meeting room?

Biscuits offer a temporary pleasant escape from an otherwise dull meeting. Sure the biscuits 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 brilliant productivity booster.

  • Suggest a swap to snacks that store equally well but add more sustenance.
    • Nuts and dried fruit are the obvious choices. Even though they don’t save you calories and kilojoules, with 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.
    • BYO or cater with lean deli meats, sandwiches and sushi at lunchtime meetings.

Hydration choices

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

If you want to keep your weight in check, you’d be smart to:

  • skip sports drinks, energy drinks, 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.

If you’re working on a construction site,in a mine, are on the road, or have a mobile office, you’ll need a hydration plan in hot weather to make sure you drink enough water as the day progresses.

  • keep a water cooling esky or keep frozen bottles of water close by.
  • wear a water hydration back-pack
  • check the colour and volume of your pee. 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.