Did you know that, at any given time, half of American adults are trying to lose weight? They spend over $65bn a year doing it, yet fewer than one out of ten is successful at shedding the weight and keeping it off. Though there are many factors involved in this, a significant one is work, and many people just don’t realize how much what they do for a living is affecting their weight. It’s particularly tough for moms who are looking after kids as well, which can exacerbate the problem. What should you be aware of, and what can you do if this is affecting you?
Was work always this bad for the health? Not really. Although people were doing many of the same kinds of jobs fifty years ago, they didn’t suffer the same kinds of health issues as a result. One of the changes that have made things worse is the increase in shift work that involves people doing different shifts on different days. Even if you only change your shift pattern every two weeks, it can still be tough for your metabolism to adjust, meaning that you spend a lot of your time feeling sleep deprived. This increases your long-term risk of serious illness because your body becomes more dependent on easily digested sugars for energy, making you crave sweet things and store sugar as fat. In some cases it may also mean that you don’t get enough sunlight, depriving you of a natural factor that helps regulate your metabolism.
Stress is one of those problems that get you either way: if you’re underweight it can make it very hard to keep healthy weight on, and if you’re overweight it can lead to you piling on the pounds. With 80% of Americans reporting that they suffer from stress at work and 40% of them perceive it as a serious problem, it’s an increasingly big factor in the general health of the population. Most business owners are aware that it decreases productivity, so they don’t want their workplaces to have that effect on employees. This means that they and their managers are often willing to make changes to try and make things better, but they need employee input to do so. If they tackle bullying, provide adequate breaks and ensure that the workload is sensibly distributed, they can make a big difference, and everybody gains as a result.
The working environment
Losing weight can also be more challenging when you’re working in a place that’s badly designed. If you don’t have good seating, for instance, you’re more likely to suffer from back pain that can make it difficult to exercise. If you don’t get the chance to move around, you won’t be able to burn calories in a natural way; and if you’re on your feet all the time you can end up feeling physically drained and unable to do any aerobic exercise. Lack of natural light can be a big problem. And poor workplace hygiene can mean you’re always catching minor infections that damage your level of fitness – inadequate A/C maintenance is a major cause of this.
Underlying health issues
If your workplace isn’t too bad by these standards and you’re still having problems, it could be worth investigating whether or not you have an underlying chronic health condition. Type 2 diabetes, for instance, can often go undiagnosed for years before becoming dangerous, but it still takes a toll on health and makes weight management difficult. Thyroid problems can cause weight gain and general feelings of exhaustion, but a simple test to measure TSH levels means you can get artificial help to restore proper thyroid hormone function if you need it. Alternatively, you may find that you are suffering from a condition like chronic fatigue syndrome.
Things you can do
If you feel the combination of work and raising your kids is making it impossible to lose weight successfully, some minor changes will help. Simply fitting in little bits of exercise by walking around briskly when you get the chance, or even cycling to work, can make quite a difference and increase your energy levels at the same time. Cutting down on sugars and eating more foods like grains, bread, and pasta, which your body breaks down slowly, will improve the way your body manages its calorie intake. It also helps to stay well hydrated, so carry a bottle of water in your purse and drink from it whenever you feel thirsty. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
Weight loss is always tough to achieve and difficult to sustain, so don’t feel bad if you’re struggling – but don’t assume it’s hopeless.