Thursday, May 30

Study Finds Connection Between Employee Stress and Weight Gain

Contrary to what you might think, the workplace can be rather dangerous for many of us. You don’t have to be employed in a hazardous field to get hurt on the job, of course. And if you do slip and fall at work, you could be among the 5% of people who fracture a bone as a result. But these kinds of accidents aren’t the only ways we can experience negative physical effects as a result of our employment. In fact, your job could be the very thing that’s infringing on your self-esteem and your long-term health.

According to recent data, roughly 50% of Americans say they’re unsuccessful at losing weight because they lack self-discipline. But as one study revealed, failing to reach our weight loss goals may not be entirely because we’re not dedicated enough. In some cases, it could be because we’re under so much work-related stress that we’re unable to cope with it in healthy ways — and we often gain weight as a result.

In a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia and involving nearly 1,000 individuals who worked full-time jobs, it was discovered that employees who had more substantial or more demanding workloads were also more likely to engage in unhealthy food-related behaviors (such as emotional eating or not knowing when to stop eating). What’s more, these individuals were also more likely to choose foods that were higher in fat. Pizza is the number one favorite comfort food of Americans, and when you’re stressed out from work, it’s all too easy to drown your anxieties in melted cheese.

Those who reported signs of burnout exhibited the same aforementioned tendencies, while both groups noted that they exercised less frequently than those participants with better work/life balances. Since less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day as it is, it’s clear that the people who could benefit from the stress relief that exercise provides might be the very people who aren’t inclined to get enough of it. Simply engaging in just 10 minutes of physical activity every day can help you improve mobility and live longer — but it can be difficult.

But that isn’t necessarily because these individuals are inherently lazy or are inclined to make poor decisions, explains study lead author Heather Padilla.

“We have so many things coming at us every day, and we only have so much energy,” said Padilla in a statement. “When our energy gets used up, we don’t have the energy to make ideal decisions about what we eat.”

Anyone who’s ever been subjected to chronic work stress or other kinds of anxiety will likely be familiar with the experience of having little energy or motivation left over to go grocery shopping for healthy food or cook a balanced meal, much less spend an hour at the gym. Researchers have suggested that workplace weight loss and weight management programs should make certain to include employee exhaustion and workload, but these programs are not standard across all American workplaces. Despite the fact that mental health is getting more widespread attention, it’s all too common for employers to minimize the needs of employees or overlook the prevalence of burnout. But now that burnout has been classified by the World Health Organization as a diagnosable condition and overall epidemic, it may become harder for business owners to ignore.

But, by and large, it’s frequently up to the individual employee to recognize their burnout and take steps to find a solution. It’s certainly not easy to break the habit of unhealthy eating when you’ve reached your emotional threshold. By focusing in on some simple ways to improve your nutritional experience and to set boundaries at work, you can alleviate some of that stress and start feeling physically more energized as a result.

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