6 Reasons Why Working From Home Can Lead To Weight Gain
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Before you read ahead, I just want to make clear that, like everything, working from home has many positive aspects, and many negative aspects. My intention is to simply draw attention to how some of the challenges we face working from home, could have impacted our weight over recent years.
Working From Home Isn’t New
People have worked from home decades before COVID struck, however, like the way I can no longer get over a hangover in 24 hours in my 30s, things change. Life is very different to the way it was twenty or thirty years ago. These days, it’s becoming easier to do less and less due to the conveniences of modern life. In the 1980s when there were only three TV channels, people would have watched significantly less TV. This was (deep breath… brace yourself!) a world without Netflix, Prime Video or YouTube – a frightful thought for many these days!
There would have been no Snoop Dogg or Katy Perry telling you to “Just Eat” during every ad break, and no convenience of clicking a few buttons on your phone and having delicious, high-energy foods delivered right to your door (albeit expensive!).
To put it simply, it’s much easier to do way less these days, and MUCH easier to put on weight. Throw in working from home in to the mix and you’ve got yourself quite a recipe for weight gain. Several research studies have shown huge numbers of people gaining weight following the introduction of working from home, with one study finding that 59.1% of the 328 people they surveyed, had reported gaining weight following working from home due to COVID .
So, let’s run through SIX reasons why working from home can result in weight gain. Reason number six is probably the most common!
1. You might be snacking a LOT more.
Snacking is often thought of as “bad”, “naughty” or “a sin” and we’re often made to think that we should feel some guilt for snacking. I am a firm believer that snacks, when we use a bit of thought, can absolutely be a part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Weight gain is a fairly simple equation. If we consume more calories (energy) than we need each day on a regular basis, our weight will increase. So, with that in mind, it’s important to know you can gain weight even if you only consume healthy, nutritious foods if the amount you consume contains more energy than you need (to put it simply, if someone needs 2000 calories a day and they eat 2500 calories a day, regardless of how ‘healthy’ the food is, they will gain weight over time). Therefore, it’s not that snacks are “fattening” or “bad”, it’s just that overconsuming them can lead to weight gain through eating more calories. When it comes to snacks, if we’re mainly having snacks high in sugar, salt and fat, they’re likely to not be filling at all, easy to eat a lot of, and contain very little nutrition.
Snacking is something we often have a short memory with. It’s very easy to forget how many snacks we’ve had, or to convince ourselves we’ve had less than we actually have. It’s amazing how quickly the calories from snacks can add up across the whole day.
2. You might be more stressed now than before.
Research carried out following COVID has found that working from home can have a significant effect on our mental wellbeing, including stress, anxiety and depression . There’s no disputing the connection many people have between their mental wellbeing, and food. We eat for a variety of reasons, with our emotions being one of them. You think of any emotion, food fits in with that. Stressed? Some people stress eat. Overjoyed or celebrating something? Let’s get some food and a few drinks!
While it sounds great, your workspace being a desk in your bedroom, or an office in the next room over can make it quite difficult to mentally separate work and home life as the two are so interconnected. It’s easy to just stay on your computer that little bit longer, or just ‘get that last bit of work done’.
3. Less socialising in the workplace
“Ha! Good one!” you may have just said to yourself as you recall the pettiness that office politics can bring about. If you’re a bit of a lone wolf and prefer working alone, then more power to you! However, we are, for the most part, social creatures. There’s a fair bit of research to show that working from home, especially if there is no time spent in the office socialising with colleagues, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness , and such feelings are fairly well known to result in an increased likelihood of carrying excess weight .
4. Muscle pain / strain
This whole modern way of working is a bit odd for us humans. Sitting down for hours on end starting at a screen repeating the same movements over, and over, and over again is certainly not how nature intended for us to be. Typing, moving the mouse, picking up, holding and then putting down the phone, looking down at a laptop or incorrectly-positioned screen, a chair with minimal back support are but a few of the things that can contribute to developing muscular pain. Pair that with reduced activity and ‘breaks’ where people more than likely just pick up their phones with one hand and mindlessly eat with the other, it’s easy to see how the body isn’t getting the movement it needs each day.
There’s a bit of a shift towards more active working from home, such as the use of sit-stand desks, which recent research has already shown can improve certain aspects of health, and can have a positive impact on productivity  .
Desk treadmills also seem to be growing in popularity, however, the evidence isn’t super clear at the moment as to the long-term use of desk treadmills (basically, people probably start off using them a fair bit, then, similar to that exercise bike you promised yourself you’d use everyday but then realised it was an excellent coat hanger, people get bored).
Ultimately, suffering with muscle pain will undoubtedly lead to less movement, whether that be just getting up and moving about, or doing exercise. This means you simply burn less energy each day, making it significantly easier to put weight on even when eating a similar diet to what you normally do.
5. You’re DRINKING a lot more calories now.
If you’re British, then this isn’t a personal attack. I know, you can never drink too much tea. But, when it comes to managing our weight, it is quite possible that you may well be having a little bit much of the old tea or coffee (please, lower your pitchforks). Let me explain.
Depending on how you have your tea or coffee, you can really rack up the calories during the day. For example, if you take just a small amount of milk (50ml) of semi-skimmed milk (25 calories) and one teaspoon of sugar (4 grams (16 calories), but more likely 6 grams (24 calories) if it’s a bit heaped), this adds around 50 calories to your drink. Not much, right? However, the amount of people I’ve spoken to who drink 5+ cups a day, is a lot. I can recall numerous people who reported drinking over 10 cups a day with milk and sugar. In these instances, it’s very easy to be consuming over 500 calories a day from just teas and coffees.
That’s a meals’ worth of calories for many people! And the thing we often forget about liquid calories? They don’t fill you up at all and are often accompanied by a couple of custard creams or rich tea biscuits (or both).
6. You’re WAY less active now.
Not carrying out your usual commute to the office anymore might not seem that big of a deal. It saves time, money, and the stress of rush hour traffic. It’s a win-win all round! Well, not completely.
For a lot of people, commuting to the office is a fairly active process. You get up earlier, meaning you’re moving about for more hours of the day. Perhaps you prepare lunch, you pack your bag, go to your car, drive in, park up and walk to the office, while maybe taking a detour to the toilet first because you drank too much (sorry, I mean an appropriate amount) of tea or coffee that morning. You might then be up and down to the printer, or going to talk with colleagues, or up and down to the office kitchen to make a drink.
These little bits of movement don’t sound like much, but when you suddenly remove them all from your day, and don’t make a conscious effort to be more active, it can really make it easy to gain weight.
It’s well known that on a long flight, you’re encouraged to get up and stretch your legs every 2 to 3 hours. Working from home, many find themselves not even standing up every few hours, never mind stretching their legs. I’ve definitely had days where I’ve been sat at my desk, 4 hours have passed and I’ve barely looked out the window, never mind got up and stretched my legs or done any meaningful activity!
If you wear a smart watch with a step counter, you may have noticed a significant difference in how many steps you get in on a daily basis when working from home compared to when you go in to the office. For myself, when I go to the office, I can comfortably rack up 5000-6000 steps a day, whereas when working from home, there have been days where I’ve barely cracked 2000 steps. It doesn’t seem like a crazy difference, but I can confidently say I get triple the amount of movement in when in the office compared to at home. It adds up! And when you combine moving less, with snacking more?
It’s easy to see why so many have struggles with weight gain following working from home. I’ve spoken with so many people who say they’re eating like they always have done, but have struggled with weight gain, with the main change being they’re now working from home.
Working from home has so many benefits, but it also has its fair share of downsides too. When trying to manage your weight, working from home throws up a lot of challenges that didn’t exist a few years ago, with more time being sedentary at a desk arguably being one of the biggest reasons.
Our eating habits also tend to change when working from home, as can our mental states, with many suffering from worsening mental distress following working from home.
If you’re someone who works from home and wants to lose weight, it’s important to be really clear about what challenges you face on daily basis, so that you can then come up with a plan of action to tackle them. It’s certainly not easy. We are absolutely brilliant at focusing on the negatives and really dwelling on them, instead of acknowledging our challenges and trying to come up with solutions to them.
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