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Is your job making you fat? Office and shop jobs keep us stuck in one place all day - and it's affecting our health...


When Heather Johnson, 41, started working on a library help desk The to she thought stress might be a side effect of her new job. But she didn't expect to have to worry about her weight too.

Yet in three years she jumped from 12st 7lb to 16st and piled on even more when she began night shifts in a factory.

And she's not alone. Research shows what you do for a living has a huge impact on your weight, with many workers with stressful or desk-bound jobs ballooning in size.

A survey carried out by job search company CareerBuilder ( of 3,700 people showed a whopping 41 per cent had piled on the pounds since they started their current job.

The fattest were admin workers, with 69 per cent saying they were overweight, followed by engineers (56 per cent) and teachers (51 per cent) with stressful positions.

Mum-of-one, Heather, from Hampshire, says she's not surprised by the findings.

She says, 'My jobs have definitely affected my health in ways I hadn't considered when I started them. I rarely had a proper lunch hour at work in the library and only left my seat to grab something quick like a roll.

'After my daughter was born, I became a shift worker and my eating patterns were all over the place. And again, I was just stuck for hours in one place not burning anything off.'

Dr Katie Sparks, a psychologist who specialises in health and stress, says the survey shows the effect of our long hours, no lunch and desk-bound culture.

She says, 'We are a nation of people who eat at our desks and rarely exercise during the day, so it's little wonder jobs are making us fatter. The working day is a hectic one, especially if you have kids. Many parents rush out without breakfast and then grab food when they can. Companies need to take this seriously and encourage employees to take a break.

'Most offices have vending machines with only sugary, fatty foods.'

Stress is a big factor when it comes to workers reaching for a treat.

Counsellor Roxana Rudzik-Shaw says: 'People turn to comfort eating at times of stress and a lack of exercise can exacerbate the problem. It's a complex issue with no quick fix. But it's having a huge impact on the health of our nation.'

And it's very much a 21st-century problem. A survey by the Office of National Statistics has revealed just how much we've swapped physical agricultural labour for offices.

The CareerBuilder survey found two in five workers don't exercise on a regular basis and one in 10 didn't exercise at all, with a third gaining more than 20 pounds.

Heather decided to do something about her weight after tipping the scales at 23st.

She says, 'I had to do more exercise and now go to the gym two or three times a week. I just had to fit it into my day.'

But other office-bound workers have felt compelled to take drastic action.

Tobin Gardner, 43, from Cheshire, piled on 12st over a decade as he worked in a sedentary sales job. So he opted for a gastric reduction as he had no time for the gym.

He says, 'My job meant I was almost always in a car, at a desk or eating out with clients. In the evenings I would end up drinking alcohol with them too. Some colleagues managed to squeeze in a trip to the gym at lunch or after work but as a busy dad too, I didn't have the time or inclination.'

Dr Sparks says a solution would be for employers to take the health of their staff more seriously. She says, 'A friend of mine works for a multinational company and they recently challenged everyone to walk 10,000 steps a day, the amount of exercise you need to burn off daily calories.

'Even just a brisk walk around the block at lunchtime can help - a 15-minute walk will burn 100 calories. If leaving for lunch is frowned upon perhaps employers could join forces and arrange something together.'

This culture is counterproductive as workers are less efficient and more stressed. Dr Sparks adds, 'Hopefully employers will start to rethink and allow workers to take the time to look after themselves.'

Tips to stay healthy at your desk

Always make time for a filling breakfast.

Always take in healthy snacks to eat from home to stop temptation at your desk.

Leave your desk regularly for screen breaks and always go outside in your lunch hour, walking for at least 15 minutes.

Always take the stairs instead of the lift while moving around inside.

Talk to other colleagues and involve them in any group exercise - it will encourage a more physical mentality.

The top fat professions

Admin assistant 69%

Engineer 56%

Teacher 51%

Nurse 51%

IT technicians 51%

Legal profession 48%

Factory worker 45%

Scientist 39%
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2013
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