March 20, 2012

Can Work Make You Fat?

There have been many days at work
when a donut is necessary.
I recently read an article entitled, "How Your Colleagues can Make You Fat" (after I read another one on the recent discovery of the "Gluttony Gene"...I was so disgusted I erased it from memory). Evidently, a survey performed by Survey Sampling International (on behalf of Medi-Weightloss Clinics) surveyed 325 people on the influences of their colleagues on their "diets".  What came out of this was no big surprise, but I thought it blog worthy because it comes up in my own workplace over and over again. Twenty-nine % of "dieters" reported peer pressure to eat more or they made fun of their diets.

This reminds me of a time in my early twenties working as a secretary for a phone company.  All I can remember are potlucks and "stinky food" days (um...ya...there are some smells that just shouldn't be food related). Every event, celebration, holiday, or birthday revolved around food. God help anyone who was trying to stick to their cantaloupe and cottage cheese (a stereotypical diet of the day) when exposed to the mob mentality of stinky food day.

Today, I work with many clients who find the challenge of staying away from the potlucks, bake sales, and candy dishes. In fact, I had one client recently report a weight loss after deciding to avoid the admin candy dish.  Another friend of mine verbalized his frustration when he was ridiculed for not attending the department potluck. Even I have a hard time walking away from an office birthday cake worried I'll insult someone or be labeled the boring "health promoter".

Why is it, that when we decide to make healthy changes, there are always a few people to make fun or continue to offer their home baking to us knowing full well we are trying to make a change ( on sentence)?  Moreover, when we decline, albeit politely, they look dejected and insulted; some making negative or sarcastic comments as they turn around and walk away with their tray of chocolate cupcakes.

I don't know if there is any research on this (today I'm too lazy to check it out) but from experience, and basic instinct, I think our behaviour changes make others feel bad. Our changes and successes can be an unwelcome wake-up call for those not ready to make the change....and you know misery loves company. Therefore, when you embark on eating healthier and getting out more, you may find the workplace resistance increases as your success increases.

Research does strongly support the importance of social connection when making a lifestyle change. The workplace can be a very strong influence (both negatively and positively). So, what can one do when they want the support but are faced with the opposite? One suggestion would be offering a health promotion challenge within the workplace to try and find others that will support your cause. It takes no time, as you may know if you have organized a Survivor Contest or a "guess when she's going to have her baby"'s pretty much the same thing.

A candy dish is one thing, but a candy
watercooler would be almost cruel.
Can work make you fat? If you have yet to strengthen your resolve over a nearby brownie or innocent jelly bean, perhaps. The good news is you do have the option to walk away, say no, or avoid the candy dish. Establishing an action plan (a plan that determines how will do this) is probably your best bet - and one I highly recommend in my courses.  Have a polite, yet definite, answer ready for when Susie (made up name of course) comes to your desk offering her double-fudge brownies. It may take feats of super human strength, but it will get easier as you practice.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading.



  1. I'm not hungry seems to work, or... I no longer eat carbs but those do look delicious! OR in my case, I take one, say thank you and my hubby gets a treat when I go home.

  2. All very good suggestions, 666. You are making healthy eating at work your bitch! Way to go!

    Thanks for the great comment.


  3. Therefore, when you embark on eating healthier and getting out more, you may find the workplace resistance increases as your success increases.

  4. Research does highly support the value of social relationship when making a life-style change. The work environment can be a very powerful effect (both badly and positively).

  5. Thank you, Stretch Marks and Extreme Q for your insightful comments. You both hit the nail! I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    Hope to hear from you again soon.