Does eating at your desk make you fat?
Another possible factor in modern obesity rates
Thursday, November 14, 2013
News flash for weight-conscious office workers: eating at your desk makes you more likely to gain weight than leaving your desk for an official lunch break — though not for the reasons you might think.
According to an unspecified “survey” mentioned in the British Daily Mail tabloid, eating “al desko” (their pun, not ours) leads to increased weight gain, not just from the inactivity of sitting at your desk all day, but mainly because desk-eaters are more likely to, for example, wash down chocolate and potato chips with a Coke, in lieu of eating healthier, more nutritious food.
Psychologically, it appears, when people can’t take a break from their workday routine and get the chance to recharge their batteries (so to speak), it makes us more likely to “reward” ourselves in other way — like eating tasty but unhealthy junk food.
The survey focused exclusively on British workers and unhealthy British meals (where the average American is concerned, it doesn’t matter how many grams of fat are to be found in a carrot-chutney-with-Wensleydale sandwich from London’s Marks and Spencer) but people in both countries share similar pressures to juggle evermore-hectic work schedules.
Yet blaming office work for expanding waistlines might not tell the whole story. Last May, a Gallup-Healthways survey of American workers found that the jobs with the highest employee-obesity rates weren’t desk jobs, but the transportation, maintenance, repair and service industries, whereas the lowest obesity rates were to be found among doctors, teachers, business owners and other professionals. In other words: the lower the average educational level in a given field, the greater the risk of obesity among its workers.
The poverty connection
And in both America and Britain, there appears to be a strong correlation between obesity and poverty, since high-fat, high-calorie processed foods tend to be cheaper than healthier, less-fattening alternatives.
So: being an educated professional with a desk job might make you fat. Being an uneducated worker with a service or retail job might make you fat. Exposure to modern environmental pollutants might do the trick; after all, it’s not just modern people getting fatter, but modern animals, too.
Indeed, our own evolutionary history conspires to make us gain weight — though we all live in a modern technological society where food is abundantly available, we still have the bodies of cavemen hunter-gatherers wired to crave fat and sugar — which are very rare in wild plants and animals, but extremely common in modern processed food.
Since we’re not willing to drop out of modern society and live in some remote wilderness, what can we do to offset all these fat-making factors? There’s no simple, easy answer (if we had one, we could sell it and get rich), but we know of a good start: if you must eat at your desk every day, at least put down the junk food and replace it with some fruit.
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