On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Office Weight Gain: Work Towards Healthier Habits

Between attempting 8 hours of sleep and working 8 hours a day, it can feel like there’s hardly any time for exercise or proper meal prep. Reach your weight loss goals with a busy schedule by using these simple hacks! 

Office Weight Gain: Work Towards Healthier Habits

While the causes of working-from-home weight gain are more obvious, signs of office weight gain may be more subtle. From integrating more activity to being more intentional about midday snacks or meals, there are many ways to put your health first while at work.

Finding out how to lose weight with a desk job can revolutionize the way you approach workday wellness. 

Ahead, find out how to lose weight working a desk job, including common causes of office weight gain.

Why Do People Experience Office Weight Gain?

A recent poll suggests that the average American may gain as much as 12 pounds at their desk job. It’s common for office workers to feel influenced by their surroundings. Sometimes, people spend more time at the office than anywhere else! 

With weight loss as a goal, it’s important to address what contributes to weight gain during the workday. 

Employment Type 

The type of employment you do may impact your body weight. For example, you might be more prone to gain weight at a desk job than if you were working a job where manual labor is involved, such as construction. Some activities you do at work may count as exercise, or you may need a separate exercise session (outside of work hours) to help you stay at a healthy weight. 

Along with employment type, the type of tasks you are asked to do during the day can affect your stress levels. Chronic work-related stress can contribute to increasing cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in the body. Over time, this can lead to negative health results, including unwanted weight gain.

Working Hours 

A recent study confirmed what researchers have long thought to be true. Long working hours, meaning work weeks over 55 hours, put people at higher risk for being overweight. This is true even if you were at a healthy weight to begin with, and long working hours may even affect the probability of weight loss.

Role Clarity & Other Factors

Another study found that role conflict, particularly in women, predicted weight gain. Role conflict happens when two (or more) roles you are expected to take on come into conflict with one another. This can be common in the workplace when responsibilities are not clearly defined, and the stress from trying to balance both roles can certainly be a factor in weight gain. 

Role conflict wasn’t the only factor that contributed to their weight gain. For men, the quality of leadership played a part in weight loss. In this case, the saying “you are who you surround yourself with” rang true. 

How to Lose Weight with a Desk Job

If you’ve gained weight, the great news is that even a modest amount of weight loss (just 5-10% of your total body weight) can have a positive impact. Plus, regularly exercising and eating a healthy diet can keep you at a healthy weight and benefit your overall health and wellness. 

1. Pack Balanced Meals 

Do you feel like you have a balanced diet at home but not at work? Try packing a sack lunch! Bringing options from home gives you more control (instead of relying on what’s available around you). Empower yourself by planning purposeful, homemade lunches.

If your mornings get hectic, try packing lunches the night before. Quick meals, like mason jar salads, can be both convenient and nutritious. It can also be helpful to prepare grab-and-go breakfasts for busy mornings, such as overnight oats

2. Mini Workouts in 30-Minutes 

Trying to lose weight with a busy schedule can feel tricky, especially when you feel like you can’t fit fitness in. The concept of “exercise snacks” can help revolutionize the way you work and exercise in your work day. 

Contrary to popular belief, exercise snacks and mini workouts can be just as effective as gym workouts at helping you to maintain a healthy weight. Generally, a mini-workout includes movement that doesn’t require equipment and can be accomplished easily when you’re short on time. 

Popular mini-workout exercises include: 

• Jumping jacks
• Lunges to and from the bathroom or while coffee is brewing
• Push-ups (or incline push-ups using a bench) 
• Running 
• Walking up and down a set of stairs or a hill 

It can also be useful to switch your regular desk to a standing desk. This gives you the option to spend time standing during the day, which can help burn a couple of calories here and there.

Some people even place an inexpensive walking pad underneath their standing desks so they can accomplish a workout and a work meeting at the same time. 

3. Hydrate for Happy Hour

It’s no secret drinking water and staying hydrated have health benefits. However, corporate culture practices—like attending “happy hour” after work with colleagues—can complicate daily hydration goals. 

Luckily, many bars and popular eating spots are offering mocktails. These drinks are similar to cocktails but have no alcohol. While you’ll want to keep an eye on added sugar, these options often have improved health benefits when compared with their boozy counterparts. 

If you still want to tag along for happy hour (or other social eating scenarios), consider volunteering as the designated driver. Your coworkers will thank you for ensuring they get home safely. Plus, you can count soda water or sparkling water towards your daily hydration recommendation.

4. Look at How You Spend Your Lunch Break 

Mindlessly scrolling on social media during your lunch break may initially feel like a reprieve. However, distracted eating can result in a lack of portion control, and ultimately, feeling out of touch with food. Additionally, corporate-catered meals make it easy to scoop up too much. 

Evaluating your eating patterns during your lunch break may give you a clue as to what is causing you unwanted weight gain. If you’re feeling out of control, try eating without social media, reading, working, or other distractions. Clear out at least 20 minutes in the middle of your workday to enjoy lunch and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. 

If your work orders catered meals frequently, suggest single-serve meals. This can help with portion control, but also reduces the risk of cross-contamination and sickness spreading and makes for easier clean-up. It’s a win-win for you and your company! 

With longer lunch breaks—like 45-60 minutes—you may even be able to fit a workout or mini-workout in before lunch. Physical activity can raise your heart rate and promote the production of dopamine, which is often called the “happy hormone” because it can cause feelings of well-being.

In other words, fueling well and working out during your lunch break can be just the caffeine-free kickstart you need to remain engaged in the second half of your workday. 

5. Have Convenient, Healthy Snacks

Instead of hitting the vending machines, try to pack filling snacks in with your lunch. Healthy fats, fiber, and protein can help sustain you during a midmorning or midday lull. 

If you do have to rely on vending machine snacks, become familiar with your options so you can quickly choose the healthiest one each time. For example, you could find the nutrition label of your top choices online and make a decision about which is a better fit for you. 

6. Identify Triggers in Your Office Environment 

Are potlucks or holiday parties causing you to gain weight? Do you feel most out of control during parties or special occasions? Identifying the situations that most often lead to unhealthy eating practices or lack of exercise can help you locate areas for improvement. 

In other words, look at your schedule and ask “what situations make it difficult for me to eat well and exercise?” These situations or circumstances are often termed “triggers” or “triggering situations.” Knowing what your triggers are can help you avoid those situations or find alternate, healthier ways of coping. 

For example, if office potlucks often cause overeating or overindulging for you, offer to bring a healthy dish to add to the table. It’s likely that some of your coworkers are also struggling with weight, and they may appreciate your thoughtful contribution. 

7. Hack the Hybrid Schedule 

In many modern workplaces, hybrid schedules are being utilized. Differing daily routines can cause changes in dietary and exercise habits. In other words, it’s possible to gain weight while working from home, too. 

Whether at home or in the workplace, look for opportunities to exercise and eat well. If possible, ask for your schedule (or create your schedule) in advance, setting aside time for movement and meals depending on where you’ll be working that day. Some employees find it helpful to create a separate home office instead of working from their kitchen or living area (which can increase the likelihood of grazing or mindless snacking). 

When possible, have separate rooms for work and dining, or consider working from a shared workspace (commonly called coworking spaces). It can also help to pack your lunch and snacks as if you were heading out into the workplace. This provides pre-portioned, balanced options for you to eat throughout the workday.

8. Ask About Workplace Programs and Incentives 

Many workplaces recognize the benefits of keeping their workers healthy. Beyond promoting individual well-being, corporate health promotion programs have the potential to improve productivity. 

Today, workplaces are going beyond basic health insurance benefits to provide additional perks. It never hurts to inquire about what type of wellness programs your work might have. If your manager or boss is unaware of what’s available, connect with your human resources (HR) representative. Some companies offer discounted gym memberships, lifestyle spending accounts (i.e. funds or discounts for devices like fitness watches), or access to meal planning services.

Participating in a workplace-sponsored weight loss program can jumpstart healthy eating and exercise patterns. It can be helpful to ask your dietitian or doctor about these types of programs before starting to ensure they are medically sound and that you’ll be getting a nutritionally adequate diet.

As a whole, research suggests that these types of programs can improve quality of life. 

The Last Word on Weight Loss for Office Workers

Losing weight at work isn’t impossible or unattainable. Simple, streamlined solutions can help you fit weight loss into your busy schedule.

Finding small amounts of time during the workday to prioritize healthy eating and exercise can improve quality of life, both at work and outside of work.

Related Questions: Office Weight Gain 

Does office work make you gain weight? 

While desk jobs and office work can contribute to weight gain, eating well and exercising are still possible with a busy schedule. Long hours and chronic stressors are linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits. Identifying and removing barriers to healthy living can help make mindful meals and daily movement more accessible for the average worker. 

How do you lose weight working a desk job?

A standing desk can help support subtle movement and exercise during the workday. Additionally, meal prep can ensure balanced meals and healthy snacks are on hand. Corporate weight loss programs can also support healthy habits outside of work. 


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