Stress linked to weight gain

It's no exaggeration - your job may be slowly killing you, one kilogram at a time.

Years of research have shown that your job can help make you fat - sitting in front of a computer all day, eating bad takeaway food. But your workplace stress level also can have an effect on your weight, according to a study from the University of Rochester.

Worse, the stress and corollary weight gain can increase chances of cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, according to the study's main author, Diana Fernandez, of the University of Rochester Medical Centre's department of community and preventative medicine.
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And all that stress means you're likely to collapse on your couch when you get home, watching too much TV and "vegging out."

"In a poor economy, companies should take care of the people who survive layoffs and end up staying in stressful jobs," Fernandez said, in a statement publicising the study.

Workplace stress "affects how people sleep, which means they drink too much caffeine" at work, said Eric Braverman, a professor of neurological surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital and weight loss columnist for the Huffington Post. "The carbs make them fat, the salt makes them tired," and all of that leads to lethargy after work and the potential for weight gain.

Doctors and dietitians say most people need to eat better at work - and that takes planning ahead, keeping healthful

snacks, meals and vitamins at the ready.

Unfortunately, "they're not really set up to strategically think of health" while at work, Braverman said.

So will keeping apples and fibre bars at your desk do the trick? Surprisingly, the Rochester study also reported that trying to eat more fruits and vegetables during the day didn't help much to curb weight gain among chronically stressed employees. Instead, exercise "seems to be the key to managing stress and keeping a healthy weight," the study said.

Other recent studies, though, show that even exercise does little to curb weight gain (even if it does have other benefits, like reducing incidence of certain illnesses). A 2009 study in the Public Library of Science journal followed 464 overweight women who didn't regularly exercise, and randomly assigned them to one of four groups.

Women in the control group kept to their usual physical-activity routines and diets. The results?

"The women who exercised - sweating it out with a trainer several days a week for six months - did not lose significantly more weight than the control subjects did," the study found.

That might be because strenuous activity makes people hungry and thirsty, and more likely to overeat after exercise, counteracting the effects of the workout.

For the University of Rochester report, researchers studied 2782 "mostly sedentary" employees at a manufacturing facility in New York, but said the results were applicable to most jobs and workplaces.

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