We become like the people we spend our time with. This means that if you spend 8+ hours at work 5 or 6 days a week with colleagues who have less than ideal lifestyle habits, chances are over time that it is going to affect you too.
A couple of years back a landmark finding from a long term study published in the New England Journal of Medicine alarmingly found a powerful link between peoples weight and the weight of those close to them. The Framingham Heart Study, which has followed more than 15 000 Framingham residents since 1948 has not only provided huge amounts of data relating to heart disease risk factors but the data has also been used to track social connections and health variables of the participants. When researchers looked at these social connections in terms of participants who gained or lost weight, it was clear that individuals did not become obese randomly, rather groups of people would become obese together over even lose weight together. So significant were these findings that the study showed that when a Framingham resident became obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese too.
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If we translate these findings into useful recommendations and tips to move forward with our own health and fitness, basically we all need to be exceptionally mindful of how powerful the influence of those around us actually is – the work colleague who likes to bake; the boss who funds pizza Fridays or the receptionist who is always selling fund raising chocolates. As an occasional treat or occurrence no harm is done but when such tendencies become the ‘norm’, within a workplace habits form and it is these habits that in turn ultimately determine our weight and health long term.
Unfortunately when it comes to people and human nature, it is rarely the ‘good’ habits that dominate. Overeating is far more common than under eating; drinking too much alcohol tends to override abstaining and dieting is frowned upon by those who know they too need to lose weight but are currently making the choice not to. In each of these daily scenarios that confront us, to say ‘no’ and be strong to continue with your own goals and focus is challenging, as challenging as it was to say no to a smoke in the playground with the ‘cool kids’.
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In particular the workplace environment is perhaps one of the most challenging environments in which to engineer if one is to avoid weight gain and stay on track with their health and fitness goals. Not only is long periods of inactivity encouraged but is considered the norm; lunch breaks are nothing short of a privilege and then there are the office feeders – those office mates who love nothing more than to feed everyone high fat, high calorie foods.
So knowing this, what can you do to help your quest for weight control, health and fitness? One option is to seek out those within a workplace who are committed to healthier lifestyle habits or be the role model within an organisation to encourage others to make healthy choices the default option at work. Most importantly, when it comes to those around us who continually sabotage our efforts and actively throw our lifestyle choice off track it may be time to be a little more honest in your approach. It may be time to say that you find it difficult to keep on track with your diet when they continually offer you cakes and ask if they could stop. It may not seem that nice or socially acceptable but the calories you save will be worth it.
For some easy to prepare breakfast and lunch options, try our free Shape Me recipes here.