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Is working from home making you fat?

Categories: working from home


Don’t hate me because I bounced back. I promise that I diligently ate my way through the postpartum haze and I always chose sitting down instead of situps, and yet, no matter what I did, the baby weight just seemed to fall off, and four months later I was feeling fit and fly and ready to rock my pre-preg jeans, just in time to return to work. But, you see, it wasn’t my fault. It was the fault of that other kind of genes. There was truly nothing I could do about it.

And so, resigned to my speedy metabolism (but of course I wasn’t resigned; I was thanking my lucky stars and praising the heavens), I kept eating whatever I wanted and I dutifully adhered to my sedentary lifestyle and then my baby got older and breastfed less and then I got older and my body got slower and…well, here we are, a year and a half later and I’m not feeling so fit and fly and foxy anymore. My weight is more or less the same as it’s always been, but my stomach has taken on the softness of a fresh-baked doughnut (no coincidence), and my butt is spreading across the couch cushions like an army set to conquer the living room, each dimple of cellulite a minion on a mission. 

It’s been happening to me for a while now, this motherbody, but I really began to notice the difference when I started working from home almost exclusively. (For a while I was going into the office one day a week, but wouldn’t you know that day was always Tuesday, aka Doughnut Day?)

So how has working from home negatively affected my body? For one, my office isn’t a place where everyone has a bowl of candy on her desk for grabby passersby, and aside from Doughnut Day (a relatively new phenomenon), the only regular free-for-all goodies are herbal tea and fruit from someone’s backyard organic tree (welcome to Berkeley). This means that when I’m in the office I pretty much stick to the healthy lunch and healthy snacks I’ve brought from home, which is a textbook way for me to keep myself on track.

When I’m working at home, though? There’s a stocked, doorless pantry right in my field of vision all day, and instead of only eating when I’m hungry, I eat because I’m bored or anxious or sleepy or because I’m procrastinating or even just because the food is there, staring at me. For the most part, I’m not eating junk (usually), but I’m definitely eating more overall. When I’m at home, it’s easy to turn that morning cup of tea into a second morning cup and then an afternoon cup and then an early evening one too, and with milk and sugar to boot. And no matter what time of day or night, I can always go for a bowl of cereal. Add to that the fact that I don’t have to sneak my snacks from a receptionist’s bowl, and I can’t even be guilted into cutting back, even just to save face.

Based on what I’ve experienced in most workplaces (bottomless coffeepot, monthly birthday cakes, catered meetings, Doughnut Day, Bagel Day, Hot Dog Day…), I think it’s unsual that I actually have an easier time controlling my food environment in the office than I do at home (save for those damn doughnuts). As for fixing the situation, I have a variety of options–install a locking door on the pantry? rediscover exercise? hire a personal assistant to give me withering looks whenever I go for another granola bar?–but I’m also open to suggestions.

Anyone else experienced work-at-home weight gain? Anyone found a way to beat it? 

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7 comments so far...

  • I tend to eat worse when I go to the office-away-from-home, but that is mainly because I don’t have a set healthy routine there. When I used to work “at work” all the time, I brought healthy food and had a bit of a walking routine to keep the status quo. But now, when I “go in,” I end up having to buy whatever the nearby lunch places offer or a box of cereal bars / snacks from the drugstore across the street, so that’s not so good.

    At home, I don’t have many snacks, so I don’t get myself into really deep doo-doo, most of the time. I do periodically get addicted to something that is unhealthy if eaten to excess. But when I see myself bulkng up, then I can switch to fruits and veggies, whole-wheat pbjs and cereal for lunch/snack. And work in a bit of yoga and stair-climbing. Which is a lot easier to do at home than “at work.”

    I think the key is, don’t stock up on “bad snacks.” I try to buy just enough for half a week, so I know that I have to eat more healthy for the other half. Also, once you get into the habit of eating fresh fruits and veggies every day, it is a lot easier to “feel like” choosing them.

    SKL  |  July 21st, 2010 at 6:23 am

  • I have put on some weight since working from home. When I went to the office I brought healthy food and made sure I had no change for the vending machine so I could not br tempted.

    I also walked 20 minutes each way. Now I walk 20 steps to my desk.


    Alison C  |  July 21st, 2010 at 11:12 am

  • Um. Yes. Me. Ugh. Trying to finish a dissertation from home and all I end up doing is grazing all day. It is killing my waist line and is just a bad habit I need to nip in the bud.

    Emily  |  July 21st, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  • All I have to say is that your description of your experience postpartum and beyond matches mine to a T! I was just like you—I lost my baby weight in mere weeks, each time losing exactly 18 lbs. in the first 14 days after the births of my babies, and with baby #2, losing the other 6 lbs. in one more month. Yes, that meant I was back to my pre-baby weight at 6 weeks postpartum. The weight just fell off through no effort on my part. And I was EATING LIKE CRAZY. Seriously, sometimes I’d get lightheaded from hunger, even though I was stuffing my face at all times. I think it was the MAJOR BREASTFEEDING. Also the running after a 2 year old while caring for a newborn. Also, never sleeping.

    Anyway, I, too, continued with that style of eating and ended up having not “baby weight” but, oh, something like “I just weaned the baby weight,” or maybe “preschooler weight.” So unfair!

    I have recently lost most of it, but no major secret. I’m at home all day too, but I’ve just forced myself to cut down on evening snacks. Also, stress = loss of appetite = the weight falls off. Not sure if that’s good or bad!

    Anyway, I can relate!

    Shannon  |  July 21st, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  • Oh yes. And it was made worse because I often wore comfy pants when working from home, so I didn’t realize the weight was creeping up until I had outgrown half of my wardrobe. Sadly, for me, it took taking on an office job to really get back to normal.

    Marianne  |  July 22nd, 2010 at 5:26 am

  • Though I work from office…a nd cant speak to workign from home = weight gain..
    In my case its opposite.
    When I can home, yes I do pig out on healthier stuff… but I think in office i tend to eat more than at home.
    At home, on blessed weekends, we are generally so packed,.. that its breakfast, lunch, dinner.. no afternoon snack.. or just eat the fruit since its stiaring… I eat lesser at home than in office..
    Of course I am not blaming my own cooking.

    Garima  |  July 22nd, 2010 at 8:37 am

  • Yes, about the comfy clothes . . . stretch pants / jeans should be illegal . . . and the minute I grow back into my pre-stretch-jeans size, they are all going into . . . the back of the closet (it should be the charity bin, but let’s get real).

    SKL  |  July 22nd, 2010 at 9:25 am