Breaking the calorie curse of the cubicle
Does working make us fat? Sure, vigorously typing emails does not exactly qualify as exercise, but can knowledge-based work itself somehow increase our chances of gaining weight? There is new evidence to suggest that it could.
According to a pair of studies conducted by Canadian researchers Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput and Dr. Angelo Tremblay, the stress caused by meeting a deadline may not just affect the food we eat, but also the way we perceive our choices. In a study,a group of 15 women were asked to read an excerpt of text, then gave them a 45-minute deadline to draft a response by computer.
Once the task was completed, the women were offered free access to a buffet lunch. The control group, by comparison, were asked to sit quietly for 45 minutes, and then offered the same buffet.
The results were intriguing: The group who performed the computer work consumed an extra 230 calories at lunch vs. the control group who spent their time navel-gazing. What's more, food logs kept by both groups indicated that the computer workers did not compensate by eating any less over the rest of the day.
Here are a few tips to help you when deadlines loom:
1. If you know you're prone to snacking around deadline time, try to keep tempting food out of reach There is ample evidence that out of sight really does mean out of mind, so keeping the leftover Halloween candy away from your desk when you're under pressure makes good sense.
2. Try to keep healthy snacks handy, partially to keep you from choosing the lower quality stuff, but also to help keep your blood sugar levels stable when you can't take a break. Whole fruit, nuts and individual packages of yogourt, cottage cheese or even mini containers of tuna can be eaten without much mess, and will keep your energy even and your appetite at bay.
3. It can be tough, but if at all possible, try to get away from your computer when it's time to eat. Not only will that force you to get up and out of your seat, but you'll break the cycle of mindless eating that inevitably occurs when you eat your lunch while checking email.
4. Finally, since the women in the study ate most when given free access to a buffet after meeting a deadline, try to keep yourself out of these eating situations, especially during periods of stress. If you plan to hit the food court after finishing a project, try to automate your choice, rather than wandering aimlessly: It might seem boring, but the same soup-and-sandwich or chicken salad you had yesterday is a safe bet.