Recognizing that your job is stressing you out isn’t like putting on a mood ring. The signs and symptoms of work-related stress can be subtle and build up over time. You might notice you have headaches more frequently than in the past, don’t fall asleep as easily at night, or feel lethargic throughout the day.
If you’re stressed at work, you might even notice a shift in your appetite. For some people, stress-related eating can reflect a loss of appetite or the craving for comfort food.
Job Impacts Your Eating Habits
For a closer look at how your job could be influencing your diet, FitRated surveyed 946 full-time employees about their food logs and the consequences of unhealthy eating as a result of workplace stress. They found that 1 in 4 people recognized their eating habits tend to change as a result of work strain, although men (21%) were less likely than women (31%) to indicate a shift in their consumption.
Of course, job satisfaction can impact how you manage the time crunch of a deadline or a growing inbox. Compared to people satisfied with their job (22.4%), those who were unhappy at work were more likely to have a food-related response to stress (32.3%).
For some people, stress can hit differently depending on their job title, and the higher you are on the company ladder, the more likely you might be to overeat. Compared to entry- and midlevel employees who were more likely to reach for sugary food when stressed, senior-level employees and executives were more likely to overeat.
Even if you don’t pick up on stress right away, you might eventually realize your eating habits have changed. Roughly 1 in 5 employees admitted to gaining weight as a result of diet changes, and weight gain was more common among employees stressed at work (24%) than those not feeling the pressure (14%). Senior-level employees and executives (those most inclined to overeat) put on the most weight, averaging 5.3 extra pounds in the last month.
Food As A Coping Mechanism
Eating more to cope with the tension at work isn’t just a problem for your waistband, though. One in 5 men admitted to spending more on food during their off time when stressed, which could add up to be a major expense.
On average, people perceiving their job as stressful spent an extra $468 on food annually, including nearly $400 more at the grocery store. Among people who recognized their eating habits had changed due to stress, food expenses increased by $780, including over $300 more on fast food and around $100 more on snacks.
And while men might be less likely to connect the dots between work stress and the grocery bill, roughly 1 in 3 recognized that they eat more sugary food, overeat, consume more fatty food, and eat more high-calorie food as a result of work stress.
If your diet has changed, a number of reasons may explain why you’re eating more or reaching for sugary snacks when you know you shouldn’t. Stressed employees were nearly as likely as unstressed employees to indicate they were unmotivated to eat healthier. On the other hand, employees who were stressed were nearly twice as likely as unstressed workers to say they didn’t have time to eat healthier and were more likely to say their mental state, emotional eating, and finances were reasons they look to food that are fast and easy rather than healthy and nutritious.
Stress at the office can follow you around and play a major role in what you eat at any time during the day. That’s why achieving a work-life balance should be a priority: Too much work stress, and you could be paying with your money and health.
Special thanks Fitrated.com for the research in this study.