Been there, done that! I have succumbed to the pressure that the only way is up the corporate ladder, work harder, faster, smarter. Go up in grade, take on more responsibility, work long hours……..the result? Quite often, misery!
I have met a few women along my journey who bucked the trend, one, in particular, was absolutely not interested in promotion or taking on more responsibility. – she was one of the coolest women I have ever met. She was focused on her husband, her health and her mental wellbeing. Whilst I was having mini-breakdowns every day, striving to prove I was worthy, capable and efficient – I would look over my monitor and there she was. Cool, calm, radiating zen like quality. She would come in early but at 4.30pm she was off without a backward glance. How I envied her!
She also was very mindful of what she ate and made sure she always got her full quota of sleep. She was slim, healthy and most of all happy.
Now, I’m not saying that all bosses are miserable! Some thrive on the challenge but over the years I have been in the workforce I have seen a pattern in both men and women. The higher the grade, the more responsibility, the more the waistline and health suffered. Some have realised and set about getting fitter and losing weight, many have not. Those who have not, get along great for a while and then comes the crash. Off sick, ailments that linger, weight loss, weight gain, premature ageing.
If you have gained weight in your career, you are certainly not alone. In a CareerBuild study, 41% of 3,000 people surveyed said they had put on weight as they claimed the career ladder. Those who spend long hours sat at a desk (e.g. PA’s, administrators) and those in high-stress positions (e.g. teachers, nurses) are more likely to gain weight. It mainly comes down to three elements, diet, physical activity and behaviour.
I have been in roles where I pretty much sat at a desk for around 10 hours, only getting up to ‘sit’ at a meeting! Or to go to the bathroom. There is a culture in many organisations (it’s unwritten so hard to prove) that having full lunch breaks or screen breaks is a bit lazy, shows a lack of focus and to be honest a bit frivolous. People who you met for lunch in the good old days are glued to their desks after the promotion, unable to make time in their day for something as unproductive as a social meet up. Working late into the night, weekends also takes its toll. Stress and lack of sleep are contributing factor in weight gain and diseases.
Overwork is actually something you can die of! The Japanese have a word for it -………… ‘KAROSHI’ death through overwork and stress. Blimey! It’s actually a thing. Stress also causes fat and sugar cravings – been there – I’ve been so stressed that I have ‘forgotten’ that I have eaten things! Then there are the ‘goodies’ at work – in one job we all tried to top each other with the most delicious treats, home baked cakes and goodies we could add to the ‘snack table’. Then there’s the lift – so much easier than being out of puff going up the stairs……..you feel so ‘busy’ that it seems almost impossible to fit in any real exercise into your life. The weird thing is some of the most overweight managers and co-workers ate very little all day – they probably went home and ate the contents of their fridge! I’ve actually argued this out with my old boss so many times – the less you eat the more your body stores the fat – it’s better to eat regularly to keep your blood sugar even and eat healthy, bigger portions than survive for 10 hours on a processed sandwich.
As my pastor once said ‘Work can kill you, but you can’t kill work’! Is your career really more important than your long term health? So, the real question is what can you do about it? How can you become better at eating well, sleeping well and keeping yourself in check?
I can only speak from my own experience and the first step for me was quitting a job that I had outgrown and was placing too many demands on me. I actually found a job that paid more with less stress, they do exist. I also had a new boss who used ‘nudge theory’ on me daily! He kept nudging me to take the lift, not eat crap, walk to external meetings etc. At first it really irritated me! Then, slowly I started to try a few things. The team I worked alongside had a ‘pool bike’ for getting to meetings, which I was pretty much bullied into giving a try! Fast forward a few months and I now own my own Brompton bike and cycle to work pretty much every day. The difference to the start to my day when I cycle is immeasurable – it must be the endorphins!!
I have to cycle between locations which is fabulous (unless it rains :-() I have hair straighteners in 3 locations!! ). I also bought a cheap ‘fit bit’ which makes me think about moving more during the day – some days I am amazed at how quickly I can reach my 10,000 steps. I have also been ‘nudged/bullied’ ! Into taking part in my very first 5k run (well, walk, jog, stop etc.) I take regular screen breaks and take the stairs as often as I can. I get up at 5am most mornings – I love this time of the day – it’s so quiet and peaceful and I am far better earlier in the day than at night. (Importantly, I go to bed much earlier to match my early starts). erm,sometimes!
I eat well!!! Lots of lovely, healthy home cooked food, fruit, nuts, oatcakes etc. And importantly lots and lots of water – that means you are regularly taking screen breaks! I am feeling better than I have for a long time – my weight is stable and my sleep, deep and refreshing. The eczema I experienced during stressful times in my life has disappeared and my skin is looking much healthier. No one has ever looked back on their deathbed and wished they had spent more hours in the office! Taken less care of themselves and worried more………..you have one life to live and YOU are your most precious commodity. Your job, however important will carry on without you. So, invest in yourself now and enjoy the life you have earnt!!!