We didn't leave home with a refrigerator stocked full of fresh fruits, veggies and produce. We didn't leave home with parents who made us healthy, homecooked meals and reminded us to drink water and to do something other than watch tv and sleep. We didn't leave home with the knowledge of the real world and the real stress which came with it.
Instead, we left home with a fully loaded meal card which was the golden ticket to all of the delicious, reheated, processed "food" waiting out for us all day in the cafeterias. We left home with more free time and freedom than we ever had before. We left home and stepped into the adult world where there were bills due and work that needed to be done by a strict deadline.
This new world we all stepped into seemed to be working directly against us, on purpose. As a result of all these factors, many of us found out very quickly the freshman 15 was, in fact, a real thing.
Fast forward a few years, and I am currently sitting at my 8-4 job, wishing that the freshman 15 was still the number I was running from. Instead of college threatening an extra 15 pounds showing on the scale, the workforce is threatening to break the scale.
College hands its student's bad food, a big workload, and freedom which they have never been given before. However, it also hands them the opportunity to be healthy. Students get exercise by walking from building to building, they sit for a short amount of time in classes that are normally only an hour long, they have access to a gym at no cost and are given free time to utilize as they see fit. This is the opportunity to be healthy that is given to a college student and it is this opportunity which severely lacks for a full-time employee.
There are many factors to blame for the skyrocketing obesity rates in America; however, a major contributor to these rates is the work culture which American's are forced in to. This culture puts employees into an inactive and time-consuming environment with little to no time for self-care. While there are many ways the work culture plays a role in unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, I have come up with a list of the top four ways working full time has put limitations on my needs for a healthy lifestyle.
1. Would you like fries with that?
Just like the ones we visited more than once a day in college, the cafeterias in workplaces, often lack healthy, fresh options for employees. Menus consist of pasta, pizzas, burgers, fries, desserts and a salad or two (if we are lucky). True, we can all pack food from home and bring it into the office, but there are days where we run out of time to make a lunch or to go to the grocery store. Cafeterias don't offer the healthy and fresh food we need in order to keep those numbers from climbing higher on the scale.
2. I have to sit here for how long?
We are expected to spend, at minimum, eight hours a day at work. For most of us, a majority of these eight hours are spent sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen. We are forced to be inactive and chained to our chairs as these eight hours slowly tick away. When the day is spent mostly sitting down and not burning any calories or energy it is easy to gain weight. My tip for this - get up from the desk and walk for five minutes every hour. Try to get moving as much as you can.
3. Personal time? What's that?
If we are supposed to work and sleep both for eight hours, that leaves eight hours left in the day. Factoring in the time it takes to get ready for work and commute there and back, I would say we actually have about six hours to ourselves. Six hours to do errands, have a social life, relax, stay fit and anything else we need to do that day? Good luck. In order to not be fired from our jobs, we have to make sacrifices to our physical and mental well-being due to the shortage of time we are given. This shortage of time makes us put our health on the backburner and not make it a priority every day.
4. Can I put my stress in a drawer while I go home for the night?
Stress in the main cause of obesity and the main source of stress is work. While work meetings and projects may stay in the office while we go home for the night, stress does not. It's not something we can put in our desk and deal with the next day. Our minds constantly think about and stress over work all hours of the day. Employees live and breathe work causing physical and mental health deterioration, leading to weight gain.
Not only is the American workforce culture not allowing its employees the opportunity to stay physically active and healthy, but it is also physically and mentally harming them by not taking personal lives into consideration. The workforce is driven by money and power not by well being of the workers. While it is not the only cause for obesity rates, it is the main one. Without healthy employees, the workforce will not be able to operate. Work culture needs to change in America. We need to focus on the healthiness and happiness of the people who are working.