Working from home has its perks, but potential weight gain isn’t one of them.
As more workplaces allow employees to work remotely with the ongoing new coronavirus outbreak, a combination of job stress, the uncertainty surrounding public health and having easy access to the refrigerator could prompt some to eat more than they would at the office.
It’s called “stress eating” for a reason. A number of studies show that emotional or physical distress increases the amount of food we eat, particularly meals higher in fat, sugar or both.
“Anytime you’re feeling particularly stressed out -- whether it's at work or at home -- and you’re feeling aimless, we go to what’s comfortable,” Jaclyn London, a registered dietitian and head of nutrition and wellness at Weight Watchers. told FOX Business of why eaters may be tempted to overindulge in comfort foods.
“Anytime you’re feeling particularly stressed out -- whether its at work or at home -- and you’re feeling aimless, we go to what’s comfortable."
Not having to commute to work and the ability to wake up later can also throw off your meal times, London said.
“It’s the disruption in the schedule," she said. "Make sure your environment is set up so you have all of that produce, nutrient-dense food so when you’re going to snack you automatically have things available to you that are healthier options.”
Stress eating can impact people in a few different ways. In the short term, stress can prevent appetite, but when it’s ongoing, a hormone called cortisol gets released into our bodies that could increase hunger.
Here are some easy ways to avoid overeating while working from home:
Stick to an eating schedule
Try to maintain the same routine you have for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner as you would at the office.
“Reframe the new schedule or new set of circumstances in your existing schedule. If you’re used to having breakfast at a certain time, stick with that. Rely on the same meal prep,” London said.
London said it’s important not to skip meals because then you’re more likely to overeat during your next meal.
Research shows that people eat more when they’re dehydrated because they mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger. To avoid this, London recommends setting a timer every hour or so to remember to get up and hydrate.
“Drink early and drink often," she said. "There are so many times where people are like, ‘I just can’t stop eating,’ but really it’s really because you’re a little dehydrated.”
London said you can mix it up with any beverage to stay hydrated, not just water, as long as it doesn’t contain sugar so opt for a cup of tea, black coffee or seltzer.
Stock up on fruits and veggies for healthy snacking
Fruits and vegetables are filled with water, so eating some of your favorites are an added way to hydrate.
“Frozen grape or cherry tomatoes are snackable opportunities that have a higher water content so it's a built-in way to hydrate,” London said.
If you find yourself leaving your laptop to sift through your pantry or fridge between work deadlines, London says to meal prep for later instead of eating a snack in the moment.
“Instead of going for a snack because you’re bored, prepare a meal for later and wait until you’re hungry. Chop up cauliflower for dinner, make a fruit skewer, spiralize veggies for pasta -- whatever you can do to prepare,” London said.
Hide the junk food
Seeing a bag of potato chips or a cookie in your line of vision makes it that more tempting to get up and snack, so London advises having a clear workspace that’s free from any food temptations.
“You don’t want to be visually reminded -- whatever you can put away that you might want later, do it so you’re not tempted to graze," she said.