When I told my partner Deborah that I was going to write about people’s jobs making them fat, she thought I was going to write about job stress and emotional eating. Stress and emotional eating are important issues we need to correct in order to be successful in weight loss, but that’s not what I was referring to. I was referring to the kind of eating that a person’s work and work environment encourages, eating behavior that makes them fat.
I am a behavior therapist who figured out how to lose weight permanently when I discovered a unique behavioral therapy that actually works, applied it to myself, and lost 140 pounds in 18 months after 25 years of obesity and diet and exercise failure. I’ve kept it off for 30 years.
Behavioral therapy for weight loss is simple in one way, even though the application can be complex. The simplicity is this: our weight is a result of our behavior. Change the behavior and the body will change. It’s not as simple as just making up your mind or using will power, but that’s where real behavior therapy comes in. We can eat the food we like and we don’t have to exercise like crazy or give up things we like, but we need to do things differently. It’s not our body or metabolism that we need to focus on changing. It’s the behavior. Change that and the body will change. Finding out what needs to change and how to change it is the key to success.
The problem people may encounter at their jobs is that their work and workplace may encourage eating in ways that cause weight gain and obesity. Their work can even require it, though that is less common. For example, jobs connected to the the food marketing industry.
In most of the cases where their job makes weight control difficult or impossible, it’s the work environment and culture that is the problem, even though the job itself has nothing to do with food. Probably the most common examples are businesses where donuts and pastries are a central part of every meeting, sometimes on a daily basis. It’s also common for work spaces, like nursing stations, to continually have “goodies” out in the open, or a “snack table” near the water cooler or break room in the office.
Lunch can also be a big problem. Staff meetings, luncheons and business lunches that are a big part of corporate culture can have more calories than a person needs for the entire day. We should call it the corpulent culture. I’ve seen people switch from a job where they skipped lunch most of the time to one where they entertained at lunch, and they put on 20 pounds almost overnight and could not stop gaining.
Clients have asked me how to live with that and not succumb to the temptation to eat. I know that some people can just decide not to partake, and for them, it’s no problem. But, for most of us who have become chronically overweight, “just saying no” does not work, and success comes when we accept that and develop a new strategy.
Environmental management means that we set up our environment to be free of those temptations. My home and work space have nothing in them that is not part of my planned meals. There are no chips, nuts, cookies, candy, cake or pastries. I cannot live or work in a place that tempts me to eat too much and maintain my success.
My work needs to be free of obesegenic factors for me to be successful. For the last 30 years, I’ve been successful making arrangements in my work to make it easy to abstain, but in one place where I could not change the environment, I left that job rather than suffer the struggle and weight gain. It was a clinic where we had a morning meeting of 15 people everyday with donuts and pastries as an almost religious ritual for the group -and they refused to give it up. “Why should we change when you’re the only one with the problem?” they said. The funny thing is, I was the only one that was not overweight.
If you are like me and have not been successful with “will power” in those situations, be successful like me by managing the environment to make it easier. Don’t listen to those who tell you to “just don’t eat”, making you feel ashamed because you can’t resist the tempters. You’re OK. You have the same problem I have. You can still be successful. Hopefully, you work in a company that is willing to change to encourage health instead of obesity. If not, I’d advise you to leave and find one that does, like I did.
No matter how long you’ve tried to solve your weight problem and how many times you’ve failed, there is a way to solve it. You just have not yet found or done what you need to do. Keep learning and trying new things. Persist and you will succeed.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He was an obese heavy smoker and workaholic until his early thirties, and burned out, but survived and changed direction. He changed in many ways, among them, losing 140 pounds permanently. Health, in a holistic way, is now his mission. He is the author of The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 17, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com