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Working Women More Likely to Pile on Pounds

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Working women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce , and 51 percent of professional workers, like doctors, lawyers, nurses and accountants, are female. While climbing the career ladder can be rewarding, it often comes with one big downside: weight gain!

New research published this week in the International Journal of Obesity shows that working women are more likely to be overweight, and the more you work, the more pounds you're likely to pile on.

Like many women, I work... a lot! As a self-employed nutrition communications specialist, I sit at my desk, in front of a computer, for hours on end. Sitting alone is one of the worst things you can do for your health, and it's directly linked to being overweight, increased ab fat, and metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, so the fact that women in the workforce gain weight isn't that surprising. If you work, you have less time to move around. Obesity researchers are revealing many other ways that employment is harmful to your diet and waistline.

In the International Journal of Obesity study, some 9,276 Australian women aged 45-50 had their body weight and employment status monitored for two years. Results? Those who worked more than 35 hours were likely to gain weight compared to those who worked fewer hours or were out of the workforce. What's more, the more hours a woman worked in a week, the more weight she gained. For example, women who didn't work gained, on average, less than 1 percent of their initial body weight, but women who worked a regular full-time job gained 1.76 percent of their body weight. But those who reported working more than 48 hours a week experienced a 1.9 percent increase on the scale. For someone who started the study at 150 pounds, that would equal nearly 3 pounds gained. In another study of female workers in Finland, 26 percent gained more than 10 pounds during the course of the 5- to 7-year study.

The authors of the Australian study attribute weight gain among working women to inactivity, lack of time for food preparation, more use of prepared foods, high levels of stress, lack of sleep and consuming more alcohol. I'll also add in travel, meals eaten out and working at night as other factors that can I find make balancing work with a healthy diet a challenge.

Friends of mine that lost jobs or work only part-time due to the economic downturn also lost weight -- without trying. When I asked them about it, they attributed it to less stress and more time to move because they were no longer chained to a desk.

Since the majority of women in the U.S. are working like I am, we don't have the luxury of having lots of extra time and less stress in our lives. Here are seven slim solutions to make the bacon without pigging out.

1. Exercise Outdoors Daily:
Try to get some exercise (even if it's just 15 minutes) every day to improve your mood and reboot your brain. Even better, try to exercise outside if possible most days of the week. Exercise can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and improves your mood and self-esteem. Research suggests that outdoor exercise is even better, too.

2. B.Y.O.B.
When I worked in a NYC office, you'd think I probably ate out every day. No. I actually brown bagged it almost every day. Start with bringing your own lunch at least three days a week and work up to five days a week. You'll save tons of money while peeling off pounds.

3. Make Office Kitchen and Vending Machines Off Limits:
Vending machines rarely offer any nutritional options, and the food that's left in office kitchens is usually doughnuts, desserts or candy. Steer clear!

4. De-Stress With Deep Breathing (Not Food):
Since many women crave comfort (read: high-calorie) foods when they're stressed, learn how to practice deep breathing to relax yourself and practice mindful eating techniques to help separate emotional hunger from physiological.

5. Be a Mindful Eater:
If you eat when your body is truly hungry and stop before you're stuffed, you can more easily manage your weight. Most women, however, eat for emotional (I'm anxious) or environmental (my husband always wants dinner at 6:30 p.m.) cues rather than physical hunger. Using a hunger scale is the best way to become a more mindful eater.

6. Get Your Zzzs.
If you're getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you'll have a harder time resisting tempting foods. Adequate sleep helps keep our hunger hormones in check all day long.

7. Put the Brakes on Booze:
Alcohol consumption is consistently linked to being overweight and is a triple threat to your diet. Alcohol is high in calories (7 calories per gram), and it stimulates your appetite while reducing your resolve to eat well.

For more by Julie Upton, click here.

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