By Robert DiGiacomo, for Yahoo HotJobs!
While your job can't be blamed directly for your putting on the pounds, the potent combination of too much work stress, too little sleep and not enough physical activity can lead to weight gain.
The best offense against work-related flab, experts say, is the often-repeated mantra of exercising regularly and eating right. Start by understanding why you're at risk of gaining weight on the job, so you can take steps to avoid it.
The Stress Connection
Too much stress causes your body to produce more of a hormone called cortisol, which not only triggers your appetite but also cues your body to store fat cells and produce less testosterone, which results in less muscle mass, according to Shawn M. Talbott, a nutritional biochemist, author and consultant.
"It's just as important to get the stress under control as the exercise and diet," says Talbott, author of The Cortisol Connection -- Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health. "If people do each of those three, they get a lot better results than if they have one of the three."
A Practical Diet
The size of your hand can serve as a practical guide to how much you should eat, according to Talbott.
For each 500-calorie meal, your fist represents the desired amount of carbs and your palm is the amount of protein. Your hand opened up is the portion of fruits and veggies you should eat, while the circle you make with the OK sign between thumb and forefinger is how much added fat you should take in.
"It's a way to count calories without counting calories," Talbott says.
Stay away from the vending machines by bringing to work your own healthy snacks, such as nuts, popcorn or granola bars, in preportioned packages, according to Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
"The key is not to bring the entire box or package," Moore says. "If you bring the entire box, you're tempted to eat more than one."
Maximum Exercise, Minimum Time
For his busy corporate clients who find it hard to squeeze in a workout, Talbott recommends a three-times-a-week program of 28 minutes of interval training, combining intensive activities with cool-down periods.
"If time is the big issue, [this is] the shortest amount of time we can have someone exercise and see results," he says.
If you have a long commute, you can avoid having the car become a filling station by having breakfast before you leave for work, and a light snack prior to returning home.
"Everything looks good when you're hungry," Moore says. "You don't want to stop by a fast-food restaurant on the way to work or home, because you'll fill up with 1,200 calories before you know it."
Several companies, including General Mills, Florida Power and Light and Pitney Bowes, are helping employees stay fit, says LuAnn Heinen, director of the Institute on Innovation in Workplace Well-Being (formerly the Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity) at the National Business Group on Health. Efforts include encouraging employee fitness, including adding walking paths to corporate campuses, making sure lunch meetings include salads and low-fat items, and giving discounts on salads and healthy items at the company cafeteria.
"These are employers who are consciously improving the environment to make it a downhill slide to stay healthy," Heinen says. "It's really about supporting the people who already have tried to be healthier."