Job Coach: Tackling weighty matters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

The battle of the bulge has spilled into the workplace in Hong Kong as office staff are increasingly leading a sedentary life. Overweight employees are eating more and exercising less in Hong Kong, and this is leading to an increase in the number of people suffering from heart disease and diabetes. Not helping matters is Hongkongers' penchant for working long hours, which can increase stress levels.

Computers and advanced technology are also blamed for unhealthy office environments where physical activity in the workplace is reduced to an absolute minimum.

The only form of exercise is limited to walking down the corridor to get to the toilet or making a cup of tea.

It's not just Hongkongers whose waistlines are expanding. It's a global problem.

So much so, companies are waking up to the problem as they have come to realise that productivity - and profitability - is directly related to the health of their employees. A growing number of companies in Hong Kong have, or are putting in place, fitness programmes to promote healthy lifestyles - and encourage staff to shed those extra kilograms.

According to a recent survey by global market research company Synovate - in which 9,000 people across 13 countries and territories, including Hong Kong, were interviewed - most people believed that unhealthy food, unhealthy eating habits, such as eating at irregular hours, and a lack of exercise were major factors contributing to weight and health problems. For many, the most popular way to address weight problems is to simply diet.

However, results don't often match the set target. And needless to say, excessive dieting can also lead to a variety of health problems.

More often than not self discipline is vital to keeping weight to a manageable level. Office workers will find it too easy to help themselves to fat-laden crisps, chocolate candy bars and sodas from the vending machine down the hall, or snacks stashed in their drawers or in the company pantry. Many people gain weight at work due to unhealthy snacking habits - eating whatever they see and whenever they want to. Keep yourself away from the office vending machines by packing healthy and tasty snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, crackers and low-fat, low-sugar cereal bars, to get you through the day. People who need to partake in a lot of business lunches are more prone to weight problems. If you have to eat out frequently, choose restaurants that provide healthier dining options.

Stay away from fried food, most appetisers and other high-fat items. A salad or soup is a better choice than a burger and fries. Pack a lunch whenever possible. This ensures you will not eat more than you need. A light lunch, that includes a soup and half a sandwich, will work wonders for your waistline - and make exercise a priority. If you have a hectic schedule at work during the day, try working out in the morning or during the lunch break. Depending on your personal preferences, and the time and money you can afford, you can work out for 30 minutes in a gym close to your office, or leave the office and go out for a 20-minute brisk walk.

Sometimes an office party and treats from your colleagues may sabotage your diet. If you have to attend a party and lack the willpower to resist the temptation of fatty treats, try to drop by late when most of the food is consumed.

No matter what profession you are in, there are creative and effective ways for you to get exercise and shed those unwanted kilograms. The most important thing is to change your mindset and make a commitment to persevere. Grab every opportunity to move about more throughout the day.

For example, walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift. It will not only make you feel and look good, but will make you more productive and efficient at work as a result of improved health.

Starting next week: an eight-part series on using traditional Chinese medicine's acupressure to treat work-related health problems and other ailments.