Food and eating are basic human needs, so it’s no wonder that dieting – and the resulting negative relationship with food – has an impact on workplace wellness.
The connection between the two may not seem obvious, so here are five ways that intentional weight loss could affect employees at work.
Reduced productivity: dieting will often lead to obsessive thoughts about food. This is basically the body’s way of getting attention to feed it; remember that our bodies have evolved to keep us alive – it doesn’t know the difference between starvation and intentional weight loss – so when we’re not eating enough, our bodies will do their part to make us aware of it. This leads to difficulty focussing on work tasks, to easily being distracted, and to being less productive.
Increased stress: worrying about food and body image can be hella stressful, especially if there are strict rules and restrictions involved. Trying to follow a plan perfectly and being anxious about what others may think could lead to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health.
Decreased energy levels: dieting can lead to disordered eating habits, such as skipping meals, suppressing appetite, or binge eating. These habits can result in decreased energy levels and difficulty concentrating, increased feelings of shame and guilt, and increased physical discomfort, which affect how the employee shows up in their work.
Absenteeism: even though dieting has a 5% success rate, people will continue to attempt new diets with the hope that weight loss will be sustainable. This leads to yo-yo dieting, which contributes to physical health problems, like digestive issues, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, which can all result in increased absenteeism from work.
Decreased morale: workplace culture often includes shared meals and snacks and this can often lead to feelings of exclusion, discomfort, or isolation for those who have a negative relationship with food. Morale and workplace relationships may be negatively impacted, as a result.