Your first job may come with a few extra pounds, new study shows

A new study conducted by CareerBuilder found that more than 40% of workers feel they've gained weight at their current job. The "freshman 15" may not be the only instance of gaining weight in a new situation. (Flickr/Phil Gradwell)

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder has found that more than two in five workers have gained weight at their current job, implicating that weight gain when entering the workforce may be more common than the “freshman 15.”

The “freshman 15” is defined as the tendency for students to gain weight as they transfer to college, according to a study done by the University of Oxford.

The CareerBuilder study was conducted online among 3,031 full-time workers ages 18 and over between Feb. 10 and March 17, 2016. Those surveyed were employed full-time, not self-employed and non-government employees. According to CareerBuilder, with a pure probability sample of 3,031, “one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.78 percentage points.”

Marisa Creatura, a University of Connecticut dietitian at Nutrition Services in the Department of Student Health Services, said that she believes the “freshman 15” is more likely than gaining weight when entering the workforce.

“When students get to school, they are faced with an unlimited supply of buffet-style dining halls, which can make them much more likely to overeat,” Creatura said. “Also, many students do multiple sports through their high school or city leagues. When they get to school and do not continue with this level of exercise, they are not burning as many calories as they were before with regular team practices.”

The CareerBuilder survey also found that women (49 percent) are more likely than men (39 percent) to report gaining weight, and 41 percent of workers with extremely low stress levels feel they are overweight compared to 77 percent of workers with extremely high stress levels. Additionally, although a quarter of employees have access to employer-sponsored wellness benefits, 55 percent of this group does not take advantage of them.

“Women naturally have less muscle than men, and muscle is very metabolically active. This means that it takes a lot of energy for our bodies to maintain our muscle mass, so we use calories to maintain those muscles,” Creatura said. “Therefore, men typically burn more calories than women. As far as women being more likely to report weight gain, women are much more critical of their bodies than men due to social pressures.”

Creatura also said that stress plays a large role in both college weight gain and workplace weight gain, which can cause an increase in people’s intake of unhealthy foods.

“If the stress is related to pressure of getting an assignment or task done in a timely manner, and the individual does not have a lot of time, they are more likely to go for fast-food options and not allot time for physical activity,” Creatura said.

Eighth-semester mechanical engineering major Tara D’Ambruoso said that she thinks the “office 15” is potentially dangerous for new grads.

“We’re used to breaks throughout the day [as students] where we can get a workout in,” D’Ambruoso said. “While working long hours when entering the workforce, we’ll be so exhausted that we won’t want to do anything after work, but should be active as a means of stress relief and to maintain a good lifestyle.”

Fourth-semester finance major Daniel Leszczynski said he believes the “freshman 15” is situational and unique to each student, and he found that as a freshman, he was not eating as much at school as he had been while living at home.

“Personally, I like eating medium sized meals often and really enjoyed the quality of home cooked food. So, school food really had thrown me for a loop,” Leszczynski said. “It wasn't that I was trying to lose weight, but it was just the nature of my habits at home and how they align with what the school provides. It all depends on what your habits are before college and your self-control once you're at college.”

Creatura said that Nutrition Services in Student Health Services provides free nutrition counseling for students that helps to accommodate each individual situation. She also recommends personal training offered through the Hawley Armory Building, BodyWise classes and intramural sports offered by UConn Recreational Services.

“Make sure you are packing nutritious lunch and snack options, so you can be more likely to stay away from unhealthy fast food and snack options when hungry,” Creatura said. “For students, walk to classes instead of taking a bus, and for working individuals, try to park further away from the building to fit a little extra walking into your day.”


Megan Krementowski is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu.