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Factors that Impact Body Weight

Low-wage workers identified several factors that they perceive to have an impact on body weight, including:

Physically demanding work – Having a physically demanding job often resulted in illnesses and/or injuries, influencing workers’ ability to participate in physical activity outside of the job. Physical fatigue from work also played a role in the quantity of food consumed at the end of the workday.

Psychosocial stressors – Experiences of high demands in the workplace led some workers to feel stressed and consume more high-calorie foods, such as candy and soda. Workers also reported feelings of exhaustion, having multiple jobs and responsibilities, and scheduling as elements of a heavy workload.

One study respondent commented, “The work that three people used to do is given to one person. That creates more stress and eating more.”

Time pressure – Many workers reported having only 15 minutes to eat during their working hours, making it difficult to prepare and eat healthy food in a short period of time. Female workers often discussed the interaction between work and family, specifically how the combination of responsibilities at work and at home reduced available time to engage in physical activity and eat healthy. For these workers, reliance on convenience foods was a particularly important time-saving strategy.

“At 10 a.m., they give me a 15-minute break. I don’t have time to eat healthy food, even if I bring homemade food,” said one worker, adding, “I don’t have time to do exercise.”

Food environment at work – Workers reported having limited access to healthy food, due to their limited mealtime and the location of their workplace. According to workers, many of their workplaces fail to provide them with the appropriate equipment and space to eat meals, which influences their diet.

“I cannot even talk about the cafeteria,” said one worker, “because that ‘cafeteria’ is in the corner of a dirty and unsanitary room.”