Some days, it's unavoidable. You're swamped with work and can't fathom leaving your desk to eat when the entire fate of the company rests on your shoulders (or it at least feels that way). You scarf your #saddesksalad hunched over your keyboard, eyes glued to the screen, with one hand on the fork and the other on the mouse.
But somewhere along the line, eating lunch à la desk became as popular as eating à la carte. The American lunch break has largely turned into a slew of scattered, lonely humans glued to computer screens, inhaling food they're not paying attention to. Just under 20 percent of workers actually step away from their desk for a lunch break, according to a 2012 poll by Right Management. It's no wonder, then, that about 41 percent of people report having gained weight at their present jobs, according to a 2013 poll by CareerBuilder. More downsides of your desk lunch:
1. You make your work space a MESS.
If you've ever tried eating one of those impossibly crumbly Nature Valley crunchy granola bars (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, BARS) over your keyboard, you know the excruciating agony of staring at the remnants of one snack for months. Ditto for flinging salad dressing, dropping globs of peanut butter out of your sandwich, or frantically flipping your keyboard upside down to shake out whatever you've spilled inside. (Explaining that to IT would be awk.) And it doesn't just look and feel gross—it really is gross. Your desk environment may harbor 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, according to a 2012 report by Tork, a brand of home paper products.
2. You'll eat way more food—during lunch and after.
In a way, distracted eating isn't really eating. It's watching TV or working or walking, and something just happens to be going in your mouth in the meantime. And when you're distracted eating, you're probably going to eat a lot more, whether you're truly hungry or not. Being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tends to make people eat more at that particular meal and is linked to eating more later on, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Since nearly three-fourths of people eat at their desks, it's no surprise that almost three-fourths of people snack during the day, according to the CareerBuilder survey. And this all could be just one reason that mindful people are less likely to be overweight. (If you're doing to desk dine, at least pack a healthy, satisfying brown-bag lunch.)
3. You spend more time on your butt.
Humans are made to move—not stay glued to a desk chair all day (no matter how comfy or ergonomically designed that chair might be). Sitting is linked to all sorts of downer things like anxiety, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, early death, and might even "deflate" your butt (here's the DL on "office ass"). Considering lunch is your prime opp to get up and moving in the middle of the workday, forgoing that to stay in the same damn spot is almost a crime. (Good thing getting up for just two minutes can help combat that—phew.)
4. You'll be less productive.
It might seem counterintuitive to step away form your desk to get more things done, but science actually shows that your brain needs those breaks. Even brief diversion from a task (read: popping into the break room or outside to nom your PB&J) can dramatically improve your ability to focus for long periods, according to a study published in the journal Cognition. Your lunch break guilt trip is officially overruled.
5. It makes the day feel never-ending.
Sitting in one place for hours on end is just asking for immense boredom—even if you're busy AF. Get up out of your chair or you're sure to go crazy sitting there.