Photos Depict the Damaging Habit of Eating at Your Desk

July 1st 2016

Tricia Tongco

For many Americans, this is what lunch looks like: 

In February, the New York Times reported that 62 percent of professionals said that they usually ate lunch at their desks. The data reflects a larger American trend of people dining alone thanks to changing lifestyles and more single-person households.

For their feature, The Times commissioned a photo series by photographer Brian Finke to document instances of "desktop dining," but anyone can easily take a voyeuristic look at the phenomenon by looking up #desklunch or "eating at my desk" on Twitter or Instagram.

The images you'll find will vary from sad, grainy photos of wilted salad in foam containers to aspirational, crisp shots of bright veggies in $80 bento boxes.  


A photo posted by My Lunchbox (@kbqsurfs) on

So is this trend of taking desk lunches bad or good? Well, it seems that there are some major drawbacks and health risks:

More calories throughout the day

While eating alone has been associated with consuming smaller portions, it also means the higher likelihood of hoarding a stockpile of snacks and noshing away throughout the day.

The New York Times writes:

"In a study of 122 employees, people on average cached 476 calories’ worth of food in their desks. One person squirreled away 3,000 calories, including Cheetos, candy bars and five cans of pop-top tuna fish. " 

A less nutritious meal

Eating alone translates into a less nutritious diet, especially for adults over 50 years old, according to a long-term study by The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer.

As The Huffington Post points out:

"Older adults that were single ate 2.3 fewer vegetable servings per day, and widows or widowers living alone ate 1.1 fewer vegetables servings per day than their married or cohabiting counterparts. Widows and widowers living with someone, however, ate just as many vegetables as married or cohabiting people — highlighting the importance of social interaction." 

More sitting, which is the new smoking

This solo dining practice also feeds into the terrible habit of sitting all day at work — something that 86 percent of full time American workers do every day. Research has shown that physical inactivity is directly tied to adverse health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer.

So it's no surprise that sitting has been deemed "the smoking of our generation." In contrast, using lunch as an opportunity to get up and out of the office seems like a much healthier option. 

Counterproductive anti-social behavior 

If you think you're too busy to take a lunch break away from your desk, trust us, you're probably not. Plus, it might seem counterintuitive, but research from Gallup has found that workers who socialize are actually more productive. Gallup polling also showed that people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to fully engage in their jobs. 

So before you bring your lunch to your desk, take a moment and consider if this "time-saving" tactic is actually worth it.

[h/t The New York Times]