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(MCT)—When it comes to taking a midday break, today’s workers are out to lunch. Or rather in to lunch, spilling crumbs on the keyboard while they wolf down work and a sandwich.

“I do, because of the workload and the pressure of getting everything done,” says Judy Kovacs, who works for a Fort Lauderdale law firm.

Kovacs, who’s partial to soup and salad, is hardly alone. In the past decade, according to the American Dietetic Association, more than 60 percent of us have resorted to eating lunch at our desks.

In a recent survey, 30 percent said they lunched at their desks to save time. Forty-six percent do it to save time plus money.

“A lot of people say, ‘Lunch? Who gets lunch?’ ” says Monique Betty, owner of Careersync, a Boca Raton, Florida, career coaching company. “Lunch has kind of fallen on the sword during these economic times.”

With waves of layoffs decimating their ranks, workers face increases in workloads. That’s what anchors us to our workstations come noon. But depriving yourself of a lunch break can result in weight gain, digestive woes or even lower productivity.

“Most people in most companies today are doing the job of not just one, but three,” said Sue Romanos, co-owner of Careerxchange, a South Florida recruitment firm. “In order to get the job done within the workday, they need the time to complete their tasks.”

That’s the case with Fort Lauderdale office manager Krissy Brady. “Definitely the workload has changed: less people, more work,” she says.

“Sometimes I have to do the work of two people,” says Kyle Andrade, who works at a Fort Lauderdale law firm. “You won’t be able to finish at the end of the day if you take a lunch hour.”

Marie Sanchez, a Fort Lauderdale legal secretary, used to toddle off with co-workers to downtown restaurants for a relaxing repast.

Now it’s salad and a legal file. “I do it every day,” she says. “Because of work, that’s exactly why I stay in.”

Others, scared about potential layoffs, do it for show, says Betty. “It’s appearance. Your nose is to the grindstone; you’re a team player doing it for the organization.”

But munching lunch at the workplace can have health consequences. Carol Sherman, a dietitian from Boca Raton, Florida, says work can be a stressful distraction to desktop diners, who are better off concentrating on their meal.

“One would overeat, or not enjoy what they’re eating,” she says. “Increased stress does seem to lead to more abdominal fat.”

Dr. David Kerman, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said a potbelly isn’t the only risk from eating during work: There’s the bitter taste, nausea and heartburn.

“Heartburn happens any time you ingest large amounts of food in a fast manner,” he says. “It’s really not a healthy way to eat. It’s really not the way our bodies are meant to take in food.”

Romanos, the job recruiter, insists that her workers eat elsewhere. “We want them to take a breath,” she says. “When you get out and you refresh, you become more productive.”

©2011 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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