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Are tradies still overweight?

Can it be that tradies doing physical work, on the tools all day, are more overweight than the average office worker?

A National Health Survey in 2008, showed that tradies / construction workers are more likely to consume unhealthy foods while at work. The survey found that of those surveyed, 64% of tradies are overweight/obese, compared to the national average rate of 59%. In addition, 40% of those in the same industry consumed risky amounts of alcohol which is significantly higher than the national average of 24%. Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and lack of physical activity were also tagged as concerns.

Surely that can’t still be true today? When I think about it . . . , I do love to hear the horn from that smoko truck around 9 am and lunch usually means a trip to some fabulous local takeaway.

Workplace productivity

Most people get to a point in their lives when they need to stop and think about diet. What we eat does start to define us, but it is much easier to think of tradies as being fit not fat. So, if these reports are true, what factors might be putting tradies in the firing line for poor health and obesity?

Natural career development

You start out young and fit and you work hard on the tools every day. The boss has you doing all the running and lifting. You are burning calories and fueling the machine as much as you can. You get your trade ticket, you are now organising other people to do the running and lifting, more time in the car doing site inspections and quotes. The habit of fueling the machine is still with you and the machine has got bigger and seems to need more fuel.

Planning & Time Management

There is generally little time in the morning, so the day’s food needs to be prepared in advance, in the fridge and ready to go. This means being more organised and shopping in advance, getting good foods for lunches and smoko breaks. Of course, plenty of people do this. It’s a lot cheaper, smarter and way better for you. The only trouble is, it takes effort and planning and that packed lunch can become a little boring. The alternate option takes little effort. Just grab an egg and bacon roll or two on the go- backed up with chips and sauce, coffee, or coke and of course a Mars Bar – breakfast of champions!


“I’m just doing a macca’s run, or heading down the shops for a kebab and a pie, does anyone want anything”? Sound familiar? Or, you look at your watch, it’s around 8:50 am and you know pretty soon you will here the horn of that food van with that cute girl. A sandwich and some cool water might be good, but a pie or a schnitzel in a bun with sauce and a coke, is what you really feel like.


The take-away shops around city office buildings still seem to do a good trade. Larger centres however also offer wider choice. Sushi, salads, soups and laksas. Plus, offices tend to have a kitchen and a fridge. A constant place to manage and prepare your food, as opposed to the esky in the back of the ute. Tradies are generally mobile, working in different locations, seeking out familiar foods from the back of a van or the various suburban or industrial shopping areas. Also on most days, tradies are possibly a little dirty and typically not dressed to sit in a nice café or bistro.

No cop-out

These points are real factors that might more often put unhealthy foods as the go-to option for a tradie diet, but there is no real cop-out. Everyone has to take responsibility for looking after themselves. With tradies it would seem to be even more important, because as we show in a recent article “Half human, half machine”, a tradies body is essentially a machine that is a key asset in producing income. It must be trained, maintained and fueled for optimum performance to support a successful career. Stephen Covey, author of 7 habits of highly effective people, puts it like this; “I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions”. Good reason to think about the choices we make each day – and make sure we look after ourselves!

Or for more food for thought check out our article: Is today’s tradie half human, half machine?

article by Jeremy Sleiman 15 March 2019

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