How to stay on top of your nutrition and health if you work long hours
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Nutrition survival for busy people

As an editor at a newspaper, 46-year-old Evelyn found herself working long 12-hour days trying to stay on top of the never-ending deadlines and projects.

On a good day she got enough sleep, ate well and squeezed in some exercise. She got up early to chop raw veggies to include as part of her lunch, ate healthy snacks and pulled out a frozen meal she cooked in advance to heat up when she got home.

On a bad day she worked too much, didn’t fit in exercise and didn’t have any time for herself. She didn’t pack much food and didn’t have time to leave work to get a proper lunch. Her energy levels would slide and it became known in her office that a can of cola on her desk signified a bad day. Having sub-optimal nutrition on these days meant it was hard for Evelyn to talk herself out of buying takeout on the way home or overindulging in comfort foods in the evening.

When a friend of hers mentioned his “seven-day-a-week, always-on-call lifestyle was killing him,” she knew hers was also and she needed to make changes.

Chain reactions

Think about times in your life where your health was better. What specifically made a difference? Often there may be one key thing to focus on that causes a chain reaction for positive changes. For Evelyn this was holding a firm time she needed to leave the office.

This single area of focus created a chain reaction of good things: time to fit in fitness, the energy to make a healthy supper and the motivation to prepare meals for the day ahead. It also meant she was less prone to vending machine quick fixes and stress eating in the evening.

Analogies to live by

At times when things started to get off track and she began putting other people’s needs ahead of her own, Evelyn found it useful to think of the oxygen mask analogy. First, put your own mask on, or you won’t be able to help others.

You may also find it helpful to think of your body as a high-performance sports car. If you abuse it by forgetting to put gas into it or fuel up with unclean gas instead of premium gas, expect your car to break down sooner or later.

Even coaches need coaches

One of the things successful people do to speed learning and achieve success is find a coach. A coach can help you see the blind spots getting in the way of your goals and provide you with accountability and motivation. As actor Peter Davies said, “Motivation is like food for the brain. You cannot get enough in one sitting. It needs continual and regular top-ups.”

Coaches can come in many forms. It might be a clinical psychologist, certified coach, registered dietitian or fitness trainer, but it could also be a motivating friend or colleague.

Just because you are a good coach to others in some aspect of your life as a parent, leader or friend doesn’t mean you don’t need a coach too. Even coaches need coaches.

In Evelyn’s case, even the editor needed an editor (not so much for writing but for work-life balance). She realized that regular appointments at her doctor’s office held her accountable to her plan for weight loss and cholesterol lowering. She also knew that it was much easier to leave the office on time when she arranged to meet a friend who was an enthusiastic exerciser.

Nutrition survival guide for busy people

1. Shop

If taking time to grocery shop is a struggle, try booking it in your calendar as an appointment. Giving this task the same importance in your calendar as attending a medical appointment can help give it the attention it deserves.

2. Drop

Drop off all the food and snacks you will need for the week at your office on Monday morning. Bringing all of the yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit and nuts you will need as snacks for the week is easier than doing this five times.

3. Chop

What can you prepare in bulk? On the weekend, chop raw veggies and place them in five small containers for your lunches this week. Chop the broccoli, red peppers, snow peas and onions you will need for the shrimp or beef stir-fry later in the week.

4. Top

Top up your meals with planned extras. This involves cooking double of one part of the meal to go into tomorrow’s meal. If tonight you are making grilled chicken burgers, cook extra chicken to slice into quesadillas or a pasta dish for tomorrow.

5. Stop

Stop and eat every three to five hours each day to keep your productivity boosted and to prevent overeating later in the day. If you catch yourself saying “I don’t have time,” replace this with “How could I afford not to take the time?”

by Andrea Holwegner, the Chocoholic Dietitian, owns Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. Visit healthstandnutrition.com or phone 403-262-3466 for nutrition counselling, speaking engagements and to subscribe to her free monthly ezine. Twitter: @chocoholicRD


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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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