How to stay on top of your nutrition and health if you work long hours
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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