It likely won’t come as a surprise to hear that your well-being and productivity are linked. But did you know that a healthy diet acts not only as physical but also mental fuel? Physiologically, our brain is unique from other organs in the body, in that its main fuel source is glucose (sugar). As with any system, when that fuel supply is low, the system’s productivity and efficiency slows, explaining why it can be hard for some people to concentrate on an empty stomach.
As an employee, if you don’t feel energized it’s tough to get inspired and you feel less inclined to perform your tasks or to perform them well. Currently, aside from COVID-19, general health concerns are on the rise. About 44% of people over the age of 20 have a common chronic condition. That means they are dealing with a long-term sickness which in turn can affect their mental state, energy levels, motivation, and productivity. Your diet and lifestyle can be preventative of some health issues and it can also be a treatment for some. The takeaway here is that addressing your lifestyle and nutrition is not a wasted effort. It could lengthen your lifespan, give you more brainpower and help you be successful at work.
As an employer, having employees that prioritize self-care ensures fewer sick-related absences and higher rates of productivity. Working with a dietitian and effectively managing employee health can reduce health-related lost productivity by 64%! That’s 64 reasons to consult with a dietitian and implement a culture of workplace wellness. To bring wellness to your workplace, check out this page to see how we can help.
What You Can Do
If you’re interested in boosting your productivity by making some lifestyle changes, see the tips below for some of the easiest and effective habits you can start to work on now.
1) Eat Regularly
Skipping meals can cause big shifts in blood sugar leading to sugar crashes, feeling lethargic etc. When you have a lower blood sugar after many hours of not eating, your physical need for energy takes over and you begin to experience a lack of self-control. Not only does this not feel good, but it also leads to unhealthy snack choices and episodes of bingeing. Often, this feeling of tiredness and hunger (called the “midday slump”) occurs around 2-3pm and its what pushes you into poking around in the kitchen for something to eat. If you’re at the workplace, this snack can often translate into leftover treats from a meeting and so on. If you’re working from home, this pushes you into the pantry instead of the fridge to grab what’s easily available with no prep required.
Instead of going through this, try eating something every 3-4 hours. Honour your hunger when you experience a grumbling tummy. This is one of my biggest pieces of advice.
Eating frequently doesn’t have to mean eating something large or when you’re not hungry, just a small snack between meals so you don’t reach your next meal feeling ravenous thereby making less healthy choices and overeating.
2) Make Your Lunch
Making your own lunch seems like a simple and easy step toward healthy eating, in reality, this is something many of my clients struggle with! It’s the planning and preparation behind bringing your own lunch that can sometimes pose a challenge. Some tips that can help rid this barrier to change are:
Plan to make an extra large dinner and portion some off to have for lunch the next day.
Use a reliable container to portion things into. It helps to visualize and achieve a good balance.
Planning for a lunch, whether you’re at home through covid or once you’re back in the office is a sure way to improve your diet. It forces you to eat foods that would be stored in the fridge like pasta, grilled chicken and fruits and vegetables instead of going to the snack cupboard in the office or the pantry at home to eat granola bars, crackers, chips etc.
That being said, do keep in mind the 80/20 rule. It’s okay to enjoy “other” foods, just do so in moderation and don’t feel bad about it!
When we talk about planning and packing lunches, knowing the right balance is key.
This is what our new Canada’s Food Guide looks like, it came out in January 2019 and focuses less on prescriptive advice like specific food servings per group per day and more on balance, food skills and mindful eating.
Personally, I love the new food guide. It’s more intuitive, less intimidating and less overwhelming. There is less specific advice and more room for visualizing and creating a pattern that works for you. When you build your main meals, keep this image in mind and try to mimic it for good balance.
4) Take a Break
You can’t enjoy lunch if you don’t have time for it. Take time to have lunch outside your work space or away from your desk. You will feel more stimulated, eat less and at a slower pace, sit less and get to stretch out. Although we may not be able to socialize with our colleagues in the traditional sense through the pandemic, we can still engage in enjoyable things that take us away from our workloads. Stepping away can feel like time away from accomplishing your list of to do’s. But in fact, it is the very fuel that will help you cross off those items in a way that makes you feel satisfied that you’re turning in good quality work.
5) Eat Mindfully
Eating mindfully is another strategy for healthy eating and improved work and personal performance that has been gaining traction over the last few years. Eating mindfully is about considering every aspect of the environment in which we eat and turning inward to be intentional about the foods and portions we choose for ourselves. In doing so, we learn to listen to our hunger and fullness cues. We connect during a meal and develop a healthier relationship with food. Taking the time to eat and enjoy a meal is linked with satisfaction. And if we’re satisfied, we’re in a good mental space and more likely to approach the second half of our day with a more positive outlook to get more done.
6) Choose Drinks Wisely
Coffee seems to be a workplace staple. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having coffee during your workday. The caveat is to stay mindful of how much coffee you’re consuming. Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in coffee that counteracts neurotransmitters’ activities in the brain and stimulates the nervous system. That means that caffeine can make us feel jittery, nervous, anxious, give us headaches etc. The current Canadian recommendation is to have no more than 400mg of caffeine per day. To put that into perspective, 1 cup (250mL) of filtered coffee has 180mg of caffeine.
7) Move Your Body
Aerobic exercise is beneficial for both the heart and the head. It counteracts stress, anxiety and depression by chemical and behavioral factors. Chemical factors reduce the level of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins which are natural painkillers that elevate our mood. Behavioral factors contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. It feels motivating to be active and provides us with a sense of accomplishment that bolsters us to do more. When you’re having a tough day at work, going for a quick walk or doing some jumping jacks at home by your desk can do wonders to improve your mood and increase your productivity.
The next time you’re feeling a little low at work, look to your diet and lifestyle for a boost!
Have questions or want to book a virtual wellness workshop? Contact us, we love to help!