Founder and CEO of Weight2Lose Medical Clinics in Toronto, Canada, BKin, Honours.
Remote living and physical distancing are now the primary modes of operation for many business leaders and their teams. Work is happening in remote environments, and many social activities have been replaced with technological connections.
Perhaps you can relate.
If you find you’re spending more time at home, increasingly making your professional and personal connections via phone and internet, your habits have likely been impacted. Maybe you’re not grooming or dressing as carefully as before. And, for sure, your eating habits have been impacted.
For some, health-oriented behaviors and relationships to food have been positively impacted by the pandemic. Reducing the amount of time spent commuting or socializing outside of the home has given some people enhanced clarity and a conscious connection of every decision related to their long-term health. Mindful eaters may be cooking more meals rather than eating out, focusing on healthier snack options and learning new principles that guide their food consumption and exercise.
While some business leaders and employees have become healthier during the pandemic, it’s had the opposite effect for many others. The structure of daily routines has been removed and, by association, changed their eating habits. For many people, the changing relationship to food has a deep connection to mental and emotional health.
If you’re in this latter group, improving your relationship to food consumption will require intentionality. Here is a three-step process to help you develop healthier eating and a bonus step to encourage your team to do the same:
1. Track your eating choices.
Take a few days to track your eating habits, especially times when you may be overeating or eating while not physically hungry. The pandemic may have you watching more TV or spending more time in front of the computer. Either way, the extra time spent in close proximity to your kitchen has likely led to larger portion sizes and unnecessary additional meals. Keeping a food log can help you become more conscious of your decisions.
Anytime you feel overly full or decide to eat more than you think you should, pull out your food journal. Record the date and time, what you ate and how much, how hungry you were and your feelings before and after eating. Knowing the thoughts and emotions tied to your food consumption will help you reduce or eliminate unnecessary snacking and extra servings.
2. Identify your values.
What goals and experiences affect your motivation? Maybe you want to be able to build a health care business, travel extensively, complete a degree, celebrate milestones with your family, perform in front of an audience or play with your children without getting winded.
Whatever or whoever is important to you, your health journey begins by acknowledging those goals and the people you love. Use them as motivators to develop and maintain healthier practices.
3. Make value-driven decisions.
When you start to reach for a snack, pause. Take a deep breath to slow your senses and your thoughts. Take account of what you’re feeling. If it’s something other than true hunger, consider a different activity. Going on a short walk can get you over the emotional hump and give you some extended time to recall the reason you want to make healthier decisions. As a bonus, the change of scenery would likely help pull you out of the snacking cycle.
When you busily move through the day tired or preoccupied, eating can be a mindless activity, especially at work. It doesn’t require much thought to munch on chips or cookies to calm a rumbling stomach. A good example of this comes from Google.
There was a time in Google’s history when M&M’s were prominently placed in dispensers around the offices. Team members were eating so much candy that it raised concerns about employee health and wellness. So, Google’s leadership put together a team to study the problem.
The result was a plan to highlight healthier snack options, part of its overall goal to improve morale and productivity. In places where there were once M&M’s dispensers, glass containers filled with healthier options like fresh fruit, dried figs and nuts were added.
The candy wasn’t completely removed; M&M’s were placed in less prominent locations and in opaque containers. Once out of sight, employees consumed significantly less candy and fewer calories in just a couple of months. Google’s M&M’s issue is a true example of the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” If sugary foods are less accessible, you’ll likely consume less.
Mindful eating begins with a commitment to avoid emotional triggers. Once you decide to act in accordance with your values, develop a healthy grocery list and a kitchen organization system. Purchase mostly healthy foods, minimize indulgences and then store them in less prominent and harder to reach areas.
Encourage your team to become more healthy.
If you are struggling with healthy choices, chances are your team is too. I believe there is room for encouraging healthy behaviors in the workplace. Create space to talk about the challenges of working from home and how your workmates are managing their health. Here are ways you can encourage healthier habits in your team:
• Incorporate a team stretching session or a 15-minute workout break into each day.
• Host a weekly Zoom cooking class.
• Include a recipe for a quick and healthy lunch in your weekly newsletter.
• Host an office weight loss challenge.
Each person’s reasons for overeating will be unique, and yet all of our reasons have the same root: emotional and mental responses to life’s ups and downs. You can take back control of your health and prevent chronic diseases by identifying the emotions tied to your lifestyle decisions and realizing how your food consumption influences your ability to achieve your goals and desires and your productivity at work. When you get an instinctive urge to reach for a snack, a deep breath and a moment of personal reflection can help you recall the people and experiences you value most, and your quality of life will improve.
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