You want to be successful. You want to leave a lasting impression. But you also don’t want to work all the hours and give up all the things just to get there. The message we constantly hear from society is that it isn’t possible. But I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe that by taking care of our health will actually be better for our careers!
In my success series, I’m looking at how taking care of ourselves can actually make us better at our jobs. I was inspired by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s The Four Pillar Plan and have been exploring how each pillar can help us get our careers back and lead us to more success.
So far I have talked about how working less and relaxing more and how moving a little bit more each day improves your performance and making you more successful.
Today let’s talk food. In the past two articles I started out with some scary stats, this time I’m not going to go as heavy on those stats as I think most of us knows about the health consequences of diet. But I do want to talk about a few things. The decline of cooking and the rise of process food.
I love Michael Pollan, he is a voice that I look to for his thoughts and opinions and when it comes to food, his opinion is one that I respect the most. I’ve read his books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules and Cooked and have applied most of what he talks about to mine and my family’s eating.
In Cooked he talks about the decline of cooking, how less and less people cook at home (around 70%) and how those that do spend about 40 minutes less time cooking that our grandparents did. Plus he states that the definition of cooking is different, it used to be you grabbed ingredients and cooked a meal from that. Now cooking is from combining or assembling meals using “edible food like substances” meaning not a whole food.
And it makes sense. If you think back to the first part of this series, Relax Your Way to success, I talk about the increase in hours worked and commuting. So if you are spending half of your day either working or going to work then obviously that means you have less time and energy to cook. So assembling a meal sounds pretty enticing!
If you took that article seriously by realizing that actually reducing the hours you work that you will be more successful in your job and career then hopefully that did free up an hour. And maybe some of that hour could be used to cook whole food dinners (and lunches). And if you are able to do that, I’m sure you will see an improvement on your work performance and productivity.
Whole Food Diet = More Success
An eye opening study completed by the International Labour Organization showed that poor diet led to a 20% reduction in work productivity of employees! It impacts morale, safety and performance of workers and leads to increased time off work as well. Kind of hard to reach for the stars when you are holding yourself back huh?
In our busy lives it seems so much easier to take shortcuts or to find ways to boost our energy to get us through the work day. Which means that if we want to do this, eat our way to success, then we need to find the biggest bang for our “time” bucks. After spending hours trying to make sense of it all, I’ve narrowed it down to 2 things:
1. Eat for Your Brain
A processed diet is not a diet that nourishes our brains properly which means that they do not function as well as they could. But if we focus on the foods that optimize our brain functioning then we can reap the rewards of more energy, our moods will be stabilized (meaning we can handle the roller coaster of life just a little bit easier!), we are able to think more clearly, our memory will be better and we will be more creative.
If you google “what to eat for brain health” there are endless lists of things to eat! But the most common ones are:
2. Drink Your Water
Speaking of water, there was a pretty scary study done that showed that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Drinking water during the day can be really hard, we get so busy and we forget. Plus with working too many hours, and not sleeping well we are all so very tired which means we probably drink too much coffee!
If we drink our water (or other non-caffeinated or non-alcoholic drinks) throughout the day we not only hydrate ourselves and our brain but we also improve our time management abilities, our ability to plan and increase our energy levels. Our brains need a lot of water, so when we drink our water we make sure our mind is clear, our memory is improved and our moods aren’t all over the place.
EVERYDAY TIPS FOR EVERYDAY SUCCESS
So before I jump into this section I want to say I won’t be prescribing any specific diet (ie Vegan, Paleo, Keto) as I truly believe that there exists a different diet out there for each of us. Also, I’m not a health expert! I am just as confused as most people out there about all the conflicting advice that exists. But one thing I do know is that when you get down to the basics of most “diets”, you see a pattern:
Eat whole foods that you cook yourself.
So that is what I want to focus on, finding tips and tricks to make that just a little bit easier and more realistic to achieve in our hectic lives.
1. Cut Out Processed Food.
So I’m not saying to do this all in one host. Though if you want to, 100 Days of Real Food is an amazing resource!
For my family it has been a slow and long journey that will continue on for the rest of our lives. We took baby steps. The first thing we did was try to cut out foods with more than 5 ingredients (as recommended by 100 Days of Real Food). This meant we only bought Triscuits for crackers. It meant that most sauces and prepared foods were out.
Over the last decade we cut out more and more processed foods. So now we buy very little. And it seemed easy because we took those baby steps!
2. Cook More
How many nights do you cook a meal from scratch each week? How many meals are made out of whole foods (and not cooked for you by a restaurant!). Maybe try to cook just 1 more meal this week. And maybe double or triple that recipe so that you have food for leftovers (another dinner or maybe lunch?). Try that for a month or two. Once that has become easy, add on another meal. Keep at it and eventually almost all of your meals will be cooked from scratch using real food!
3. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Last year I read an amazing book, “How Not To Die”. I talk about it all the time (the title always makes people laugh!). It really had an impact on how we eat. It is a massive book collecting and reviewing years and years of research so obviously I’m not going to get into all of it.
But there was some information on fruit that was really eye opening for me. The most important dietary risk is not getting enough fruit in our daily diet, something that is responsible for an estimated 4.9 million deaths a year around the world. Nothing else even comes close to that. FRUIT! Who doesn’t love fruit – a crisp apple, a sweet berry or refreshing watermelon. Talk about an easy way to improve our health.
Take a look at that list of brain foods, notice the emphasis on greens (like spinach and kale), cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage), antioxidant rich fruits and veggies (like berries and peppers). Eating more fruits and vegetables increases our brain functions and they are loaded with water so they also help keep us hydrated! Win. Win. Win.
4. Take Your Lunch Break
This is the 3rd time I’ve had this on my list! But when we skip our lunch we are more likely to grab fast food or heat up a frozen dinner to eat quickly while we work at our desk. If you leave your desk and take a proper break with a proper meal (and maybe that walk!) then you are less likely to go through that afternoon slump. I know I always notice my energy and performance when I have had a healthy lunch.
5. Do Some Meal Planning and Prep
As someone who loves structure it probably comes as no surprise that I do a lot of meal planning. In fact this summer I created a 12 week meal plan for the fall (I love not having to come up with a plan every week!). Having any sort of plan though (even if it is planning just 1 day ahead) means that when it is dinner time you aren’t having to come up with something when you are tired and worn out. It means you are more likely to stick to the plan of cooking your dinner from whole foods. If you want my meal plan for ideas, let me know I’ll be happy to share it!
Meal Prep has been game changing for me as I know it has for millions of people. Each week I devote at least 1 hour to doing some prep and it makes week night dinners and lunches so much easier. Most of the time it is just cutting up all the veggies so that it is easy and ready to go once it is cooking time. That way we can have as many servings of veggies as possible (we always have 1 cooked and 1 raw (either veggies or salad)) with dinners. Sometimes it is pre-making some parts of dinner or making a bunch of lunches. It all depends on the weekend.
6. Drink Your Water
Well this one is pretty obvious! Try and aim for 8, 8 oz glasses of water a day. Get a water bottle with a goal of drinking it by a pre-specified time, find an app that will help remind you.
Don’t like water? Try adding fruits, vegetables or herbs to it to add flavour. Find a sparkling water (like La Croix, PC Blue Menu) that only adds natural flavour, no added sweeteners or sugars.
I don’t know about you but I want to do everything within my power to set myself up for success. And if taking a little bit more time in the kitchen will do it, then I’m game. I love putting on some great music or an interesting podcast (or even getting lost in a story in my head, classic INFJ) while I cook. It took some time to get here but I now look forward to that time every day. And from my personal experience, when I’m eating right, I’m working better and smarter. And when my husband is eating right, he is sharper and more productive. So for us, cooking whole foods and reducing our dependence on process foods as really allowed us to eat our way to success.
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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