I’m relatively certain that we all understand a car needs gasoline to run. Using the top-quality “premium” grade will make it run much better than filling it with the cheapest, lowest-grade of gasoline we can find. Then why the heck do so many of us think it’s okay to work a 10-hour day, either eat nothing at all, or grabbing a candy bar out of the vending machine, and still be able to function?
Just like cars, our bodies need refueling in order to keep us “running,” both physically and mentally. Furthermore, filling our bodies with low nutritional, unhealthy food choices is equivalent to putting the lowest grade of gasoline in our car. It may run for a while, but not to its maximum capacity, and eventually will putter out and shut down.
In fast-paced societies, like the United States and Singapore, our hectic lifestyles are typically the culprits for compromising our eating habits. I’m the last one to give advice on this subject, as it is now 1:30 pm, and I haven’t eaten anything yet today! I did open a can of Slim-Fast (I’m trying to lose weight) about 20 minutes ago, and have only taken about three gulps. I do promise to finish the can, while I write this. I will tell you something though, from my experience, not eating does not always make you lose weight. If that were true, I’d weigh about 76 pounds!
Recently, the New York Times published an article about obesity. They’ve found a new cause — workplace inactivity. Jobs that require a medium amount of physical activity have dropped from 50%, in 1960, to 20% today. That’s 30% folks. We typically sit on our butts for 8 to 10 hours a day, then get in our car and drive home. I don’t know anyone who stands while driving, so we sit some more. And, what do we do when we get home? Sit in front of the TV, or at the computer. Then, we lie down in our beds and go to sleep. Physical inactivity at the workplace (and outside of it) plays a big part in why Americans are more obese than ever.
When my sons were younger, during summer vacations, they sat in front of the computer, or TV, playing computer games, till late at night long, then slept a lot during the day. When I was a kid I went outside, in the fresh air, and used my imagination. Just for the record, both my boys were considerably overweight at the time.
Eating healthy is essential to feeling good and performing efficiently at work. It can help prevent obesity, heart disease, stomach and metabolic problems. I’m too busy at work,” is the number one excuse for not taking time out to eat a healthy meal. One out of 10 employees never take a lunch break, and those who do usually get only a 15-30 minutes. Ironically, these people, “too busy” to eat right or exercise are the same ones you typically see outside, having a cigarette break, five times a day!
Scientists have been doing research on how our brains are affected by what we put into our bodies. It is now known that what we eat can sharpen our mental acuity.
The following are some of their findings and healthy eating tips:
- Fish is called “brain food” for a reason. Tuna and salmon have omega-3 fatty acids called DHA. This is essential for our nervous system and prevents memory loss.
- Folate, a B vitamin, found in orange juice, green vegetables and cantaloupe improve alertness.
- Choline, which is in egg yolks, peanuts and soybeans support neurotransmitters.
- Anti-oxidants, found in many foods, including pomegranates and prunes help fight off stress, and protect cognitive function.
- A turkey sandwich for lunch has tryptophan, which helps our brain produce serotonin. Serotonin levels are low in people with depression, so this could improve moods and sleep.
- Your body needs 11 to 15 cups of liquid per day to prevent dehydration, which causes concentration problems and fatigue. Dehydration is also terrible for the skin. Moderate your consumption of caffeine, sodas, alcohol, etc., which do more harm than good. In addition to water and other such liquids, watermelon, peaches and other fruits have high levels of water in them.
- Eat breakfast! I can’t stress this one enough. You have to “start your engine” before you can go anywhere. Whether it’s cereal, (not Cocoa Puffs) and milk, scrambled eggs and toast (no butter, no bacon) or simply yogurt and a banana, eat breakfast!
To make the most of your work performance, increase alertness and simply function and feel better, here are some more healthy eating tips:
- Avoid candy, cookies, etc., and other foods high in simple sugars. They will give you a quick surge of energy, but then make you feel less alert, less able to concentrate and less productive, in the long run. You might get a pounding headache as well.
- Avoid large meals and unhealthy fats. These are usually in fast foods and are energy-zappers. Eat smaller meals more often during the day. The more energy you need, the more frequent you should eat.
- Eat meals and snacks with protein. As proteins digest, it raises body temperature, which keeps you alert. Nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, low-fat dairy and tofu are good choices.
- One of the best ways to eat healthy at work is to bring food from home. This will guarantee that you have healthy meals and snacks. Stock up on non-perishable foods that can be kept in your desk, locker, etc. These are the items you snack on — not that crap from the vending machine. Make sure to restock, and vary food choices, so you don’t get bored
- Bring a water bottle to avoid dehydration. It’s easier to have water handy than having to run to the water fountain umpteen times a day
- Avoid eating at your desk. Desktops can have 400 times more bacteria than a toilet!! Also, when eating at your desk, often you won’t eat your food in a relaxed way and you’ll be gulping it down, which is not good for digestion. Get some fresh air, and a new attitude, by taking a quick walk outside. Read that book you’ve never had time for, but make sure to go somewhere other than your desk. Simply a change in scenery will do you good.
And just so you know, I did finish the Slim-Fast!