9 Essential Tips to Help You Stick to Your Nutrition Plan at Work
Posted on 29th March 2016 at 09:20
Don't let work and life get in the way of your plan. Here are my top tips.
Everyone starts out with the best intentions when it comes to eating healthy. They mentally prepare themselves, look up recipes and galvanize themselves on the thought of how they will look at the end. But then Monday comes around, they go to work and within 3 hours of arriving it all goes wrong. ‘the café doesn’t have anything healthy today’, ‘sure I’ll have a doughnut’, ‘I’m so hungry, ill snack on some crisps’, the sound-track to another ‘healthy eating’ derailment. To assist you in meeting this and other daily challenge and being able stick to your nutrition plan, today’s article captures my top 9 tips for nutritional navigation during your busy work life.
Before becoming a personal trainer working outside the 9-5 work window, I too worked a 9-5 shift and so know exactly the constraints imposed by a daily structure dictated by others. But my experiences are not everyone’s, so, to assist in writing today’s article, I’ve spoken with a few of my clients who are currently working the 9-5 and asked them where their difficulties in pursuing a healthy lifestyle arise. What follows is the advice I have given them on tackling these obstacles, or how they have managed to work the system in their favour.
1) Use your workday structure to your advantage, not as an excuse.
The benefit of a regular 9-5 job with a regular schedule is that you already have a built in structure to your day. Little surprises, such as a last minute emergency fire drill, may still lurk around corners, but you will largely have a good idea of your deadlines and regular meetings. Use this pre-set out schedule to pencil in 5 minutes to eat, enabling you to get your 4 daily meals (1 before work, 2 at work & 1 at home). Personally, I use my iPhone calendar and create an event for my meals, setting a reminder so that I don’t forget.
2) Get those around you on board.
A lot of my clients tell me how they feel like the ‘black sheep’ at work, and that the people around them simply don’t understand what they are doing. This is touched on in my free eBook (available here), but people are a lot more likely to understand if you explain to them why you are doing it.
Explain to your boss that you need 5 minutes to eat, reminding him of the studies that have shown healthy employees to be more cost effective and productive. Also remind him that there is more than likely a significant number from the office going out for 3-4 smoke breaks a day, so it’s only fair you be allowed 5 mins to eat. I’ve even had to use this one when I worked at a health club where I wasn’t allowed to eat outside my allotted lunch break, sometimes leaving me 6 hours with no food. After explaining how many people were having smoking breaks they were a lot more receptive, , particularly after I explained how tired, lethargic and moody I could become without food.
3) Make sure that you can explain your reason why
It’s essential that you identify why you have chosen to do this healthy eating thing. But unfortunately that alone is not enough. You need to be able to give an ‘elevator pitch’ of your reason why, so that you don’t feel silly and get caught off guard by people at work.
By elevator pitch I mean that you need to be able to explain your reason why in a 30 second elevator ride.
This is because you will undoubtedly get someone ask you ‘so what’s all this healthy eating about?’ and if you don’t have your elevator pitch ready to explain to the exactly why you will be caught off guard and open yourself up to such mindless comments like ‘oh well I’m not sure it will work’. But if you go straight in with a ‘POW!’ they will be taken back and realise that actually you are serious and you are a person on a very clear mission.
4) Prepare your meals in advance.
This is key for anyone wanting to succeed, whether office-bound or not. You should pre-prepare your food and take it into work with you. I suggest creating some variety with your food by rotating protein and fat/carb sources so that you aren’t always eating the same thing. Having your own food prepared and to hand means that you aren’t limited to what your work canteen is serving that day and you are in total control of what you eat.
Preparing your food also comes in handy if you have to work late for any reason. We all know hard it is to concentrate when you are tired and hungry. If you have a precooked meal to hand you will get an instant power up and may even finish your late night work early leading to more time at home and asleep in your bed!
5) Keep an emergency stash in your bag / desk.
We all know that even the most well thought out plan doesn’t always come off and life can throw you a curve ball at any minute. Because of this, I always advice having a back-up protein stash and nuts to hand. If disaster strikes, simply pour some water into a cup add the protein powder, crack open the nuts and, hey presto, you have a ‘healthy meal’ ready to roll. You might also keep Greens drink powder to hand just in case you fancy a blast of vitamins to keep you going between meals. Most of these drinks are naturally flavoured so you can trick your body into satisfying your sweet tooth as the same time.
6) Practice saying ‘no, thank you’ assertively and nicely.
There is always that one person at work who loves to bring in homemade cakes that invitingly smell up the office. Or that one bright spark who suggests the mid-week pizza hut lunch. But hopefully if you’ve followed tips 2 to 4, people around you will already be aware of what you are doing. So have some food pre-prepared to eat and, if you are in-between meals when food is thrown your way, you have a backup plan. It’s important that you learn to say ‘no thank you’ in these situations without sounding rude and coming across as the office snob. People will love to try and test you and then brag about how they ‘broke your resolve’, don’t give them the satisfaction; eventually they will realise you are serious about your goal and they will leave you be.
Eventually when you get the body that you want you will be in a place to say yes and enjoy all of life’s little luxury’s, but not yet! Be patient and good things will come.
7) Keep a list of go-to restaurants with healthy options.
Sometime you have to go to a business meeting at a restaurant and there is no way out of it. That is absolutely fine, but it’s no excuse to go off plan. Every single restaurant has a healthy option but you just have to know what you are looking for. Look up the menu in advance so you already know what to order, we all know the social pressure of ordering in a rush because, let’s face it, no one looks over the menu properly and in the heat of the moment you will panic order, especially when everyone else around you orders crap.
I’ve had clients go to the dirtiest burger restaurants and still be able to eat ‘healthy’ (well as well as you can in that situation). I simply got them to order 2 beef patties without the bun (make up an excuse that you think you may be celiac so trying no bread for a while), accompanied by 2 eggs and some veg or sweet potatoes fries if they had been able to train that day. Not ideal, but I can guarantee you its 100% better than what they would have ordered if they were left to their own devices. Almost ANY other restaurant will have meat & veg, and will edit anything to your specifications.
8) Make sure you eat breakfast before you go to work
Don’t skip over this advice just because you have heard it before! Breakfast is absolutely key to setting you up for the day. A recent study took 2 groups of children; the first was given a high carbohydrate breakfast, the second a high fat. Their lunch was the same and when it came to dinner they were told they could eat anything they wanted. The group who had the high carbohydrate breakfast consumed the most calories by far whereas the high fat group ate considerably less and claimed they felt fuller.
The moral of this story is a high fat breakfast with good quality meat will set you up for the day, keeping you fuller for longer. It will also stop your mid-morning slump as you run out of fuel. Wake up 15 minutes earlier and cook yourself some bacon and eggs or steak and eggs or an omelette.
Get creative, but get it done!
9) Stay hydrated and I don’t mean with coffee
It’s a well know ‘fact’ that if you feel hungry you may actually just be thirsty. We have all experienced that feeling of sudden hunger within an hour of eating. If you haven’t consumed enough water then it might be your body’s way of telling you that it needs water and that you are mistaking it for hunger. Try taking a 1 ltr bottle of water to work with you and try and get through at least 2 when you are at work and another 1 ltr before and after work. 3 ltrs of water a day should be your goal; I do allow green tea to be included, but not coffee, unfortunately, as that can actually lead to minor dehydration if consumed when you have had too little water.
Your cells need water to work optimally, and we are made up of our cells. So in order for us to functional optimally we need to give the cells what they need. In this case it’s simply making sure you have been drinking enough water.
How many of you have come up against problems eating healthy at work?
I would love to hear from you – comment on the link to this article on The Facebook page and share your stories
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