As more people are working from home, it’s important now more than ever to nourish our physical and mental health. Remaining positive during these uncertain times and continuing to strive for progression is crucial.
Fitstop Dietitian, Claudia Cramer, lists 6 helpful tips to assist you with staying on track during these times.
When working from home, it’s easy to fall out of a normal routine. Being in a different work space and having food on hand 24/7 can be stressful. It’s especially beneficial at this time to be planning out your meals so you have a rough idea of how your day is going to look, food-wise. Working from home also has the potential to lead to more snacking and lead to possible overeating as food is generally more accessible than being in a shared work-space.
Setting a routine is simple, and it doesn’t need to be overcomplicated or overwhelming. This might be as simple as writing down a basic plan for the day. You only need to set aside 5 minutes in the morning to jot down what your food-plan is for the day which will set you up in a positive mind-set for the whole day. You can stay focused on work and aim to minimise distractions by thinking about what you’re planning on eating and when.
For example: Eggs on toast for breakfast, snack and coffee at around 11am, lunch at 1:30pm, snack at 3:30pm and make dinner after ‘work’ finishes for the day. Having something to refer to during the day may reduce mindless eating at the desk or stopping for food breaks every 15 minutes because it’s easily accessible and not planned out.
Adding to this ‘plan’ for the day is the importance of still having a good food routine. This is made a little bit more difficult being at home for the majority of the day and snacks are readily available, but it’s definitely still possible. If you are used to having a certain ‘structure’ or ‘food routine’ then try to replicate this (or as close as) when working from home. For some, this might be as simple as 3 main meals. For others, it might be 2 main meals, 3 snacks and a coffee. Aim to ensure you are sticking to similar habits ‘pre-isolation’ to assist with reducing any tension or added stress during this time.
What we eat is important, however how we eat and the environment in which we eat it, is just as important. Having food scattered over your work desk may lead to overeating and mindless snacking, just as having a clean, organised desk may lead to better food choices throughout the day.
1. Reduce likelihood of mindless eating
Keep your desk clear from foods that are easily accessible and likely to ‘mindlessly eat’. This includes: chocolates, biscuits, chips and lollies.
2. Replenish your work station
Once de-cluttered, you may like to replenish your work station with some healthier options for snacks: such as popcorn or fresh fruit. Even having some bright fresh flowers can be a simple way to improve mood.
3. Eat away from your desk
Have a designated eating area that is away from your desk. Even if this means eating from the kitchen bench or outside on a deck, distinguish an area away from your ‘work’ space. This can be beneficial to making healthier choices by switching into that ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ which is what system we need to be in for optimal digestion of foods.
4. Reduce distractions when eating
Aim to keep this designated area ‘stress free’. We know digestion is optimised when we are eating in a calm, stress-free (or as stress-free as possible) state. It’s optimised when we are focusing solely on what we are about to eat and not distracted by watching the television or scrolling through your phone while eating. This may be hard. But we really want to focus on our digestion which starts as soon as we start smelling and tasting food.
5. Chew your food
To continue with this, ensuring we are doing our due diligence with digestion, which means really chewing our food. Chewing helps assist the digestive process and is where breakdown of food starts to happen with specific enzymes in the mouth.
6. Be aware of mindless ‘binging’ and ‘emotional eating’
At times, when we are stressed (or even other emotions such as sadness) we may often lose touch with how physical hunger and fullness actually feel. This can be more a myriad of reasons, however, food is commonly used for some temporary comfort or happiness. This can sometimes lead to mindless eating or ‘binging’ on foods which may have little nutritional value or deemed to some as ‘bad’. One trick you might like to employ to see if you are actually ready for that snack or just eating because you may be distracting yourself or overwhelmed is by observing whether you want a particular food or just any food. For example: ‘emotional hunger’ might feel like, ‘I could really go for a biscuit from ‘x,y,z’ right now. Whereas ‘physical hunger’ might feel like, ‘I’m reading for a snack now, my stomach is starting to growl a little and I’ll go see what I can make’. Physical hunger is less about a particular food and more of a physical sensation. For more information on this and useful tools to implement, head here.
7. Take regular breaks
Just like you would do in the work-place, taking regular breaks is great for your mental health and to ensure optimum productivity when you are working. It is recommended to take breaks every 2 hours. This might only need to be a small walk outside to get some fresh air or a quick stretch to get the blood flowing. You could use this time to make a cup of tea or listen to some music, any activity that gets you up and moving for a few minutes so you’re not sedentary all day.
8. Give yourself a non-food reward
If you’re someone who needs to set smaller goals and ‘rewards’ to get through the day, that’s fine. However, when we make them ‘food rewards’, it may lead to overeating and irregular eating patterns. Choose other non-food rewards which could include: social media time, netflix, podcasts, playing with a pet, or even exercise if that’s a motivator to you to get through the day.
These are uncertain times, however do not let that be an excuse to not stay on track and move forward with physical or health goals. Just because we are spending more time at home doesn’t mean we can flick the switch and not continue to nourish our bodies and mind. We won’t be stuck inside forever, so instead of saying ‘I’ll start again when I go back to work’, think about what you can do NOW which will pave the way for healthy habits you can take with you when isolation eventually surpasses.
If it’s overwhelming, start by simply observing how you’re operating at home and if this is indeed a positive and nurturing environment. If not, use any of these tips as a starting point to make changes and act on them. Time will continue anyway so it’s important to find the motivation you need to continue to strive and progress towards your goals.
*If you need individual nutrition support during this time, it is recommended to speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individualised help.