Food for Thought: fuelling productivity

There’s an office food culture that could be working against your ability to be energized, focused and cool-headed.

The main culprits?

Coffee: The coffee machine is a central feature of any office, and we are all implicitly encouraged to partake in this morning (or day-long) ritual. You might feel productive after your second or third cup, but maybe you’re part of the population for whom a caffeine addiction is really fuelling your anxiety and distraction.

Sweets: Wow, another birthday! and a cake! From the constant celebrations in the boardroom to the treats, candies and pop that grace our kitchenettes and vending machines, sugar is another office staple that creates the illusion of an energy boost. However, the insulin-induced crash means you either risk falling asleep at your desk, or riding the blood-sugar roller-coaster all day long. The result is a metabolic and emotional drain on your body and brain, with little energy at the end of the work day for your non-work life.

Fast food: Whether it’s your daily commute grind that’s eating away at your morning, or an ongoing brown-bag strike you’ve waged since high school, you may find yourself eating out or ordering in from the same pizza counters, sub shops and burrito stands for lunch most days. You then may find yourself trying to not pass out around 2, and having to buy continually ‘roomier’ work pants. Though initially satisfying, this carby, salty and fatty food is putting all kinds of stress on our organs and our belt notches.

Since we aren’t going to change ourselves and our office culture overnight, here are a few things to try when building more productive eating into our work life:

Green your first cup: If your anxiety is running high and planning abilities are running low, try turning your first – and third – cups of joe into a cup of green tea. It’s got metabolism and cancer prevention benefits, but mostly it has way less caffeine – it’s a good way to check the way your addiction feeds these other barriers to productivity. You’ll probably want to start on the weekend to accommodate your caffeine withdrawl headache, and begin to notice coffee’s effect on your nerves and your brain.

Does my liver look fat? Take a sugar break: Pick one day a week to go refined sugar-free, and give your liver a break to recover from the sugar overload we expose it to. Replace pop, juice and sweets with herbal tea, water and fruit – and watch your brain and body get irrationally angry with you. Your obsessive thoughts about candy and baked goods will be comical once observed, and the sugar-pusher co-worker will loose their tempting grip on your day and your insulin levels. Again, try this on a weekend first and ease it into your work week with a morning here and an afternoon there.

Start a Salad Club: Grab some of your favourite colleagues, pick a regular day you’re all in the office, and start your very own healthy lunch ritual. Everyone in the club brings 2 things – a vegetable and a protein/grain – chops it up and lays it out in salad bar fashion. Kick things off with a couple of fancy salad dressings, and you have at least one day a week where you are feeling less greasy and more health-conscious. It’s also excuse-free, as grabbing a bag of carrots and some almonds doesn’t require much planning, money or effort on anyone’s part.

Taking these baby steps should be celebrated – helping your body to be a better support to your work productivity is a project of its own, but you’ll be building a noticeably happier and healthier workplace if you try and succeed.

Photo credit: doug88888 on Flickr