Nutrition at Work
We often view work as synonymous with stress, worry, exhaustion, burnout, tedium or lifelessness. We forgo our well-being for a paycheck and promotion, or vice versa. But viewing happiness and achievement as two disparate goals inevitably leads to bitterness, indifference, burnout or a job change.
We tell ourselves, “If only I could change my job, I’d do much better.” But, as I’m sure your rational side reminds you, we can only place so much blame on our jobs. We need to consider how our daily conduct, namely nutrition, may be undermining our ability to be productive and enjoy our work. With the right nutrition you can be more resistant to stress, energetic, optimistic, hard working, confident, motivated and effective, allowing you to make fewer errors of judgment or absent-minded mistakes. You’ll be able to address problems in a more effective manner because you can think more clearly and aren’t as stressed, mentally taxed or fed up.
In order to attain positive and steady gains in a life-long career, it is imperative to choose the foods that will enable a harmony between achievement and happiness. We must remember, in part, to hold ourselves accountable for the way we view our work situation and not totally fault our employer or the economy. And maybe you do just need a new job. But in the meantime, nutrition can help you minimize the negative effects of your current situation, while helping to impart the needed strength to pursue a better one.
Although establishing the right nutrition plan is a complex and individual process that a professional can help guide you through, the following three truths are foundational to any plan of action:
The body recognizes stress as a state of illness.
In a state of illness, the body uses up more nutrients than it does in a healthy, relaxed state.Water-soluble nutrients (vitamin B complex, vitamin C and all minerals) are especially stripped during times of stress. These nutrients are responsible for energy production and relaxation, without which you become even more stressed, leading you into a vicious cycle. So in order to revive from this stress, you require an abundance of water-soluble nutrients. (Do note that the best and most effective source of nutrients is generally through food, so although a multi-vitamin may be helpful it really may not measure up to the task.) When you acknowledge the simple fact that stress is recognized as a state of illness and care for yourself accordingly, you will possess a major advantage over your stressed-out, nutrient-deplete competitors.
Effective digestion leads to an effective mind.
If your digestion is disrupted, so too is everything else — concentration, drive, sound reason, ingenuity and any other quality needed for work performance.The benefits of digestion — and the methods in which to optimize digestion — is an in-depth study we cover extensively in our seminars. But for right now, an action you can take is to avoid packaged food that is highly processed and full of chemicals and artificial additives. When you consume such difficult-to-digest foods, blood is sent to the digestive organs rather than to the brain, leaving you more lethargic and dim-witted than you are supposed to be. Ineffective digestion also means you will not be able to assimilate as many nutrients that your brain needs for optimal function. Probiotic-rich foods are paramount for digestion since they replenish the gut of good bacteria that help break down your food. Furthermore, I’m a HUGE proponent of understanding the relationship between foods and using strategies to elevate the synergistic effect of everything we eat. By understanding how foods assist and support one another, you can optimize digestion and nutrient assimilation. For instance, acidic foods, such as lemon, vinegar and tomatoes, help break down fats and protein. When consuming whole grains, you can help control insulin by also consuming cinnamon or green tea.
Tailor your nutrition to support your situation, responsibilities and objectives.
Just like people with different biological makeups require different nutrition, different jobs require different foods.For example, an analyst who writes reports all day requires foods that foster introspection and stamina, while a sales rep may require foods that foster charisma and liveliness.For an in-depth discussion on how to tailor your nutrition to support your work, we invite you to attend our seminars. In the mean time, consider the following foods to improve your capacity to accomplish your goals and responsibilities, while helping to diminish your stress:
- Vegetables, especially the green variety, help to regulate and enhance our entire system. They are a treasure trove of the vitamins and minerals depleted during times of stress.
- Fats, especially Omega 3’s, are necessary for strong neural activity and accelerated mental calculation. However, trans or hydrogenated fats will generate the opposite effect by breaking down our neural tissue. High quality saturated fats can be highly beneficial, especially coconut oil, but in excess may make you feel mentally and physically sluggish. Combining fats with spices, herbs and acidic foods like lemon or vinegar help to dissolve and digest the fat.
- High-quality protein, especially fish, can help with focus, concentration, energy and heightened motivation. In excess, however, protein is associated with compulsiveness and aggression.
- Complex carbohydrates (well chewed!) can help reduce anxiety and promote peace of mind. If a person cannot focus because they are unable calm down, then whole grains may be more beneficial than protein for concentration. However, carbohydrates may not be the right medicine for people that feel unmotivated and unengaged. It is important to combine carbohydrates with plenty of mineral-rich vegetables since they can spike blood sugar.
- Coffee, sugar, spicy foods, tobacco and other stimulants gear you up for intense cognitive and physical activity. They stimulate blood flow to the brain and invite alertness, but perhaps only temporarily. Several hours later, you may have to pay the price with a miserable mood and anxiety that is symptomatic of withdrawal.
The beautiful thing about consuming omega 3’s and a variety of vegetables, along with optimizing your digestion, is that they give the body what it needs to regulate and balance itself. They impart both energy and relaxation that, like achievement and happiness, most Americans assume cannot be felt in tandem. We think of energy as being a hyperactive production machine. Relaxation is felt after work when we plop on the couch completely dead and useless. In order to attain a goal of simultaneous energy and relaxation – achievement and happiness – we must eat foods that impart harmony and not those that blow through our digestive tract like a tornado. We must experience harmony and effortlessness inside of ourselves before we can expect to feel it outside of ourselves.
To learn more about how to enhance work performance through nutrition, inquire about the Nutrition at Work seminar series for employee training or attend the Nutrition and Mental Performance seminars.
Copyright 2011 Andréa Hammond