Posted 28 June 2016 | 0 Comments

The way we eat in and around work is having more and more of an impact on our bodies and our minds. Office hours are long and the temptation to grab something quick can lead to poor food choices both during the day and in the evening.

We are drawn to speedy, low effort solutions. Fast food, ready meals and processed foods are an often cheap, zero-thought option we reach for to make busy lives that little bit easier. The dangers are many, not only for our expanding waistlines but the physical and mental health issues that come along with them. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are on the rise. At the same time, there are swathes of men and women battling with body image issues causing depression, anxiety and dangerous eating disorders.

To help the team here at ASG, we introduced free healthy breakfasts (fruit, cereals, porridge etc.) as well as encouraging participation in charity sporting events like the Chester Half Marathon. On its own however this is not enough. The fast food empties and receipts for cookies and cakes are piling up! Being mindful is half the battle; we must be aware of our choices if we want to lead long, healthy lives. With that in mind, we have created a list of things to watch out for:

Sedentary life

Most office workers are seated for the majority of the working day between 9am and 5pm. That’s a whopping 7 hours if you don’t include an hour for lunch. To top that off, the majority (68% according to statistics) travel to work by car or van which means the commute isn’t helping our waistlines either!

If you are one of the many millions who drive to work and sit for the majority of the day, there are still plenty of things you can do to protect your health. Some suggestions from our office include:

  1. Take the stairs and skip the lift. (that’s an elevator for our colonial cousins)
  2. Walk over to your colleague to ask a question rather than emailing
  3. Get your own drinks and resist offers from friends to fetch these for you – a little bit of time walking and standing by the kettle or water cooler will help break up the time you spend sitting still
  4. Walk to the printer, don’t wait for someone else to bring your documents over
  5. Get an air-filled wobble cushion for your chair and keep moving while seated. The muscle work that keeps you balanced will strengthen your core and can help reduce the effects of many back problems. (Editors note: that’s a suggestion straight from the mouth of my physiotherapist!)
  6. Whether you’re a smoker (bad for you, really bad, stop!) or not, you should take a couple of short breaks away from your desk every day to stretch your legs, rest your eyes and stop the rot

Another option you could choose, though it may be too extreme for a lot of us, is a standing desk or replacing your office chair with an exercise ball.

Cakes, Cookies and Easy Access Snacks

Birthday cake for the office is usually a one off treat and a lovely way to celebrate your colleagues. The level of diet danger is pretty low but it becomes higher the more people you work with. More people = more birthdays. We’re certainly not suggesting that we stop celebrating but it’s wise to think about how recently you last indulged when deciding how big of a slice to opt for.

Office ‘treats’ go beyond Birthdays. Consider how many times your colleagues have brought sweets back from holiday, cookies ‘just because’ or encouraged the office junior to grab a few extras when they pop out to get milk/tea bags. It feels like a one-off but they all add up. It’s not that you have to avoid sweets and cakes all together, just keep track of your choices.

Tea, Coffee and Other Drinks

Tea and coffee in moderation are fine. More than fine, they’re delicious! The problem with office brews is that it’s so easy to forget how much milk you’re consuming and worse, how much sugar you might be adding to your diet. Most of us just don’t consider this when we say yes to another hot drink. We worry about having too much caffeine perhaps but, since most people don’t consider tea/coffee when they look at their daily food intake, it’s likely there’s a whole heap of sugar and milk going unnoticed.

The same goes for fizzy drinks – the sugar adds up when you’re drinking a bottle every day.

Keep an eye on what you’re having and if it feels too much consider swapping in a glass of water or fruit/herbal tea.

Note: Be mindful when you grab a coffee on your commute. Many places will give you semi skimmed or even full fat milk unless you request otherwise. Add to that the sugar or syrup that may be thrown in for flavoured drinks and you have a recipe for diet disaster!

Fast Food

Where do we begin?

To say fast food is bad for you is a massive understatement. As a one-off treat (or last resort depending on how you feel about it) fast food won’t do you much harm. Unfortunately, for an ever growing number of people, a quick burger and fries becomes a regular thing. In fact, one past employee who shall remain nameless was known to have at least one McSomething every single day – often for breakfast and lunch!

One issue with fast food is that we are fooled by portion sizes. The most common way to interpret the amount of food/energy we’re consuming is what we see on the plate but studies show fast food contains roughly double the number of calories as a pasta and salad meal of the same size. That’s a huge difference and will have serious effects when eaten regularly.

Many view fast food as an efficient lunch solution, reducing the time spent away from the desk. If this is your approach (and keep in mind you really should be taking a proper lunch break) preparing a healthy lunch the night before is actually a much better solution.

Offices are a minefield of fast food temptation. It only takes one person to grab a burger or announce they are making a food run and before long the scent/idea has broken the will of many. If you haven’t already got a lunch planned, it can be very easy to give in. That leads us nicely to the next point…

Failure to plan is planning to fail

You’ll no doubt have heard the saying “Never shop on an empty stomach”. Well, it’s so common because it’s true! When we’re hungry, we often opt for much larger portions than we actually need. Even when we make a good choice like a salad, hunger encourages us to grab crisps and a fizzy drink too. Plan ahead, beat the cravings!

Just think how much harder it is to say no to a naughty treat when you’re stomach is growling. If you prepare a healthy lunch the night before, you will vastly reduce the chances of saying yes to that burger or packet of crisps – your bank balance will benefit too.

Jerry’s Final Thought

If you take away anything from this blog, we hope it will be that being mindful is huge factor in achieving a healthier life. You don’t have to ban snacks all together or count every calorie, just think about what you’re doing. Move around, pay attention to your drinks as well as food and say no to treats every now and then. If you can do that, you’re on your way!

Our Top Tips for a Healthy Working Life

  1. Don’t pick your lunch on an empty stomach: We make bad choices when we’re desperate for a food boost.
  2. Plan for snacking: A lot of the “oh I’ll just have one treat” decisions we make come from not having a plan for hunger between meals. It is a lot easier to say no to biscuits when you have something tasty (and healthy) waiting in the wings.
  3. Swap in some fruit/herbal tea: If you can’t face cutting your hot beverage intake, and sugar-free coffee sounds like hell then try adding fruit or herbal teas to the menu. You never know, you might prefer them.
  4. Drink plenty of water: Make sure you drink enough water each day. On top of the general health benefits and the fact that a hydrated mind is much more alert; remember that our bodies often mistake thirst for hunger. Water really can save your waistline! If you’re feeling snacky, have a glass of water and see if you still need that biscuit.
  5. Get up and move whenever you can: Refer back to our list further up the page to see ways you can increase your movement throughout the day. The gist? If you can walk/stand instead of sitting, even for a moment, get out of your seat and get those muscles working!
  6. Go for a walk at lunchtime: Step away from the desk… Working through lunch or taking your break at the desk is something we all do sometimes. When it’s pouring with rain we can’t blame you for skipping the exercise, but try to make sure you go for a wander more often than not and you will soon feel the difference.
  7. Say “No” sometimes: We are often so worried about offending, or being left out that we say yes when we should really say no. You don’t have to get involved in every breakfast run, lunch out and drinks session or chip in for cookies and cakes whenever asked. Once these things become too frequent, your bank balance and your body will take a hit.
  8. Everything in moderation: The last point carries on quite nicely into this. Moderation is quite possibly the most important point of all. If you try to deny yourself all the time, you will not only be pretty miserable, but also more likely to crumble and binge. Many dieticians suggest including the occasional treat in your diet – A chocolate bar now and again is not going to tank an otherwise balanced diet/lifestyle. Just try not to go full Dibley and stick your head in a chocolate fountain!

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