Eating Healthy At Work – Its All About The System
It is far too easy to be manipulated by the powers that be; for our diets to be imposed upon us by external stimuli. Enticing product promotions, effective product placements, advertisements, even peer pressure; these are some of the very strategies that prevent us from making optimum dietary decisions. We enter supermarkets with the right intentions but leave with undesirable foods. We head to food outlets, but leave with a ‘salad’ dripping in oxidized vegetable oils or dressings. And this is by no means cheap. In fact, the only reason in why we continue to do this day in day out can be boiled down to one thing: convenience.
Purchasing and preparing food in advance and lugging Tupperware around is not an attractive proposition. It also takes time, a resource in which Office Workers simply do not have enough of. We want to be spending our free time with our families, and pursuing hobbies in which we enjoy. Unless cooking falls within these two metrics, it can hamper the happiness we derive in our personal time and be seen as another chore. All is not bad with the ‘prepare in advance’ approach; it is in fact an effective long term strategy to not only save money but to ensure we are consuming healthy, nutritious produce. But it is not what is going to be suggested here.
Instead, we must learn to work with a system. A system that can be followed that ensures we make the correct choices. A system that helps us to create an Office Diet Plan. In many regards, they are not choices at all for there is no decision to be made. We must realise that food must be used in the context of fueling the body. It is about meeting the needs our cells – not pursuing foods for entertainment, for self-gratification and for taste. In other words – emotional eating.
We need to begin to actively seek out the most desirable foods. Desirable, in this respect, refers to the foods that suit our physiology, our genetic make-up, our goals and our circumstances. We must consume the right balance of macro nutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, fats, that suit our own individual preferences and lifestyle, we must experiment as to what aligns most appropriately.
Whilst the the tactics makes us guilty of shifting blame, we must be aware of why we may not be helping ourselves. The common mistake we too often make is that our food choices are made at the wrong times and when we are in the wrong physiological state:
We are tired,
Or we are hungry,
Or we are irritable.
These three things are all factors in poor food choices, so we must ensure that they are kept at bay. We also don’t want to be bogged down with decisions or suffer from paralysis by analysis.
Whilst the idea of having an expansive approach to food has merit, it can also lead to either consuming too many undesirable foods or foods that do not offer enough nutrition in general. Below we propose an eating strategy that does not require thought beyond the original inception. It will keep our bellies full (with no bloat) and our pockets fuller. It will help keep us lean. It will help us perform at our best. Tasks in the office will seem effortless, for our brain will be supplied with the energy required to work most efficiently. We will have enough energy to go out for walks during our lunch breaks, to exercise after work or to partake in sporting activities at any time of day. We will feel in harmony with our emotions, and feel optimistic and inspired to socialise. This is not about weight loss. This is about optimum performance.
This is where the idea of a system comes in; it overrides the common culprits and the reasoning’s behind our previous failures. By following a system we can plan in advance, and we can adapt it to our environment. Therefore the system can be suited to purchasing foods in a supermarket or eating out. In this way, the pyramid is an optimum strategy to combat our nutritional woes.
The system must meet the following criteria:
1) All food consumed is digestible for the individual
2) All food is the most affordable
3) All food is as nutritious as possible (vitamin and mineral density)
4) All food is convenient
5) All food is transportable
The The Office Diet Plan Pyramid has since been born.
The first letter has been taken from the 5 levels, it has thus been named the DANCE Food Pyramid. Its fitting, these principles will make us feel so good we will want to dance.
The levels are in order of importance – so from the bottom of the pyramid to the top.
Let us drill into it.
The DANCE Food Pyramid – The Levels
#5 Digestible and absorbable:
It’s quite simple: if we cannot digest what we are putting into our mouths, we are not obtaining the benefit of what the food potentially can offer. Put differently, there is no point in eating that particular item. If digestion is compromised, nutrients can simply pass through the body and be excreted in the waste. If this occurs, it does not matter what, when, or how the food is prepared. This is also not about how many vegetables or proteins that can be thrown down the hatch; this is about how many are used, utilized and absorbed. A well-functioning digestive system is a moving one; not one that is stagnant ‘blocked’ and clogged. It is not a system that is constipated, lethargic and heavy. We therefore must remember this when selecting food items, and preparing any meal in advance. We must be aware of the nuances that can exist between the different food groups such as:
Vegetables are more easily digested well cooked,
Proteins are more easily digestible when undercooked or their more raw state
Proteins take the longest to digest
Fruits and carbohydrates are more easily digested, it can be beneficial to eat them alone
And then there are other suggestions which can help us keep our digestion strong:
Ensuring adequate electrolyte balance and consuming sufficient and proportionate ratios of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium
Keeping Fibre reasonable and in one’s own tolerances; this can range from as little as 5g upward to 50g+ per individual. This also depends on stomach acid levels, gut flora, stress levels etc.
Acknowledging own personal food intolerances and selecting foods accordingly – Dairy may be an ideal staple for some, totally impractical for others. More protein may be required for more athletic individuals, less for more sedentary.
In an ideal world, we want our stomach to feel relatively flat, with hunger coming and going throughout the day accordingly. Bowel movements are often and easy to pass, are not offensive to the nostril and show no signs of malabsorption (food particles in the stool)
#4 Appetizing and affordable:
We have all been there; eating a food we utterly detest because it is on our office diet plan or some guru said it was healthy along the way. Sometimes, we hate it so much that we have to overload it with condiments or seasonings, or prepare it in such a way to hide the taste. This will not do. We want these eating habits to stick, we want to enjoy our lives and we deserve to eat food that we enjoy. This is not a chore, food is the substance of life, of energy. Foods selected therefore must be appetizing when purchased; not when they’ve been thrown around a frying pan in butter, garlic and salt.
Taking a turn, Grass-Fed Steak from a Cow that has descended from Ancient Egypt is all well and good, but can we actually afford it? The benefits we can gain from Organic foods cannot be doubted; the increase in vitamins and minerals that are obtained from these choices are considerable. We are also not subjected to hormones or other toxins of the animal or plant (think pesticides, herbicides and the like). However, we need to be able to purchase within reason. We are going to work to fund our passions, our families and our commitments – not to blow it all on overpriced and well-marketed branding. Whilst nothing is more important than our health it should not be all consuming. So if purchasing our holy produce means that our life suffers in other areas, then quite frankly, it’s probably not worth it. Moreover, our finances are like a pendulum, they are finite and must be balanced. In the context of purchasing food; over-paying for certain items would mean that we cannot afford other wholesome foods that have equal significance and importance to our health.
#3 Nutritious and wholesome:
Don’t be confused with the base layer, this is in fact very different. Stuck slap bang in the middle of our DANCE sandwich, we want our foods to be nutritious and wholesome. In this context, we want foods to be low in anti-metabolic substances. This will ultimately mean we are purchasing natural foods, or foods with the absolute minimum of ingredients. We should be able to pronounce everything listed on the label and ensure that it has not been chemically engineered in a laboratory. We want to be eating in line with nature, and how nature intended. An easy way to implement this rule for the most part and for the majority of us is that:
If it doesn’t grow out of the ground, fly or swim don’t eat it.
Alternatively, we must be aware that food today is highly processed. Let’s not be daft or too extreme, we must understand that processing can be of benefit and does not have to be all bad. Strained Fresh Pure Orange Juice provides all of the vitamins and minerals found in regular oranges but removes the fibre of the orange (indigestible); this can be a godsend to those with digestive difficulties or those removing fibre from their diets (IBS patients, those effected by SIBO). Take white rice as a second example; processed to remove the bran. Whilst brown rice does contain more nutrients to white rice on a gram to gram basis, brown rice is in fact loaded with anti-metabolic substances. The bran, which remains in brown rice, contains substances such as the “anti-nutrient” phytic acid rendering most of the other nutrition inaccessible. It is within the bran that substances exist to make it harder to digest; a defense mechanism of nature if you will. We therefore need to emphasize the right kind of processing; processing that makes a food more digestible and ultimately more nutritious,
Taking this further, ideally, plastic packaging will be at a minimum to avoid the phytoestrogens and other negative elements that have been linked to this method of packaging. We must not heat in plastic containers, as the plastics are leeched at higher temperatures, and coffee should be drunk from the cup and not through the plastic lid. This also means we use a plastic bottle once, and throw it away thereafter.
#2 Convenient and transportable
It’s all very well having a 10 ingredient salad, but is it physically possible to transport it to the office? It just would not work in an office diet plan. With gym bags, laptops and other items that need bringing to and from the office, carry space is limited. Not only in transportation, can we actually prepare the food there and then, or sit down and eat the food whilst retaining the respect of our colleagues. Can we actually get it out and eat it at the desk if needs be, if we just cannot get away for the hour in which we are entitled? Disclaimer: eating at the desk is not an optimal way to eat – we should be fully present and focus on our meals and should take the opportunity to eat in a social environment or outside. Does the food smell horrifically, or stench the entire office floor out?
These questions must all be considered if we want to design a suitable, practical office diet
#1 Essential for metabolism:
It’s the most important aspect – the base layer of the office diet plan. If you take anything away from this post let this be it. This is the foundation from which our health springs forth. We need to seek the foods that can help to form the basis of our health; that provide the building blocks to our cells, our hormones and our physiology. Think this way; we need to obtain the Vitamins and Minerals that our cells can use to ensure that our bodily functions work at their optimum. When this is achieved, our energy levels will increase, we will be able to complete work to a high standard, we will have an increased thirst and passion for life, our mood will be lifted and we will want to pursue and engage in our hobbies, our passions and other sporting activities. It’s a cycle; it is within these things that will keep us physically, mentally and intellectually fit.
This is about how many nutrients we can realistically obtain and as the hat of our pyramid suggests, able to digest. We want the most bang for our buck, so we must look for those foods that offer a broad spectrum.
These are the things we want to be emphasizing, maximising:
Let’s take the example of 1 Egg:
1 item, costing around 50p (50 cents), only 80 calories, that can be easily transported, can be eaten anywhere, is easily digestible (to those without an egg allergy) and provides nutrition across a broad spectrum. It also contains Cholesterol, a required building block for our hormonal pathways. But 1 egg would not sustain a mouse; we need to be hitting the 100%s across the board, perhaps even more. This is where building a diet comes in; its about a variation of foods in differing quantities.
To fully optimise our office diet plan, we also need to keep our vitamins and minerals in the correct balance, so for example:
Maintaining the correct Zinc to Copper ratio (16:1),
Maintaining the Calcium to Phosphorous Ratio (2:1)
The Shirt and Tie Fitness complete Nutrition System, found HERE will give you more specifics of what to eat and when, of what are the foods that are of most benefit and how to best practically apply the DANCE system. I strongly suggest you download it.
No, not the insect repellent that is put down on lawns. Above you will find the very system used by myself that ensures that diet is on kept on track, to budget, despite the inconveniences of the office. For this will not mean that we will never eat lunch out, or head to a restaurant from time to time. But it’s a practical guide to use on a day to day. This post has gone on far longer than originally intended but a second post will likely follow. It would be great if you could drop a comment of what you think of the system below, or how we can improve it.