I've known that sitting glued to my desk all day long wasn't healthy, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to do something about it. I started a personal fitness journey and also made slight adjustments to my workspace, like switching to a standing desk.
I wanted to get some more tips on how to improve my health in an office setting, so I turned to a friend of mine, Carina Sohaili, who happens to be an extremely knowledgeable integrative nutritionist and the founder of Vibrant Healthy Life. Here are her five tips to help make working in an office setting a little healthier.
1. Fuel up on focus foods.
Keep a healthy snack in your desk drawer for whenever a snack attack occurs -- or if the office kitchen is loaded with donuts. Pumpkin seeds are a great choice, as they contain zinc, magnesium, healthy fats and protein. Zinc is a flu fighter, magnesium has a calming effect on the body, can help decrease cortisol levels and aids in stress reduction. The healthy fats found in pumpkin seeds will give you energy as well as increase your post meal satisfaction levels.
2. Keep your blood sugar levels in check and dedicate time to eat a balanced lunch.
Instead of pushing through hunger to finish that document or inhaling something on the run and then rushing home to devour pizza, schedule in lunch. When you skip meals or eat too fast, it automatically creates stress within the body. Moreover, you will start craving quick fix junk foods to keep you energized and the vending machine will start to call your name.
Taking a break from being in the work zone will actually help your productivity levels in the long run. Think of your body as if it were a Lamborghini. Would you wait until it had no gas to fill it up? No. Would you fill up that type of car with cheap gas? No. Premium fuel for a premium car -- just like your body.
3. Get moving -- small changes add up.
Go for a walk around the block, to the break room or walk to lunch. Ditch the elevator and become best friends with the stairs. Yes, you are busy, and yes many people seem to doubt that walking up stairs makes a difference, but it does. Get up and get your blood flowing every hour.
This will increase your productivity. Have crazy deadlines? Try standing and typing, as more studies are showing how sitting for long periods of time counteract the effects of exercise. We are creatures of habit. Being comfortable sitting is very similar to a comfort zone -- growth rarely occurs when you are comfortable.
Standing and moving your body frequently instead of sitting all day will keep you more alert and your mind razor sharp. Set a goal of moving every hour, taking the stairs daily or changing your office desk chair to standing position. Find something that works for you and make it a long-term lifestyle change by practicing it consistently on a daily basis.
4. Find healthy office swaps.
For example, instead of fake sweeteners in your coffee try adding cinnamon for extra flavor. Cinnamon is a natural metabolism booster, can help reduce anxiety, curbs junk food cravings and increases your post meal satisfaction levels. Fake sugars such as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and high fructose corn syrup will not only throw your hormones off and wreck your metabolism, but they will actually trigger more intense cravings for candy and junk food. You can find more simple swap examples here.
5. Practice impulse control and behavior modification.
We all have bad habits. We all have an urge to give into quick fix solutions to satisfy immediate needs. This is human nature. Recognize your bad habits, why they are holding you back and replace them with positive ones. From over doing it on coffee, to ordering takeout every day at lunch and hitting snooze instead of waking up thirty minutes early to get a workout in.
Taking care of your health is the best tool for success at work. The more you practice healthy habits, the easier they will get. Soon planning a healthy lunch will be like brushing your teeth, exercise will be something you look forward to, and ignoring the donut for a healthier snack will be something that you love.
Everything boils down to daily patterns, habits and consistent changes over time.