By Libby Mills
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2005.
Somewhere between meetings, writing reports, returning phone calls, and answering e-mail, Americans try to squeeze in lunch. We’ve developed a new breed — busy people, too busy to take advantage of lunch. Others get to the end of their day before realizing they never had a lunch break. Some do manage to eat, but they fill themselves with often unmemorable foods just to keep going. As a lifestyle coach, I meet these people all the time.
Today’s worker yawns through sleepy afternoons, has difficulty concentrating, and goes home exhausted with no energy to exercise. Today’s corporate-style lunch can put you on the fast track to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stress-related problems, not to mention on-the-job injury.
Achieving professional success doesn’t have to be at the expense of your health and well-being. Improve your health, wellness, and performance by simply turning your lunch into a “power hour.”
Fill’er Up with Fuel
Close the document, turn your back on the telephone, and unplug for your body’s natural midday fuel break. Food is energy. Having lunch, even a short, small lunch, is important and easy with a little planning.
Seek out foods that help you create your ideal plate. Imagine a plate divided in half. Half of your plate is filled with bright vegetables — sliced tomato with basil, gingered carrots, or spicy broccoli. Imagine the other half. On one quarter of the plate, there’s a carbohydrate — a whole grain dinner roll, baked sweet potato fries, green peas with zested orange, or penne pasta tossed in marinara. And, on the other quarter enjoy your protein — barbeque baked salmon, tuna tossed with kalamata olives and red onion, or grilled chicken breast basted in Asian-style sauce.
Stock your office or car with nature’s fast food for convenience — whole grains (granolas, bagels, and crackers), low-fat or fat-free dairy (string cheese, yogurt, and milk), or nuts and fruits (fresh and dried). Eating healthy is much easier when you’re prepared.
If you’re thinking about skipping lunch because you’re on a roll, think again. Skipping lunch to maintain the day’s efficiency may actually result in less efficient efforts and an inability to concentrate later. Missing lunch cues the body to burn less fuel and slow the metabolism. No lunch plus a sedentary job equals a perfect equation to gain weight.
Restructuring Best Practices
Everyone must manage their health and wellness in their own way. Here are a few client-tested best practices to strategically restructure the lunch break to your benefit.
Reorganize. Take advantage of on-site company services, especially a gym. Systematically run lunchtime or on-the-way-home errands like shoe repair, dry cleaners, grocery store, and pharmacy.
Plan ahead. Keep a cooler around for fresh snacks
on the go, as well as a pair of sneakers to make errand running and walks easier. Keep a gym bag with workout clothing in your trunk or at the office.
Make lists. Restructure your “to do” list with “you” at the top or at least in the top five. Eliminate the “should do’s” that could be preventing you from getting important “to dos” done.
Focus on you. Schedule time for yourself as you would for your customer or boss. Give yourself full attention. Keeping a regular lunch workout routine is very empowering and vitalizing to your afternoon.
We can all be superhuman — phone wedged between shoulder and ear, proposal minimized while your calendar is rearranged for a Friday meeting, a fork full of salad in one hand, and computer mouse at the fingertips of the other. And while you’re getting it all done, and eating healthy, you can stand up and knock out a set of leg raises. How exhausting.
Give each thing you want to do a set amount of time, but don’t try and do it all at once. It is better to do things right than take longer and risk having to do them over. Being “in the moment” of what you are doing helps you appreciate the completion of each task and can even be relaxing.
Take a walk to the local park for lunch. Getting out of the office eliminates the inevitable “call of work” through your break.
Knowing 30 minutes of exercise will help keep us healthy and finding a free 30-minute block in the calendar are two different things. Most of us can find 10 minutes free several times throughout the day when we can be up and active. It all adds up.
Office living can be exercise. Ten minutes of any three of the following activities can use 100 to 150 calories: moving stacks of files, journals, or books; taking out large bags of trash or recycling; organizing clutter; packing; rearranging furniture; cleaning windows; or polishing furniture.
Make every movement count, even sitting, by practicing good posture. When sitting, tuck your hips under your torso, tighten abdominal muscles, breath from the abdomen, and squeeze the working muscles. Add active good posture to climbing stairs, heel to toe on each step, keeping your weight over your hips. This works the gluteus maximus and legs.
Create movement by personally delivering intraoffice messages or standing up to talk on the telephone. Each time you stand you can burn three calories.
When doing errands, park away from the door.
Curl your biceps while carrying your bags filled with purchases.
You earned it — your lunch break is your time. By law, for every four hours worked, an employee receives at least 30 minutes for a lunch break.
Refresh and revitalize your afternoon with a quick catnap, escape to a local bookstore or library, or melt into a massage. Slow down and enjoy every minute of your time.
Make lunch fun. Brainstorm on a city walk to a lunch meeting in a local park. Getting away from white noise and the office bustle can improve problem-solving concentration and productivity. Challenge coworkers to a lunch hour of basketball or cardio kickboxing. Find a walking buddy. Enjoy lunch with a friend.
Turning your lunch into a power hour can be easy and wonderfully rejuvenating. Taking lunch will energize your afternoons for more productivity, while revitalizing your health and well-being.