Too busy for lunch?

July 4, 2016

It frightens me just how badly some (most) people treat their minds & bodies.

In a corporate world where success is measured in large part by output (hours spent in the office, responding to emails beyond 11pm), it is worrying how many people neglect the inputs required to achieve peak performance.

You see, our bodies are like machines – we need fuelling, we need energy. Yet how many of you (yes, you!) power through the day on the wrong inputs? By this I am particularly referring to food & drink:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Drinking too much coffee
  • Smoking instead of eating
  • Ordering fast food
  • Snacking on chocolate, biscuits or sweets

Back in the days of Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), there was a philosophy certainly in the financial / professional services sector that “lunch is for wimps”.

Well, that philosophy – along with many others from Wall Street – has failed to withstand the test of time.

According to Michael Woodward in an article in Forbes, the secret to high productivity is the balance between food and break. Woodward, an organisational psychologist and author of The You Plan, was quoted as saying: “Just like professional athletes, we all need the energy from calories for our minds to function at their best. And we all need a little time to recharge, too.”

In a recent study published on a UK health & wellbeing blog, it suggested that as many as 25% of working professionals consider themselves to be too busy to take a break for lunch, and one in three people eats lunch at their desk. The average person takes less than 20 minutes each day for lunch away from their desk.  Why? According to research, many people work through lunch in order to save time and avoid working late; in reality it rarely works out that way.

Lauren Jacobsen, Nutrition Director at KCal says “skipping lunch can lead to energy crashes, brain drain, and even binge eating later on.  A high-powered lunch including vegetables and a source of protein can help satiate hunger and provide long lasting energy, while choosing a carby lunch can lead to blood sugar spikes, energy crashes and more hunger later on.

Kate Davison, Independent Nutritionist says “I recommend eating lunch away from the phone, computer and anything else that stimulates the SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) – your ‘Fight & Flight’ response (e.g. a heated debate with your boss!). Instead eat in a calm environment to stimulate the PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) – your ‘Rest & Digest’ system. You can’t be in both states simultaneously and in the fast-paced corporate world, we spend most of our time in the former. The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ should be replaced with ‘you are what you digest’“.

So what are the key benefits of eating lunch?

Maintain energy levels

We have all suffered dips in energy throughout the day, struggling to keep our eyes open or counting down the hours before we can go to bed. Well very simply, eating helps. If you eat frequently and the right foods, your energy levels can be maintained as the day/week progresses.

Greater concentration

Whilst eating provides energy, taking a break from your computer, phone or meeting room gives your brain an opportunity to recuperate. Our brain’s capacity is a scarce resource & with all the tasks / decisions required of it throughout the day, its capacity is quickly depleted.

Reduce stress

By taking the time to fuel your body with the required nutrients and giving your brain a rest, it will help you achieve a balance throughout the day, enabling you to control (& thus reduce) stress levels. You can also introduce breathing exercises into your lunch break to help you balance your brain and heart rate.

But taking lunch isn’t that easy for a lot of people, so it takes all parties concerned (employers, individuals & food outlets) to achieve this small goal & realise the massive output value of increased productivity, creativity and concentration (oh, and that little thing they call ‘health’).

Now, I’m not a nutritionist. But what I am, is interested in how brands can perform at their best. And in my mind, that starts (and ends) with its people.

So please, ask yourself today (and tomorrow!): are you too busy for lunch?


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