Picture this: you are in the comfort of your own home, with no one to judge you, you rise from your ‘desk’ and waltz toward the kitchen. Again. For your twelfth snack this morning. Sound familiar? Maintaining a healthy diet while working from home is tough at the best of times, let alone when there is a pandemic happening right outside your front gate. There are ways to keep up the ‘clean eating’ without feeling as though your main food group is kale for the foreseeable future, and it may even be easier than you think. Now is the perfect time to establish healthy habits and avoid unhealthy ones!
Firstly, it is important to clarify an age-old myth that it takes 21 days to break a habit. The European Journal of Social Psychology studied people as they attempted new habits over 12 weeks and found, that, on average, it takes closer to 66 days for a habit to form. All things considered, a couple of months in the big scheme of things seems reasonable to give your brain and body a chance to embrace the change.
Preparation is crucial for eating healthy when you are working from home. Find a few staple recipes every 1-2 weeks and make enough to last a couple of days at a time. Freezing meals will be the lifesaver you never thought you needed because it eliminates the decision-making process. You will no longer need to stand in front of an open fridge deliberating between baked beans on toast again or a meal-delivery app because there will be a healthy meal just 5-microwave minutes away!
Intermittent fasting is an excellent alternative for those who can commit to the concept. Like anything, it is not guaranteed to work for everyone, and there are people out there who instantly refuse the idea of not eating (which is totally understandable!). However, to reduce snacking, improve your metabolism, lower blood sugar; lessen inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, fasting is a fantastic option. To get started, limit the time period you eat in, e.g. between 7 am to 3 pm or 10 am-6 pm which is a simple way to kickoff. For some, the idea of no food is easier to maintain than ‘just a handful of this’ or ‘a few sips of that’ because it is very black and white. Also, for working at home, it limits the amount of time you need to go to the kitchen to almost nil.
If the idea of cutting back on food for health and convenience reasons wasn’t enough, think of it in terms of productivity. Food has a direct impact on cognitive performance and daily experiences overall. By choosing fruits and vegetables (frozen counts!) over fast food options or carbohydrate-dense foods, your body has the best chance of being more creative, more engaged, and with longer-lasting energy. Foods like pasta, bread, and soft drinks release glucose quickly, which leads to a sudden plummet in energy not long after, which ends up becoming a vicious cycle.
Aside from the bigger picture topics, little things like keeping a water bottle and a container of almonds or fruit on your desk, and within reach, to help you stick to regular meal times and healthier choices will make a difference in the long-haul. Don’t forget to keep yourself accountable along the way. Whether it’s having a friend or family member check in with you every couple of days or setting reminders to stay on track, this plays an important role in the longevity of healthy habits.
Finally, be kind to yourself and find something that relieves, not increases, your stress levels. One chocolate bar or pizza here and there are NOT signs of failure, and it’s imperative to remember that eating well 80% of the time is what makes the most significant sustainable difference. Use the other 20% to enjoy foods that help you feel relaxed or ‘just because’.
Keeping healthy while working from home might sound like a piece of cake but there is no denying that it can take some getting used to. The good news is that eating healthier doesn’t require iron-clad willpower and a weekly grocery bill of three-hundred dollars for organic produce. It merely needs to be easy. Make realistic goals and create a map to get there; set yourself up for success from the beginning.