Do you think about food all the time? While you’re trying to focus on a work task, is there a small voice at the back of your mind counting down the minutes until you can reasonably go for your next snack break? Do you quietly hope that someone in the office will bring in cookies or pizza that day which it would be simply ‘rude not to’ eat?
If the answer to those questions is yes, can you imagine how great your day would be if that weren’t the case?!
Call it food addiction, call it disordered eating (these are descriptive and not diagnostic terms), whatever it is, this kind of relationship with food is not only unhealthy, it’s really distracting. The effects of distraction by technology on productivity (dangers of distraction link) are well documented. The effect of constantly thinking about food on productivity, however, has not yet been researched. But logically it can’t be much different; the same pleasure centres in our brain that go wild with excitement when we get a notification on our phone, respond similarly when we eat (especially sweet or starchy treats). This means that at the very least we can become addicted to the pleasure response food creates just as we can become addicted to our technology.
Let’s try a little thought experiment: you’re sitting in a workshop or meeting and there’s a big plate of biscuits in the middle of the table. How often in the meeting do you think you’d be wanting to take a biscuit but resisting due to wanting to a) seem focused and b) not be perceived to be greedy? My guess is, very very often. It would be great to see research done on this, as I suspect the effect of the presence of certain foods in a work setting can drain focus and therefore productivity in a very similar way to technology.
Luckily, unlike technology, we don’t need food around us constantly in the office to be able to get our jobs done! This means shifting our relationship and preoccupation with food can happen quickly and make a huge difference to productivity. What’s more, we can take a very positive approach to finding food freedom. Instead of focusing on restricting food, we can focus on adding more nourishing options at consciously decided-upon times in the day (as opposed to mindless grazing). This gives us the opportunity to fuel our brain and have a proper break so we can think and feel better overall.
Ok, so what simple steps can we take to turn down the volume on food related thoughts so we can actually focus, have great ideas and get stuff done? Firstly, you can try to make sure your blood sugar is balanced, since if it’s not, your appetite hormones will make it very difficult for you to stop thinking about your next biscuit! Secondly, you can start adopting some mindful and intuitive eating practises which will help slowly shift your perception of and desire for food without unhelpful restriction. Try these out:
- Check in how hungry you are when you want to eat. If you’re not hungry: ask yourself why you want food (taste/boredom/sadness)?
- Try to have your snack or meal away from the desk and without your phone, so you can really register your enjoyment of the food
- Present your food in a bowl or on a plate (don’t just eat from a packet) and look at it properly before you eat it
- Chew your food 10-15 times per bite
- Check in with how hungry you are during the course of a meal. If you feel very full but want to keep eating, ask yourself why (don’t want to waste it/it just tastes great/any emotion)? If you still want to keep eating after you’ve checked in with yourself, keep eating!
- Put down your knife and fork between bites
Based on this understanding of the important link between food and productivity, we carefully tailor the meals and snacks at our workshops to maximise energy and minimise distraction. As you can see, I think outside of the box when it comes to productivity and I go above and beyond to make sure my clients know how to feel well so they can think much better. Learn more about my approach here.