Obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S., but not in the traditional sense of the word. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an epidemic as “an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.” Usually, it refers to an infectious disease of some sort, but the term is now being redefined to include such chronic diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity as well as infectious diseases.
According to the America Heart Association, 78 million adults and 13 million children deal with the health and emotional effects of obesity. Part of the problem is that our bodies aren’t getting the cues that trigger hunger and fullness. Another issue is the reward system in our brains promote eating, such as the olfactory and optic systems which prompt us to eat, whether we are hungry or not because we smell or see something pleasant. Yet another is the lack of healthy dining options for people and families on the go. We all lead busy lives, and it is so easy to drive through the pickup window of your local fast food chain. Other issues include larger portion sizes, sweet/sugary drinks, unhealthy fats, and refined grains.
Given that the average American spends at least 40 hours per week at work, the workplace can either be a catalyst to healthy living or a derailment of a healthy lifestyle. I know that for me, there are all kinds of temptations at work, including copious amounts of caffeine, soda, donuts, and candy of all sorts. Another major temptation is to work straight through my 12 hour days without a lunch break, or worse, eating quickly so I can get back to work.
Below you’ll find some tips for healthy meals at work, and ways to stay active in jobs that require a lot of sedentary activities.
Healthy Meals and Snacks
1. Pack a lunch the night before. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. A turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with cheese, lettuce, and tomato (on the side so the bread doesn’t get soggy) is a great way to get protein, dairy, and veggies in. Another creative option is a salad in a jar. Pack it so that dressing is on the bottom, along with diced peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. You can also add in grilled chicken or other protein sources. The, add your greens to the top. When you dump it on a plate a lunch time, your salad is still as fresh as when you packed it. This is a great way to make several pre-made lunches for the week that you can grab and go without having to think about it. Another easy and time saving solution is leftovers from a healthy dinner you had the night before.
2. Take a protein shake for breakfast. This is the most important part of my day. The night before every work day, I use my Vitamix to make two shakes for the following day; one for breakfast in the morning and another for a healthy snack later on. I use almond milk and/or coconut water, berries of some kind, greens, an avocado or banana, and Juice Plus Complete (a plant-based protein powder that is gluten and dairy free, low glycemic, vegan, and rich in fiber).
3. Pack a snack (or more than one if you need to). I often pack a granola bar of some kind (usually one of my favorites from the Juice Plus Company, either Tart Cherry and Honey or Dark Chocolate and Fig), nuts, cheese sticks, grapes, clementines, apples, or other fruit. This will often curb my craving for something sweet, without all the unnecessary calories that come with candy and other sweet treats. It is also important that snacks be balanced. In addition to your fruit, eat protein. So if you have grapes, have a cheese stick as well. If you have apples, dip them in peanut (or almond, or other nut) butter. Have some nuts with your clementine.
1. Park at the farthest end of the parking lot, and walk.
2. Skip the elevator, and take the stairs instead.
3. Walk around your office during conference calls. Use your wireless device to capitalize on the opportunity to get out of your chair.
4. Stand up at least every 60-90 minutes and stretch your muscles. Sitting for long periods puts stress on muscles and joints. You could also set up a workstation where you can stand rather than sit.
5. Take your lunch break outside. Use at least 5 minutes of it to walk around, soaking up the vitamin D, breathing fresh air, and stretching your legs.
Get creative with ways to improve your health at work. Form a group that takes daily walking breaks together. Encourage each other. But most importantly, take control of your own health. You’ll be glad you did, and you might even inspire the same in someone else.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN