More than a year on from the onset of the coronavirus crisis for Western countries, you’re likely to be highly aware of the various impacts the pandemic has had on your mind, body and lifestyle. One obvious manifestation of the pandemic, for instance, has been greater numbers of us working from home, in accordance with on-off lockdown restrictions.
If this has been the case for you, working from home might have had both positive and negative consequences. Not having to spend an hour or two commuting each day may have freed you up to spend a bit more time reorganising your cupboards, or even enabled you to catch up on sleep.
For others among us, however, home working has prompted a deterioration in our relationship with food. When you don’t have the boss glancing over your shoulder, it can be alarmingly easy to slide into less-than-healthy habits, such as ‘comfort eating’ right through the day, or even forgetting to eat due to a preoccupation with that assignment deadline. These tendencies can be perils to our mental and physical health – and certainly our waistlines.
Whatever the exact situation has been for you, if you feel you could do with some help to eat more mindfully and healthily while working at home, here are our tips for achieving that.
Incorporate structure into your day
When dealing with the traditional ‘9 to 5’ office environment, there tend to be various things that automatically punctuate one’s day; the need to travel to work, for example, and perhaps to leave the office briefly during the lunch hour to pick up food.
That’s not the case so much for home workers. It’s scarcely surprising, then, that so many people’s eating patterns have descended into chaos over the past year or so.
The key, then, is to begin reintroducing some order to your working days. You might set definite times for your snack and meal times, and even – if you have the luxury of this – include ‘moving breaks’ during the day when you step away from the computer and move around.
Avoid working in or near the kitchen
You may have heard of the saying, “if you keep walking past the barbers, eventually you’ll get a haircut” – and it’s fair to say the close proximity of the fridge to your workstation is unlikely to help you keep discipline with your eating. Ideally, then, your desk should not be anywhere near or in the kitchen.
However, not every home-based worker can easily achieve this. This brings us neatly onto the importance of establishing strict policies in this area, including only allowing yourself into the kitchen during the workday if it is for a planned snack or meal.
If you find this difficult to comply with, you might even consider going as far as hanging a sign on the door declaring the kitchen “closed” outside certain brackets of time.
Practise intuitive and mindful eating
There’s a lot of talk about “mindfulness” these days, but what does it mean when it comes to eating? What it essentially means, is focusing on being present “in the moment” when consuming food, and engaging your senses fully.
Much of mindful eating is about listening to and trusting your natural impulses as far as food is concerned. While eating mindfully certainly involves rethinking your food choices and practices, it isn’t about judging and scolding yourself for eating food you have preconceived notions of being “bad”.
And when you do eat, it entails taking the time to notice what your food looks, smells, feels and tastes like. Eating mindfully can take weeks and even months to fully incorporate into your routine, so you should be patient with yourself as you look to improve your relationship with your food.
So much of eating mindfully when working from home comes down to ending your previous ‘war with food’. Sure, you should be adopting certain ‘common-sense’ healthy practices, such as keeping junk food out of the house, and you shouldn’t eat as a substitute for dealing properly with emotions like loneliness or anger. But you should also be treating eating times as the fulfilling and rewarding times of the day that they should be, instead of making yourself feel guilty about the occasional indulgence.
Keep all of these tips in mind, and you will almost certainly come to adopt healthier eating habits during what remains of the challenges of the coronavirus situation – and beyond.