• Lifestyle

Eating Habits: How Eating Well Leads to Thinking Well

September 4, 2017

Whether you’re a business leader or a humble employee, your eating habits will influence your work performance.

There’s a reason your elders used to tell you “you are what you eat.” It’s true!

I’m not saying that you’re literally what you eat, but what you put into your body will ultimately impact what comes out of it. Your attitude and productivity levels hinge on your eating habits.

Your mental health is directly related to your physical health. And while exercising is highly-recommended, it’s not always an option for those of us whose hours are filled with work. However, there’s no excuse for not eating well.

Make Simple Changes

You don’t have to give your eating habits a complete overhaul overnight. A few minor changes can go a long way.

For example, I stopped putting mayonnaise on everything I eat. Yes, you read that right: I put mayo on everything I ate. My medications for my OCD, anxiety, and depression give me dry mouth, and I was using mayonnaise as a lubricant so my food would go down more smoothly.

Turns out, eating mayo with every meal makes you really fat. I gained weight like crazy! It also made me sluggish and less productive than I  once was. I now use plain yogurt as a healthier substitute.

Making that ONE small change improved my mental and physical health immensely. Some other changes I made? Switching out sodas for water and giving up candy cold turkey.

Start today by making one small change to your eating habits. Your brain and your body will thank you.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies

According to the Mental Health Foundation, the number of people who report mental health issues compared with those who do not (or those who only have mild symptoms) is directly related to their diets.

People who eat more fruits and vegetables — who have a balance of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals — are less likely to have mental health issues arise. 

Cut Out Fast Food

According to Dr. Eva Selhub:

“Unfortunately, just like an expensive car, your brain can be damaged if you ingest anything other than premium fuel. If substances from ‘low-premium’ fuel (such as what you get from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.”

Low quality foods, such as drive-thru staples, can damage your brain if eaten on a regular basis. From a business standpoint, it’s pretty darn hard to do your best work with a damaged brain.

Eating Right = Less Stress

According to Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H.:

“When most people think of boosting their brain power, they think of learning something new or engaging in thought-provoking debate. As it turns out, one of the best ways to improve your mental health is through your gut. Like your brain, the gut has its own nervous system, which sends information to the brain via the vagus nerve.”

You know how when you’re stressed, your stomach sometimes feels queasy? That can go in the other direction as well! When your stomach is upset, your brain feels stressed. It’s a vicious cycle — and one that can easily be broken with proper eating habits.

By eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish or avocados), whole grains, leafy greens, and lean proteins, you can balance out your digestive system rather quickly. Yogurt — which is rich in probiotics — can also set your digestive tract on the right track.

Healthy food choices mean less stress for your brain. Less stress means more energy to focus on the things that matter: like meeting your deadlines.

Look Good, Feel Good

This might seem like an obvious one, but I’m going to mention it anyway. When you eat right, your body starts to change — for the better!

Even without exercise, simple changes to your diet can drastically change your physique. You’ll start to lose pounds of fat, and begin fitting into your clothes a little better. And your co-workers are bound to take notice!

I always say “when you look good, you feel good.” Eating right can up your self-confidence, improve your overall attitude, and increase your productivity.

When you go from being the office schlub to the hottest thing on the third floor, you’re going to feel awesome. You won’t be able to stop yourself from performing at higher levels!

Cheat Only On Days Off

Adding a “cheat day” to your week can be beneficial, especially if you add exercise to your routine.

A “cheat day” in which you eat a meal consisting of a favorite “treat” food (pizza, ice-cream, etc.) can help you feel more human after a week filled with healthy choices.

If you exercise, eating a cheat meal can help balance your muscle-building hormones. It will signal to your body that your dieting during the week is purposeful and that you’re not starving and, therefore, it doesn’t need to store everything you eat as body fat.

However, I’d highly recommend scheduling your weekly “cheat day” to coincide with your day off from work. If your cheat meal ends up making you feel sluggish, you don’t want it to hit you while you’re at your work desk. You’d have a hard time explaining your “food coma” nap to your boss!

Remember: There’s No Excuse!

Eating right doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Check to see if your local grocery stores have coupon flyers or coupon apps that you can utilize. I like the Cartwheel app at Target, for example. Even if you only save a few pennies here and there, those pennies add up!

Check out local farmers’ markets as well. You can often get fresh produce for very reasonable prices.

You’ll also save money on the things you ultimately choose to remove. Water is way cheaper than sodas, for example.

If you can afford to eat horribly, you can afford to eat well. It takes a bit of careful planning, but it’s absolutely doable.

How are YOU changing your eating habits to become more healthy? Share the article on Facebook and let us know — we’d love to hear from you!

Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She's a proud member of the 133T team, working as their Head Writer and Head Editor, and is dedicated to helping YOU with your business and career.