Why Clean Eating is Important for Work-Life Balance
Confession time: I haven’t had the best work-life balance this month. And this week, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my energy levels, mood and body. I’m stressed at work and at home (moving is one of the top stressors in our lives, and I’ve done it both at work and home this week). I’m finding myself snapping at my husband, Blake, I’m reaching for chocolate in the afternoons, my jaw is nearly wired shut from constant clenching, I’m relying on takeout because I’m too tired to make dinner (and because I’m still looking for the pressure cooker). I’m not putting the right things into my body, and I’m not putting out my best self.
In continuous improvement, we talk about a concept called GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. Self-explanatory, right? What we put into our bodies directly affects what we put out. If we load up on sugar, processed foods and pre-packaged meals, our output will be low energy, unstable moods and low productivity.
Said another way, every process is perfectly designed to get the results it produces. This goes for things like data reports and our digestive systems. When we put low quality, low nutrition foods into our mouths, we can expect to feel symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek, and I’m an advocate of always sharing the why behind the what. We all know we “should” eat healthy – but why is it truly important? Why should we prioritize this way of eating when we’ve been doing “fine” with our current eating style?
Read on to learn why clean eating is important for work-life balance:
You’ll have more energy
One of the main reasons to eat clean(ish) is because eating this way gives us more energy. Healthy, clean foods are filled with slow-digesting carbohydrates. These take longer to digest than unhealthy, rapidly-digesting carbohydrates, so the energy they provide is released into your blood at a much slower and more stable rate. This means that you’ll have more consistent energy levels which last for the entire day.
In contrast, processed foods generally contain high levels of rapidly digesting carbohydrates. These get digested very quickly and the energy they provide is released into your blood stream at a much faster, less stable rate. As a result, your energy levels generally peak and then crash when you eat processed foods.
What could you do with more energy? Having more energy throughout the day often makes us feel like we have more time. We have more willpower to get us to the gym or have dinner with a friend or work on our side hustles or volunteer projects. More energy means more time doing what you really love.
More energy also means we’re more focused at work. We can be more present in meetings, more focused on a detailed project or report. We’ll have more energy to get through our to-do list or a last-minute task from senior leadership.
Clean eating provides your body with the energy it needs to tackle the toughest parts of your day while still allowing you to spend time with your passions and purpose after work.
Your body works better with better food
Clean foods are packed full of the nutrients that your body needs to operate properly. They support almost every function you can think of. For example, vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, chloride helps keep the fluid levels within your body balanced, and potassium helps keep your blood pressure under control.
Eating processed foods deprives your body of these nutrients and prevents it from functioning properly. For example, failing to eat enough vitamin A can limit your vision, and in the worst cases, cause full blindness. Not getting enough sulfur can prevent your nerves from functioning properly.
Every process is perfectly designed to get the results it produces. When your body is fueled with the right nutrition, it functions at its optimal levels. And so do you.
You’ll prevent chronic disease
Eating clean can keep you safe from almost any chronic disease. While it’s still not known exactly why the nutrients in whole foods can protect against disease, study after study has consistently shown the power of a healthy diet when it comes to disease prevention.
Consuming unhealthy foods has the opposite effect and can actually increase your risk of developing chronic diseases. For example, according to an article from Medical News Today one third of all cancers are linked to poor dietary choices.
You’ll strengthen your immune system
Another key benefit of clean eating is that the wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in these foods help keep your immune system strong. Your immune system is what keeps you safe from disease, infection and foreign bodies. If you have a strong immune system, then your chances of getting sick are much lower.
However, following a limited, unhealthy diet of processed foods means that your body doesn’t get all these immune-system-boosting nutrients. As a result, your immune system becomes weak, and your body becomes much less effective at fighting disease, infection and foreign bodies. This leaves you much more open to illness.
You’ll be more productive
Fewer sick days, optimal body function and higher energy levels mean you’ll be more productive at work. When we fuel our bodies with the proper nutrition, we’re more likely to be on our game. We’ll have the willpower to protect our time boundaries by minimizing distractions (read: the annoying coworkers who interrupt you when you’re obviously in the middle of something important). We’ll also have the focus and clarity we need to tackle the tough projects, come up with the brilliant ideas in the strategy meeting, handle any fires that come our way and make decisions in the best interest of our teams.
You’ll reduce stress and burnout
Did you know eating clean can also help you reduce stress? It’s true! Certain foods are known for their stress-busting nutrients. And the best part? Carbs are included!
All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it's best to eat complex carbs, which take longer to digest. Good choices include whole-grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals, including old-fashioned oatmeal.
Foods high in magnesium, like spinach, kale, edamame and salmon, help prevent headache and fatigue caused by excess stress. Plus, magnesium is shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, often exacerbated by the stress response.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones, while drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. Almonds are chock-full of helpful vitamins: vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus B vitamins, which may make us more resilient during bouts of stress or depression.
Keep a few of these key ingredients on hand, especially when things at work start to heat up. Regular stress management helps prevent burnout and the development of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
We all know we should eat better to stay healthy. And now you’re armed with the information you need to make better decisions about what you’re putting into your body. The “whys” above are really just scraping the surface. The bottom line is that eating healthy is one of the best things you can do for your body. So if you’re currently living off fast food, microwave meals and takeout (like I have been this past week) then consider making a few, simple changes to your diet. Need help? Start with this free 10-day challenge with 10 simple, healthy habits to help you look and feel your best.
Eating clean doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Grabbing a piece of fruit instead of a processed granola bar, drinking a glass of water instead of a glass of soda, or cooking up some chicken and vegetables instead of having a microwave meal are all quick and easy ways to eat clean(ish). Making smart choices like these a daily habit will help you maintain healthy work-life boundaries and achieve the balance you’re looking for.
And remember, eating clean(ish) is all about progress, not perfection. Some weeks will be easier than others to make good decisions about what to put into your body. Be patient with yourself and appreciate the journey. And if you don’t know where to start, Start with this free 10-day challenge with 10 simple, healthy habits to help you look and feel your best.
Been there, done that? Ready to take your health to the next level? Take the next step and enroll in the Clean Eating for Beginners 14-Day Plan. Learn the basics of clean eating, so you can get back to slaying your day.