How I do stay healthy when I’m just so busy? – with guest expert Caitlin Reid APD

Expert Examiner, Family Focus — By on May 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm

It’s hard to stay healthy when you work full-time, especially if you have a family to look after too. If only it was as simple as getting out of bed, arriving at work stress-free and being able to eat well, exercise and de-stress whenever you felt like it. The reality is though that many people find it hard enough coping with the demands of everyday life to even spare a thought for health….well until something goes wrong that is. So you’re already in a great place by taking time out to read this post.  It’s important that you don’t wait until your health starts to deteriorate before you start to find time for it. Start today by making small changes in your day-to-day life and you’ll notice the benefits immediately. We asked corporate health and wellness expert Caitlin Reid for some top tips.

About our expert:

Caitlin Reid Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Exercise Physiologist

With a keen interest in getting the most out of life, Caitlin’s passion lies in empowering people to achieve optimal health and wellbeing irrespective of lifestyle. Understanding the demands and distractions of life in the 21st century, Caitlin developed the corporate wellness company Health & the City®specifically designed to help the hectic urbanite Eat it. Work it. Live it. As a speaker and writer, Caitlin inspires many companies and their employees to optimise health and achieve the elusive work-life balance. Her passion for a healthy and fun lifestyle shines through in her presentations, workshops and articles.

The business of busy-ness

For many of us, the biggest threat to our health is busy-ness, as it destroys our productivity and eats away our ability to prioritise. One of the most common sayings in today’s fast-paced world is “I don’t have time”. We eat convenience foods because we don’t have time to cook, and sit motionless in front of our computers because our work doesn’t allow us the time to exercise.

Not only is this lifestyle clogging up our arteries and expanding our waistlines, it’s also stopping us from being our best and getting the most out of life. Poor health reduces our concentration, memory and our ability to make good decisions, all of which makes overtime inevitable. Overtime blurbs the boundaries between work and home, not to mention places strain on relationships with family and friends. So, what can you do to improve your health without affecting your work? It’s as simple as adding these eight items to your daily To-Do list.

To do’s today and everyday

Break-the-fast: Start your day the best way – eat breakfast! Aim to get up before the kids and eat your breakfast in peace. If this is not possible, keep breakfast options such as breakfast cereal, wholegrain bread, or fruit at work so you can eat breakfast as soon as you arrive. Regularly enjoying your morning munch will improve your concentration and alertness throughout the day.

Savour that morning coffee: Gone are the days of instant coffee with a dash of milk – the range of takeaway coffees is huge and ranges from a café latte to a frappuccino-blended crème with cream on top! These coffees contain loads more milk than instant (not to mention sugar and syrups) and can easily sabotage any weight loss attempt. Then of course there’s the caffeine issue with many baristas being heavy handed with that espresso shot.  Enjoy your coffee, but aim to limit your daily intake.  As a rule of thumb stick to one milky, skinny coffee like a morning latte and then black coffee with a dash of milk and no sugar. If you are currently over doing coffee or caffeinated beverages like energy drinks, slowly wean yourself off by first reducing the size and then the number of coffees you have each day to no more than 3.  Space them out, savour that morning coffee pick-me-up and avoid late night lattes that can affect a quality nights sleep.

Sit less, move more, more often: Extended periods sitting in front of our computers are damaging our backs and increasing our risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. While there’s no doubt 30 minutes of exercise daily is good for your health, new research shows we need to combine this with standing up more throughout the day. Each hour, stand up from your desk and stretch or go for a short walk around the office.

Utilise your lunch hour: Forget about working through your lunch hour – this is not going to help you get more done. Taking a break during the day gives you time to relax and re-focus so you’re more productivite in the afternoon. Use your lunch hour to take part in a group training session with your work colleagues. It’s a great way to boost workplace moral while improving your fitness and boosting your vitamin D levels.

Conquer 3:30itis: Instead of aimlessly diving into the biscuit barrel or chocolate stash at 3:30pm, consider some better options. A small handful of nuts, a piece of fruit or unsalted air-popped popcorn are all good choices. If you need a sugar fix, try a tub of low-fat yoghurt, a skinny hot chocolate or a small handful of dried apricots.

Decide on dinner early: Be organised and plan your evening meals before the week even starts. Plan quick and easy dishes for those nights when you’ll be late home from work. Alternatively, cook a double batch of food on the quieter nights, and keep half for those nights when you have less time to cook. If working back late, stop for dinner at a reasonable hour.

Protect your private time: Create a distinction between work and home life by going for a walk, reading a book or spending time with your kids when you get home from work. Avoid being constantly available by switching off mobile phones and computers when at home. Use this time to improve family relationships or recharge with some alone time.

Manage your time: At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day and designate a strict time frame for each. Be realistic about what you can achieve during this time, so you’re not taking on too much work. At home, spread the chores out over the week instead of leaving them all until the weekend.

Editor’s note:

Thanks Caitlin for the great tips.  I think I need to write the one about “protect your private time” on my home office door.  I love a home based work lifestyle as I am far more incidentally active than the 9-5 office life.  I get up every hour and spend 5min or so hanging washing or stirring the bubbling minestrone and walk to collect kids from school.  But the problem is that the office is always there…late night emails and tempting Twitter chat are my traps.  How about you? We’d love to hear your tips on striking that elusive work-life-health balance?  Are you like my training buddy who (works full-time, travels and has 4 kids) plus stays one meal ahead with the nightly dinner cooking?  I’m that impressed.  Or do you have a great boss who supports lunchtime spin classes?  Or do you chair stand-up meetings? Love to hear your tips so drop us a comment below.

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  • http://chowandchatter.com rebecca

    great post and I agree twitter is a tempting I need to make time to work out properly!

  • http://www.stepintolife.com Tess

    Great article, and yes I have the same problem with the home office Emma. Just one more email, one more tweet, one more call. Then next thing you know, an hour has disappeared and the family are resentful, rightfully so.
    As trainers, sometimes when we have meetings we collectively stand and then do group stretches, jog on the spot, have a rowdy group clap, you name it to keep moving and wake us up. Then sit back down and get back to it! 30 secs of this and you are buzzing again.
    I vote for the stand and group stretch meeting :)

  • Carla

    Thanks Emma & Caitlin, this is an great post – I plan to share with my colleagues!

    Conquering 3.30itis is a bit of a challenge for me (especially as we have a chocolate stash in the cupboard) but have purchased a jar which we take turns in filling with dried fruit and nuts for people in the office to share. Good to nibble on when feeling a bit peckish before or after lunch!

    I think taking a lunch hour is super important, especially in Winter when the office heater is cranked up. Nice just to get out and get some fresh air!

    Lists help me organise time – for both work and home. Its a good feeling ticking them off as you go and helps keep me focussed and remember things along the way.

  • Frances

    I don’t have kids and a family to worry about, but with full-time work, gym, and other commitments outside of work, I can totally understand how hard it is to stay healthy and motivated when you just want to collapse on the couch after work and eat ice cream ;)

    My trick is to try and take a few hours out on a Sunday afternoon to cook up some soups and stews with lots of vegies. Nice winter comfort food to come home to, especially when all I have to do is heat, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and eat!

    I do struggle to make time for a lunch break away from the desk, so that’s my goal next week – a daily twenty minute walk around the block!

  • http://www.improveconcentration.net Toshi O.

    I am all about not sitting and constantly moving – it somehow steadies my mind

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  • http://www.scoopnutrition.com Emma Stirling

    Thanks for the additional tips everyone. Here’s to a healthy balance.