My interest was piqued recently when reading a wellness-oriented newsletter with an article about fitting healthy eating into a busy life. Being a busy person myself, I’m always interested to know if others have some pearls of wisdom to share on this front.
At first, I was encouraged by the comment that instead of finding time, we need to make time to eat well. I’ve found that to be true as well. When I read on, though, some of the suggestions made me cringe:
To make sure you don’t skip breakfast, have breakfast meetings
Snacking is a good way to take a break and relieve stress
To save time, consider eating while commuting
Have food prepared so you can eat at your desk
What surprised me in reading this is how strongly I reacted against it. After all, on the surface of it, in our multi-tasking culture, it makes perfect sense to maximize use of time. From a mindful perspective, though, it simply doesn’t work.
Consider eating while commuting. If you take public transit, this could be an option, although it might not be very enjoyable. But if you drive, this invites trouble. Simply from a logistical perspective, trying to juggle food with driving means you’re not going to be driving as well, and certainly any bites you can take won’t be mindful. Personally, I would be horrified and mortified if I got into an accident because I was distracted by eating.
I also internally rebelled at the comment about snacking as a way to relieve stress. Stress eating is something many people struggle with, and advocating it in any way only exacerbates the situation. To me, it makes much more sense to take a stress break – go for a walk, listen to a good song, do some stretching – and then check in to see if you’re hungry.
And while eating in meetings may sometimes be unavoidable, deliberately scheduling them that way doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re truly hungry in a meeting, it’s hard to focus on what you’re discussing (at least, it is for me), and shuffling papers, laptops, phones, and food is not very relaxing or mindful.
I did agree with some of the other suggestions – plan ahead when possible, have snacks on hand, be creative and flexible, and don’t over-complicate meals.
But mostly, my best advice is to prioritize time to eat when you’re not multi-tasking, as much as possible. You may even find you like it so much you want to do more of it, but either way, for those meals where you’re not trying to cram it in with something else, you will have a more relaxed experience and be able to appreciate what you’re eating. In my mind, that’s as much a part of healthy eating as the nutritional content of your food.