I work on the facilities team at Accenture, and was in one of the first groups that went back to the office on a hybrid set-up in 2020. My biggest challenge in returning to the office was figuring out a way to maintain the healthy habits I built during the pandemic.
While I was working from home, I was eating healthier, and it showed. My wife plans our meals, which helps us make healthy choices and stay within our budget. She’s my biggest supporter, making sure I eat enough fruits and vegetables. And I was taking time every day to exercise. I have a pair of dumbbells and I’d lift weights for 30 minutes a day in the morning. Later, I’d do 30 minutes of cardio. During the pandemic my blood pressure and sugar levels were normal and I lost 50 pounds (~23 kg) as a result of these healthy habits.
But when I started going back to the office, it was harder to keep up with these habits. My exercise time disappeared. And there was the temptation of soda and fast food.
Lunchtime was tricky as well. I love my work friends, but they always want to go out to eat and the nearby options are McDonald’s and Burger King. They eat quickly so they can get back to work as soon as possible. And of course, everyone is talking about work, so there isn’t much of an opportunity to recharge.
At first I was gaining weight from the convenience foods I was eating, and it was affecting my health and my mood. I felt sluggish. I was less productive. And I knew I wasn’t being the best version of myself. So I created some rituals and Microsteps to help.
First, I use my commute to plan my lunch. I have a train ride that’s about 45 minutes. It gives me a lot of thinking time. I’ll think “Yesterday, I had chicken for lunch. Today, I’ll have fish.” Then I’ll think about the nearest affordable restaurant where I can order fish. It sounds so small, but having that time to think ahead lets me make a plan I can stick to.
Second, I’ll get a piece of fruit on the way into the office. Most convenience stores sell apples and oranges, so I’ll grab one before I start work.
Third, I’ve started eating lunch alone. If my colleagues tell me they’re planning to go to a fast food place, I won’t go along. Instead, I’ll choose a restaurant where I can order something healthy and take a bit of time for myself. At first I felt a little antisocial and awkward. But now, I love my solo lunches and look forward to them! It’s a rare opportunity to eat well and recharge.
It might sound weird, but I’ve also started taking the time to smell my food. I saw a cooking show on YouTube where the chef would always smell the food first, so I’ve been trying to replicate that. Before the pandemic, I’d eat lunch at my cubicle and it was part of my work time. I’d never savor my food; I’d just eat it as fast as possible. But now, I smell the smokiness of the fish; I check the flakiness of it before I eat. It’s a destressor and it’s enjoyable. If you’re sitting down to a good meal, why wouldn’t you take that moment to smell it and truly enjoy it?
I also enjoy the 10-minute walk to and from lunch. It’s a recharging moment for me. There’s a mall nearby and sometimes I’ll take a moment to do some window shopping. It gives me a fresh perspective to go to a store and browse. Sometimes I’ll even have an “aha” moment, where I see something that sparks an idea I can use in my work.
When I get back from my lunch and my walk, I feel recharged. I’m also much more upbeat. I used to be sluggish after eating lunch at my cubicle. But now, after lunch is a time of peak productivity for me. By taking these small steps, I feel so much better and truly nourish myself.