Top ten tips for nutrition for freelancers who work from home
Being a freelancer, you manage to sidestep all the inane office politics and dramas, but you do miss out on some of the benefits (assuming a good employer), mainly someone looking out for your wellbeing at work: gym memberships, fruit bowls, ergonomic chairs, break out rooms, massages etc. This got the team at fivesquid HQ revealing their caring side and we started to think that someone should be looking out for you. We’ll be sharing tips and pointers on how to make your freelance life healthy, but don't fret pet - rule number one, 'it’s gotta be fun'.
In the UK, it’s that time of year when the sky is grey during the day and, after this weekend, dark way too early. If you’re a foodie, this may have you reaching for bucket loads of comfort food, which can in turn make you feel even bleaker. Before you give up all hope and migrate to sunnier climes, we may be able to help. The fivesquid team have been thinking about all areas of freelance life, including making sure you take breaks (check out our blog), and next up on the list was nutrition for freelancers who work from home. It may sound a bit out there, but being a little more aware of what you're eating isn’t just for athletes, it really helps with brain power and general energy and motivation levels - which frankly every freelancer needs by the bucket load.
The small print: the fivesquid team are by no means trained nutritionists or health physicians (shocker, we know). This post is written from the perspective of common sense - if you're worried about your diet and nutrition it might be time to book an appointment with your GP. For the rest of you, read on and if you’ve got anything to share or recommend (we love a recipe) let us know.
fivesquid’s top ten tips for nutrition for freelancers who work from home.
1. Think of food as fuel
Yummy fuel obvs. Food is fuel for our bodies, so the cliche of 'you are what you eat' is true. If you know you’re going to be sat in front of a screen all day, then you’re not going to be burning that much energy. If however you’re going to the gym, walking the dog, doing the school run, 1,000 chores and fitting in some screen time - that requires some more energy. Learn when to cut back on volume of food and when you need it and once you get the hang of that, start playing with your macronutrients (macros). We won’t get too technical here but basically macros are fats, proteins and carbohydrates (carbs) - you need all of these to survive - no two ways about it. On really active days, you may want more carbs and on days when your're sat on your derriere, you might want to pull back on these. You also need to think about foods that keep you energised for longer periods rather than peaks and troughs. This is were your carbs should be low GI (Glycemic Index - the sugars in these are slower to release and therefore keep you going longer) - basically for low GI, think vegetables, whole fruits (not juice), high fibre carbs, brown not white bread and rice etc.
2. Be honest
This is a big one and can be a real eye opener. How many times do you think 'I’ve put on weight, but I’ve been really good' - what’s that about? Unless there is an underlying medical condition (we hope not) - it’s probably because you’re not being 100% honest with yourself and you may not even realise it. It's so easy to snack on the odd little thing here and there… eating the crusts from your kids' sandwiches, a bit of cheese (those sandwiches!), the packet of biscuits on your desk that was full at 11am but obliterated by 4pm, the dressing on the salad (no wonder it tasted so good), the mid afternoon latte, or was it a hot chocolate?, then a few glasses of wine and more cheese at the end of the day 'cause 'I’ve been good' - I only had an omelette, salad and a light fish supper! It’s so easy to fall into this trap, and the only way to fix it is to stop doing it or at least do it more consciously. A great way to identify if this is an issue is to track what you eat - apps like myfitnesspal are great for this. You can set what you should be eating over the course of a day and it even gives you a steer on macros, subject to your activity levels. You then add foods as you eat them (their database is massive). This can be an eye-opener and you may realise that what was a harmless nibble is actually really stacking up. Remember, this isn’t about you getting obsessed, just being aware of what you’re putting in and finding the balance.
3. Preparation, preparation, preparation
This is by far the key to successfully keeping your mind and body nutritionally fit. Pick one day of the week when you do your planning, this could tie into when you do it for work as well. See when you’re having client meetings, when you’re at home, when you’re active, when you’re not and when you're out - gorging on lots of deliciousness. By looking at what you’re eating over the course of a week, you can make sure it evens out. Then start to plan your meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day. Write your shopping list, only buy what you need and, if you can, cook meals in advance so they're ready when you are. This method is great for so many reasons; as we said, you can view the week as a whole - are you getting enough fish? too much meat? not enough veg? too many carbs? You also save money and waste less food. It also means that when you’re out for lunch you can really be out for lunch and enjoy it guilt free - you have been mindful in your choices. Ohh! Sounds fancy huh?, but really it’s all just common sense.
4. Remove the bad stuff
It you have no will power, don’t panic you don’t need will power. What you need to do is remove the temptation, then you don’t need will power! Remove things that you'll eat but that aren’t your friend - the sugary soft drinks, the packets of crisps, the biscuits… it will make you have to get creative with yummy snacks or question if you're actually hungry and can be bothered! Also, stop using the kids as an excuse, they don’t need these things either, get them used to eating fruit and veg as a go to snack and the naughties as the occasional rather than the norm.
5. Smart snacking
If you’re not a snacker - we want to know your secret! If you are, this can be a minefield… most of the fivesquid team could graze for days - you just need to see our meeting table - it’s a buffet - we're moving towards a fruit buffet! Just like you plan your meals (you do now!), you also plan your snacks. You’ve removed the really bad stuff so you're not tempted, but you still have a selection of yummy healthy snacks to keep you going - and if there are no healthy snacks just be disciplined to have just the one. Also keep your snacks out of sight so you have to get up to get them. If they’re there on your desk, we can guarantee they will be done and dusted by 11am.
6. The right hydration
This is so important. You’re body, including your brain, needs water and more than you think. Keeping hydrated with water can really help keep the mind active for hours, so when you're feeling sluggish a glass of water may be what your body and mind is craving, not another chocolate bar and espresso. The best way to make sure you drink enough is to keep a large bottle of water on your desk and sip throughout the day. You can still have coffee, tea and other drinks - just be mindful of the calories you're drinking and make sure the majority of your fluids are good old H2O. If you don’t know whether you’re drinking enough, the pee test is a good one! Have a look, the darker your pee the more dehydrated you are, and if it's light in colour that's good. No colour to it at all? Easy tiger, you may be guzzling a little too much!
7. Keep it interesting
Another obvious one - don’t eat the same thing everyday. It’s boring, it will make life boring and life should never be boring. Remember our rule, it has to be fun!
8. Don’t eliminate
A real bug bear of the fivesquid team... As we said, we’re not physicians but we see a lot of fads and recommendations that people remove entire food groups from their diet, often based on no scientific evidence. If you think you're intolerant or allergic to any foods, seek professional advice. You’re allowed to eat bread and dairy… OMG!
9. Listen to your body
Oh, now we're getting all zen like! Once you start to become more aware of your eating habits, you’ll start to notice how you feel when you eat or drink certain things - take note of this and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. It’s not rocket science and you’re the best judge of how you feel, trust in that feeling, just remember to be honest.
10. Learn moderation
Party poopers or what! We know, we want our cake and we want to eat it too, but sometimes life’s just not that peachy! If you want a chocolate bar, have the chocolate, don’t feel guilty, don’t obsess, don’t feel you have to bust a gut in the gym to work it off. Take a moment, savour the utter delight of that chocolate bar. Just stop at one bar and don’t do it every day. It's ok to go nuts, you just can't go nuts all the time. Did we mention balance?
Remember nutrition is not a diet, if you need to lose weight then eat less calories (go for foods that are low calorie and you can eat more volume - greens are your friend here) and move more. If you want to maintain your weight, eat the same number of calories and if you need to gain weight, up the calories (with healthy but calorie dense foods). That's the secret to maintaining a healthy body weight.