The damaging effect of workplace snacks on productivity

Photo by  Bethany Newman  on  Unsplash

A killjoy article but it is the bain of my practitioner life to try and help those trying to recalibrate themselves against an environment of sickly sweet. Corporate culture, of any size, seems to have perpetuated the childhood memory that sugared sweets is a reward. This may have also evolved in the reward drink at the end of the day - the ultimate sweet as Dr Svoboda puts it - the reward for getting through a day from work, from kids, from the general monotony. I have seen such a rollercoaster perpetuated from the office snack that I wanted to make a note on it, from a business owners perspective, into what you're feeding into your culture and the damaging effects it can have on your own productivity alongside the employees sense of self worth.

The topic of food is sensitive these days. Turn to your office mate and you might find they have read a book about some new diet of how humans really should behave. Food is certifiably anxious. It comes with a certain tightness around it. Everyone is too scared to have a dinner party, unless you're old school and have no "restrictions". Traditional folk have been celebrating food for so long, you may not have questioned why your parents/grandparents had certain rules around eating. There is, of course, many factors involved as to why we forgot to do things in moderation, and the work culture is one of them. It is such a defining aspect of your world, and to some, a place where people have limited control over their bodies, that it needs to be considered in our new design of society at large. 

There are rules but better than that, there is culture, which will always move people more. I would consider the start up/small creative business culture to be the place where common human sense can reign again. In a world where design is key, permaculture the new king of the land, the human factor must be considered in the sustainability model. 

One small consideration is snacks in the workplace.

The Ayurvedic biological effects of eating snacks

Ayurveda recognises that the body has a certain rhythm to it. It acknowledges the act of digestive enzymes as having certain conditions it works best in. Appetite increases digestive enzymes,  certain herbs and spices increase enzymes, certain temperature of substances increase it and the environment can increase it too. We consider that each person has a slightly different rhythm since some are more slight and their digestive capacity is smaller, and others are more active and fiery and they can consume more to burn off, whilst others have a sluggish system which gives them the ability to store a lot of food from fewer meals. We all metabolise slightly differently however we have the concept of metabolism in common, and metabolism works on rhythm, and once you find yours be wary of being taken off guard.

We consider the essential side effect of good digestion is improved immunity - to state it simply, it is the process of digestion that will either create strong stable tissue or it will cause the undigested food to remain circulating as toxins. If your system is efficient it will discard the toxins, and if not, due to bad habits engraving the new rhythm to your body, then it will find your weak spot and make a home there. Bring in the DNA blueprint and we have a disease manifested people.

Good digestion creates good tissue creates fortitude. Simple.

The reason for the 3pm slump

My early career days in the office and there I was in a cubicle only working 9-5pm (seemed sooo much longer). Every day around 3pm I was tortured by some kind of sleep fairy that would land on my shoulder, like jet lag, and wind. me. down. Even back there in my entrepreneurial spirit I wondered, annoyingly, why the city didn't have mini time sleep beds I could just go and doze off for 20 minutes. I discovered the reason why -I was a top class grazer eating non stop all day and rushing around whilst I did it.

When you don't rest, you don't digest and I can't get no satisfaction.

One of the most profound habits I learned, for myself,  when studying Ayurveda was to STOP and eat, and REST afterwards. During my studies I was a controller of a small/medium sized company in Portland OR with about 130 employees at that time. A meal taken in the lunch room meant that I would be asked many questions. I would have to stop eating to talk, and use energy. I'm a fan of home cooked meals but decided, in this case, that finding a quiet corner in a café for lunch would serve me better. It did. I loved taking my book to the local café. I ate their food, the employees got to know me and treated me well. I looked out the window with headphones and sat quietly and ate. And my afternoon was always productive and no sleepy head. These days, I know if I have a feeling of snacking I didn't rest well - it's an instant turnaround.

The essence of food is represented by the earth quality - it is mass. And the fire element is required to convert the mass into a finer essence or chyle. As mentioned previously if we don't digest the food well it becomes toxins. If we're rushing and not providing the right environment to digest well we graze - it's the body's way of telling you 'you are not satisfied, the conversion didn't happen, try again'. And it turns into a catch 22 - you desire the energy from food, but the act of constant eating requires a ton of energy leading to exhaustion, desiring the energy from food.

The answer (or loophole) is to rest after a meal. The meal will last longer and actually convert it to energy because digestion works in a parasympathetic state. You will avoid a mid afternoon slump.

The re-imagination of reward

Recently I attended the World Domination Summit held by Chris Guillebeau (of the $100 start up fame). He had a theme throughout the conference to spread the anti racism/anti tolerance that is becoming rife in the US. He created optional adventures you could book within the week, one of which was to attend a dinner made by refugees with their own traditional foods. Ayurveda gives us an insight about food in terms of the subtle elements it can deliver. We believe the right environment, how it was made with intention, and your mood in eating it will effect the qualities of the food taken in. This is subtle work and takes time to observe. The point is that not only was there an intention by Chris to assist the refugees but without realising it, he contributed to the wellbeing of his participants. We were left feeling satisfied from the nature of the connection the food gave us. It is why the Thank You product campaign is doing so well. Food is a powerful messenger, not simply in the sense of fuelling our bodies but it has the power to connect humanity.

It can also very quickly turn into the feeling that you're being fed a snack like a dog, that makes a person scavenge, over eat, eat in secret, basically fuel all the base feelings that make us feel LESS satisfied, more guilty, and without the feeling of control. A lot of the time you will find snacks left in the lunch room or leftovers from the important people's meeting, without the accompanying humanity to enliven the food. 

Without getting on the high horse of telling others what is healthy and what isn't, because, to us, even healthy snacks left in the manner mentioned can do harm to the person's digestive system, re-imagine how the reward should feel for those receiving it, whether it's a few words of connection in the lunch room, the delivery of snack in a personal box with a note, or something else that brings folks together, or even some kind of catering company that has good intentions they can share with you, that makes the snackees feel part of something bigger. 

A tip if you do indulge in the office snack

Don't eat dinner. There is a misconception that dinner will provide the nutrients the snack didn't. Here's the thing, if you're not hungry for dinner and you eat, there are no digestive enzymes present to break the "healthy" dinner down. Hungry = digestive enzymes are alive It is wise to avoid eating. You will not only sleep better but wake up better and, ideally, all variables remaining equal, will eliminate the previous misgivings in the morning. This is a no- guilt plan of action. If you feel you need something before bed because your mind is used to eating at that time, then have a light soup that is easy to digest.

I would almost warrant that it's not the occasional snack that is the problem, but the overeating, especially at dinner, that is the real issue. Most people eat dinner in a state of exhaustion, meaning there is a lack of energy in the body to break the food down. We eat to calm ourselves and this is a misappropriation of food, especially in a remedial sense, which comes under the heading of emotional eating. 

If we could re-imagine the evening as a time of falling to sleep to repair the body utilising the energy it has, not to digest a heavy meal but to digest anything unwanted left over from the day, then we might consider using that evening time for other things. People are exhausted. They have so little time these days. Dinner has become such an affair and there is room to move here. A light soup, a simple sandwich or wrap, a warm salad - Jamie Oliver has some good light mealsto consider. Light is the operative word, and habit to cultivate. It will also leave room for the house cook to also wind down their evening.

So we find that three possible solutions of the great problem of increasing human energy are answered by the three words: food, peace, work.
— Nicola Tesla

When I was an accountant cleaning up people's business and making it more streamline, I had a notion, even in my early days, that it was the small things that added up to the bigger picture. I always found "chopping heads" a cheaters ways to clean up - the 'drink my green drink' dieters offering. Like any diet it worked in the beginning but rarely was sustainable (unless the company was severely obese). For so many people that struggle with their own wellbeing, the office place can provide a guideline. The health part of Health and Safety is a misnomer. Humans are so capable of more than we give them credit for. The right kind of office movement can unleash an immense amount of productive energy, if understood well.