Occupational stress or work stress has become common among working professionals these days. The hustle and bustle of corporate culture that comes with a deskbound lifestyle takes a toll on the mental as well as the physical health of a person. Though the likes of headache, fatigue and sleep disorders occur due to mental stress, stress eating is the most underrated and deadly disorder that can lead to major health issues in the long run. A certain amount of stress can help in being productive and focused, as professionals learn to accept and address challenges in the workplace. However, looking at the bigger picture, life at work is more like an emotional whirlpool. Long hours and stringent deadlines mentally drain out individuals, leaving them worried and overwhelmed.
The term- stress eating typically means to consume food in response to feelings and not hunger. Scientific studies state that after a demanding situation at the workplace; consumption of food is associated with reduced feelings of negative effect, especially during chronic stress levels. This correlation between eating and feeling better points to a self-reinforcing cyclic pattern between stress and consuming food as a coping mechanism. Optum, a provider of employee assistance programmes to corporates, reveals that 46% of the workforce in Indian organizations face problems due to some sort of stress or another. The study encapsulated that 43% of the 20,000 respondents had a skewed BMI out of which 30% had diabetic risk, 30% had hypertension risk and 46% had high-stress levels.
Various preventive measures, both at the mental and physical level, can be instilled to avoid stress eating at the workplace. Getting enough sleep, exercising, meditating regularly and keeping a check on your food intake as to what and how much you are eating and how it directly impacts your productivity. A healthy and stress-free workforce ensures higher efficiency, productivity and growth for organizations.
Listed below are some of the important do’s and don’ts for everyone.
Give up nicotine as this fatal habit usually perceived as the calming agent is actually a powerful stimulant leading to a higher level of anxiety.
Consume meals in small quantities with an increase in the frequency of consumption. For healthy snacking, take dry fruits such as roasted unsalted almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts. Lotus seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds also serve as healthy snack. Similarly, fruits like banana, pomegranate and apple combined with dry fruits are nutritious.
To improve immunity during the monsoon season, make good use of superfoods such as quinoa, asparagus and kale. Double-cooked chicken wraps with baby asparagus and quinoa, bitter gourd with parmesan shaves, kale salad or cauliflower & kale frittata are some options to explore.
Minimize consumption of sugar and refined carbs as comfort food like fries, pasta or pastries, lead to mood swings and exhaustion of energy, thus aggravating stress levels. Instead, try alternative food made of whole wheat, millets, jaggery, honey and brown sugar.
Cut down on the intake of food containing trans-fats and those consisting of a high level of chemical preservatives. Increase consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids with salmon, mackerel, seaweed, flaxseeds and walnuts, as this micronutrient is known for improving the mood.
To counter this escalating issue, many corporate offices across India have introduced healthy eating options in their kitchens. These are not just healthy eating options, but also dietary menus tailored to a specific individual’s requirement such as diabetic diet, hypertension diet and low-calorie meals.
Several companies are considering ‘food at work’ as a value proposition, only to provide healthy food options that enhance productivity and provide a better lifestyle for employees. Eating right at the workplace is not just an option; it’s the answer.
( Chef Dipu Thomas, Chef de cuisine, Elior India )