The best-selling Productivity Ninja book series has a brand new addition: Work Fuel – The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition. The new book is all about boosting performance, improving focus and eating your way to success by making smarter food choices. The Work Fuel approach is underpinned by science, easy to understand and live by, while still having a profound long-term effect on your energy and productivity. To give you a bit of a taster of the new book and set you on the right path for Nutrition & Hydration week (March 11th – 15th), here’s a summary of the nine essentials of the Work Fuel Way.
1. Be a Fuelie
Good food is brain fuel.
Let’s start with the most obvious thing. ‘We are what we eat.’ Or rather, our brain performs relative to how well we feed and support it. Perhaps you describe yourself as a foodie. Perhaps you don’t. Either way, we hope to inspire you to become a ‘fuelie’. A fuelie is someone who recognizes the benefits of increased energy, lower stress and a healthier body. Armed with this mindset a fuelie consciously and consistently makes simple food upgrades.
2. Lunch is not for Wimps
It’s time to ditch the ‘al desko’.
Gordon Gekko in the famous film Wall Street defined the 1980s’ high-octane work ethic. “Lunch is for wimps” was a phrase that cut through into mainstream culture. The sad thing is, it’s utter nonsense. Deliberately depriving your body and brain the nutrients you need to think properly, and surviving on coffee alone, doesn’t make you cool, it just makes you a caffeine-fuelled erratic human. It certainly doesn’t make you better at your job. Take a lunch break, it’s an investment in your afternoon.
3. Don’t eat food with its own jingle
Eat food made from plants, not food made in plants.
Steer clear of the jingles. What’s happened over the years is that the idea of being healthy has been hijacked by marketing people. They’ve adopted a two-step strategy to increase their profits:
- Tell us something is bad
- Tell us their product is low in the thing, or the alternative to the bad thing, and therefore the solution.
Be a fuelie: if food needs a marketing team to convince us it’s worth eating, it’s probably not worth eating.
4. Eat the rainbow
Banish the Beige.
One of the simplest ways to ensure your plate is full of nutrients is to look at the colors on it. We’ve all heard of ‘eat your greens’, but what about all those reds, yellows, purples and oranges? Different-colored vegetables tend to contain different nutrients, so a rainbow on your plate will help ensure you’re not missing anything out. Simply adding a handful of something colorful to an existing dish to ‘rainbow it up’ is enough to extend your range. Think a half a dozen cherry tomatoes, a handful of spinach, grated carrot or a forkful of sauerkraut. A few seconds of thought, but a massive upgrade. What extra color can you add to your next meal?
5. Be Label-savvy
Adopt the five ingredient rule.
If you check the label of porridge oats, it will usually say ‘Ingredients: Porridge oats’. That’s it. Single-ingredient foods are generally the best fuelie choice, because they’re the source food, meaning less processing and manipulating. Similarly, all non-label fresh foods like tomatoes, aubergines and apples are single ingredient foods. These are your go-to food choices. Seems obvious, but you will be surprised how many cupboard staples have a lengthy, complicated ingredient list. Once you start getting into a long list of ‘emulsifiers’ and ‘flavoring agents’ you know it’s not going to be a wise choice. If you are buying food in a packet, check the label and count the ingredients, under five and it’s probably an upgrade.
6. Be Ninja Prepared
You eat good food, when you have good food in the fridge.
One of the common problems with trying to lead a healthier lifestyle is that we’re busy. It can be hard to find easy, convenient options that are also nutritious. When you’ve been working all day, it’s late and you’re tired your willpower is down and the propensity to succumb to brain zapping food is at an all-time high. Productivity Ninja preparedness, as you’ll know from our time management training is all about thinking ahead. It’s like giving a gift to your future self, having good food in when you get home late or packed in your work bag/desk if you’re not. Don’t leave your future self in the lurch, as you will be as busy that day as you are now. Gift your future self with better quality options to set yourself up for more energy and resilience.
7. Choose Consistency over Intensity
The tortoise beats the hare. The micro beats the macro.
In evaluating your lifestyle choices, remember it’s not what you did today, it’s what you generally do that matters. It’s all about balance. Too many people think that detoxing in January makes up for eleven months of indulgence. And too many people also feel guilty when they have a piece of cake, even though they’ve been filling their body with nutrient-packed food all week. Don’t beat yourself up. Do small things consistently.
8. Think ‘nutriful’ before ‘beautiful’
Your food is fuel, and it doesn’t need to be on Instagram.
Over the past few years, society has glamorized food to the point of fetish. We prefer to focus on ‘nutriful’, not beautiful. The point is that you can throw together nourishing, tasty ingredients into a salad bowl in less than five minutes. Life is not a dinner party. You don’t have to see a beautiful Instagram ready meal every time you sit down to eat. It’s far better to see a ‘nutriful’ plate instead.
9. Human not Superhero
Don’t use up your willpower at home.
There is a huge freedom that comes from embracing the fact that we are human, not superheroes, particularly when we’re struggling to break free from old habits. Here’s a quick human trick for starters. Don’t use your willpower at home. It’s the place you spend the most time, so don’t give yourself choices to make. If you’re the kind of person that hears the biscuits calling them from the cupboard (like me). Do yourself a favor and don’t let them into the house in the first place!
By Graham Allcott & Colette Heneghan
Graham is the founder of Think Productive, a speaker, author and one of the world’s leading providers of business productivity workshops and coaching.
Colette is a speaker, author and coach and founder of Optimum Living. She delivers workshops covering topics such as nutrition for energy, thriving leadership, understanding and managing stress and the power of sleep.