“The will is a powerful asset of the human mind, which enables us to reach goals and fulfill desires” – Bas Verplanken
For an entrepreneur, willpower is essential. It drives us to reach our goals. It enables us to maintain discipline, dedication, and desire. But very often, the discipline that motivates us to be so successful in our business endeavors gets lost when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
It is completely understandable. Setting up or running a business comes with long working hours, tight deadlines, commitments, frustrations, and stress. With all those extra responsibilities, something has to give, and usually that something is self-care.
However, failing to take care of your needs is like shooting yourself in the foot. Food has such an incredible impact on your body. It affects how you feel, both physically and mentally, how you perform, how likely you are to get sick, and how balanced your hormones are at any given moment – all things that have an enormous impact on your ability to run a successful business.
That is why, as an entrepreneur, your self-care strategy should be as important as your business strategy. If you don’t have the fuel in your body to carry out all the tasks required by your business, what good is a business strategy?
Luckily, research shows that by creating intentions to implement new habits, you can successfully change everyday behaviors. That means that by sitting down and setting some clear intentions about how you want your diet to be, you really can make effective changes.
So what should those intentions look like? Here are 10 recommended healthy eating habits to implement as part of your self-care strategy.
1. Plan and Prepare
When it comes to healthy eating, nothing is more important than planning and preparation. Just as you would prepare for a business meeting, so should you prepare for every meal.
Meal planning generally involves the following:
- Sit down once a week and write out every meal and snack you will eat for the next 7 days.
- Write an ingredient list for your meal plan.
- Check which ingredients you have in your home already.
- Buy the remaining ingredients from the grocery store.
- Prepare as much as you can before the week starts. That might involve chopping some vegetables, pre-packaging some snacks, or making whole meals and popping them in the freezer. Whatever you have time for.
Having a clear plan is the first step in making sure you fuel your body effectively every day.
2. Not Just Carbs
Many of us have a tendency to go heavy on the carbohydrate foods, especially at snack time. Think bread, chips, crackers, toast etc. However, for optimal health and sustained energy levels, it is important to include protein and healthy fats at every meal and snack.
Good sources of protein include meat, fish, cheese, beans, eggs, yogurt, nuts, soy products (like tofu or edamame), and seeds.
Good sources of healthy fats include avocado, nuts, fatty fish, whole eggs, olive oil, chia seeds, and dark chocolate (yes I said chocolate).
3. Never skip breakfast
We have all heard the old adage – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether that is true or not, it is undisputedly an important meal. It sets us up for the day, providing us with the fuel we need to get started. In addition, skipping breakfast leads us to make unhealthy choices and eat more calories later in the day.
Ideally you should eat within 30 to 90 minutes of waking in the morning. If you are not a breakfast person, try something as simple as a banana and a spoonful of nut butter.
4. Create a food schedule
As a successful entrepreneur, you are probably adept at scheduling. So now is the time to apply those skills to your eating habits.
Create a meal and snack schedule for each day. Add it to your calendar. If needs be, set an alarm to remind you. And make sure you stick to it. For example, you might schedule breakfast at 7am, snack at 10am, lunch at 1pm, snack at 4pm, and dinner at 7pm. However you decide to set your schedule, it is a good idea not to go longer than 3 to 4 hours without food.
When your scheduled time for a meal or snack comes around, stop what you are doing and eat mindfully. It is so tempting to scarf down your food while sending emails. However, by paying full attention, you are more likely to stop when you are full. Research also shows that people who eat mindfully eat fewer calories in a day. So make it part of your plan that you actually stop for each meal and snack, even if it is only for 10 minutes.
5. Keep healthy snacks handy
While it is a good idea to schedule each meal and snack, it is also important to listen to your body. Sometimes hunger sets in outside of mealtimes. That is an indication that your body needs more fuel.
For those times when hunger strikes, keep some healthy snacks nearby. Fresh fruit, nuts, healthy granola bars (with few or no added sugars), boiled eggs, or chopped vegetables and hummus packs are all great options.
6. Drink enough water
Making sure you drink enough water is crucial to your performance. Even mild dehydration can negatively impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. Among other things, dehydration can lead to headaches and fatigue, neither of which are desirable for a hard-working entrepreneur.
Women should drink seven to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
To make sure you drink enough, try keeping a water bottle with you at all times, drinking a full glass of water with every meal and snack, or keeping a large jug of water on your desk.
7. Limit caffeine
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that has some excellent health benefits. As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to rely on caffeinated drinks to stay alert and work long hours. However, caffeine can also produce some unwelcome side effects, like anxiety, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.
It is generally accepted that drinking 2 to 4 cups of coffee per day is safe.
When you feel your energy levels in decline, instead of reaching for caffeine, try drinking a glass of water, eating a small snack, and getting some fresh air. If that doesn’t help, try drinking green tea instead of coffee.
8. Stock your pantry
For those days when your best-laid plans don’t work out, and you arrive home with no idea what you are going to cook, make sure your pantry is well stocked so you can whip up an easy, healthy meal.
Some great options to keep at home are canned tuna or beans, quick-cook or frozen brown rice, nuts and seeds, frozen vegetables and berries, oats, pasta and sauce, eggs, and cheese. That way, you can make yourself a plate of pasta and veggies, or whip up a cheese and vegetable omelet. Far better than reaching for frozen pizza too often.
9. Identify some healthy take out options near you
We have to be realistic here. Some nights, you won’t even feel like cooking pasta and sauce. But if you are prepared, you can stop yourself from turning to really unhealthy options.
So how can you prepare?
- Find local restaurants, cafes, or take-outs
- Go online, look at their menus, and pre-select some nutritious options (using their nutrition facts information if available)
- Keep a note of those options ready for when you need to order in.
10. Nurture your immune system
The last thing you need when running your own business is a sick day. So nurturing your immune system becomes doubly important.
You may have heard that 70% of your immune system is in your gut. That means gut-health has a significant impact on your ability to fight off bugs. The best way to improve the health of your digestive system is by getting plenty of probiotics and prebiotics in your diet.
Probiotics are good bacteria that keep your gut healthy. You can get them from fermented products, like kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha. Alternatively you can take them in supplement form.
Prebiotics are the food for the probiotics. Some prebiotic foods include berries, bananas, jicama, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, whole grains, beans, and leafy greens.
Another way to ensure your immune system stays in tip top shape is by getting enough sleep. As tempting as it might be to stay up late working, getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important. Lack of sleep can really do a number on your immune system. It also increases the amount of hunger hormone released by your body, causing you to reach for more snacks the next day.
The Bottom Line
As an entrepreneur, it is crucial that you prioritize your diet. What you eat directly affects how you perform. And when it comes to the success of your business, it all comes down to your performance as the business owner.
Take all those amazing personality traits you have that make you an incredible entrepreneur, and apply them to your eating habits. Your ability to plan, prepare, schedule, critically think, trouble-shoot, and drive yourself to succeed are as important in relation to your health as they are to your business.
Esther Schultz is a Nutritionist who specializes in culinary nutrition. She works with clients to find the right diet to maximize their physical and mental health, while removing the negative emotions associated with daily food decision. Esther’s recipes, food tips and more can be found at thewholesomefork.com