Renee Little, R.D.
Is Dieting is Ruining Your Productivity?
Dieting and calorie reduction can really plummet your productivity. Have you experienced this first hand?
I'm curious, what was the last diet you went on? And how did you feel? Did you try WW (formerly weight watchers), Jenny Craig, Paleo, Keto, or were you "eating clean?" Did you notice when trying to reduce your overall calories you felt sluggish, had difficulty concentrating or were a little more forgetful? There is evidence to support these experiences.
A diet with reduced calories can:
Reduced ability to concentrate (1)
Deplete energy levels, especially in the afternoon or evening (1)
Lower working memory (1)
Increase psychological stress (2)
You might be thinking....but I want to lose weight....so how do I lose weight and not compromise my productivity?
Well....great question! I would invite you to read my blog post "Want to set a weight loss goal? Here's what you need to know first" and see my #1 tip below of what you can do to get started right now.
Weight loss goals are valid and it's helpful to explore why you want to lose weight (health, wellness, energy levels). Once you explore the facts about weight loss, you can consider if a weight loss diet is the method to achieving your goals (or not). It may surprise you to know that many health (and life) related goals can be achieved without any weight loss.
How Can You Increase Productivity?
To increase productivity, I would encourage you to create a specific individualized plan with a Dietitian (oh wait...yes that's me!) to fuel your work throughout the day and provide all the key nutrients in your diet needed for cognitive function. You may be surprised how much of the counselling involves working through dieting thoughts in order to have a mindset shift from a space of dieting to nourishing your body and mind.
Research shows that a diet with adequate energy levels, variety & consistent fuel delivered throughout the day will (3):
Increase focus and concentration
Some of the key nutrients for cognitive function include:
omega 3 fatty acids
3 Tips to Get You Started Right Now
1. Learn about Diet Culture & Weight Myths
Many clients tell me they want to lose weight to be healthier and more confident. We explore these beliefs and break down the facts about weight loss and if they actually need to attain a specific weight to achieve their goals in life.
Journaling Activity: One question I ask each of my clients to spend a bit of time on is: "Do you think you have to lose weight to be more _________ (successful, confident, healthy)?" Consider thinking about this question right now for yourself. Write down your thoughts.
A key step to fueling your body properly is to understand that you do not have to lose weight (or shrink your body) in order to live your best life and succeed in your business. The next step is to identify dieting behaviors and thoughts.
Dieting takes away our ability to truly give our body what it needs and in turn reduces our productivity. - Renee Little, RD
If you are unsure if you are dieting here are two examples of dieting thoughts:
I "shouldn't eat that" because of ____________ (too high in fat, sugar, calories, desire to be thin)
Skipping meals to reduce calories
Even if you are not on an official "diet" you can have dieting thoughts and behaviors that are getting in the way of fueling your body and mind adequately. If you want to find out if you are having dieting thoughts/behaviors you can download this 10 Question Dieting Thoughts and Behaviors Quiz. Once you have identified your dieting thoughts and behaviors you can make a choice to continue these behaviors or start to make a shift.
You've seen above how dieting can interfere with your productivity (energy, focus, stress) as described above, think about the benefits that would result in your own life of making a shift from the dieting to non-dieting mindset.
2. Eat 3 Meals Daily
If you are focused on a weight loss goal you may find it enticing to skip a meal to "save on calories." There are inherent flaws with this way of thinking when it comes to boosting productivity. If you skip a meal your body will go into "fasting mode" and will have to work extra hard to create energy from your bodies stored tissues (muscle and fat). This process of energy conversion is SLOW and inefficient. Your body prefers an available source of fuel, especially for the brain (from food).
Eating 3 meals spaced fairly consistently throughout the day will be one of the easiest ways to ensure your energy levels and therefore productivity stays high all day long.
3. Pick Up Snacks for the Office
Snacks are not "bad for you." I hear the binary of foods being "good" and "bad" constantly in advertisements, discussions with friends and clients. If you have this mindset, you are not alone! Diet culture messaging has trained us to believe that snacking between meals is bad or having "snack foods" are bad for us. This is simply not true.
It is essential to buy cupboard stable foods and keep them at the office. Life as an entrepreneur is busy! There are days which are out of our control. You know these days. The ones that get away from us. All of a sudden, it's 1:30p.m. and you haven't had time to run out and grab lunch.
If you keep snacks at the office you will have a constant fuel source to power through these busy days! These snacks are also key for days when you find you have to work a little late and you are getting home or out to dinner later than anticipated.
Snack ideas for you:
Mixed nuts (almonds, cashews) - these are high in omega 3 fatty acids
Tinned tuna and crackers - tuna is high in omega 3 fatty acids and high quality protein
Protein bars or granola bars - ideas include Naked Bar, Rise Bar, Kind Bar, RXBar, Nut butter filled Cliff Bars
Dried fruit - such as natural dried mango, apple, blueberries
Set up a healthy snack delivery service (such as The Fruit Box or Naked Snacks)
Staying productive and well nourished while having a dieting mindset or actions is very difficult. The core foundation of a diet says "you do not know how to eat." Which is just not true! You can absolutely learn how to fuel your body in a mindful and meaningful way to stay energized and productive all day.
If you are having a difficult time shifting your mindset from dieting to fueling, my 6 month coaching program will be a good fit for you!
(1) Dieting and Food Cue-Related Working Memory Performance: Front Psychol. 2016; 7: 1944.
Published online 2016 Dec 14. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01944
(2) Low calorie dieting increases cortisol: Psychosom Med. 2010 May;72(4):357-64. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c. Epub 2010 Apr 5.
(3) Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function: Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul; 9(7): 568–578.