A food psychologist explains why you should always make the most of your lunch hour.
By Dr Christy Fergusson
It’s estimated that up to 40 per cent of office workers typically eat at their desk during the working day. Multi-tasking your way through lunch may feel like the best way to get through your workload, but it can actually be bad for your health, and your productivity levels.
We speak to top food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson about why you should avoid eating lunch at your desk, and how to reboot your lunchtime routine:
1. You are more likely to overeat
Eating while you’re distracted by work can be a disaster for your waistline and energy levels. How many times have you mindlessly munched your way through lunch and before you realise it you’re on your last bite? Research has shown that eating while distracted can lead to overeating. For example, one study found that those eating while watching TV ate 36 per cent more pizza and 71 per cent more macaroni and cheese.
What’s more, the type of distraction doesn’t matter. So while you’re unlikely to watch TV at your desk, chowing down lunch while staring at a screen: scrolling through a spreadsheet or mulling over emails, could be just as detrimental.
✔️ Try this: Switch off the distractions. Step away from your computer screen and put your smartphone back in your bag. Take time to focus on what you’re eating. Taste, savour and enjoy each mouthful. By practicing mindful eating, you will eat less and finish your meal feeling more satisfied.
2. You need a ‘brain break’
Lunchtime is a great opportunity to give yourself a ‘brain break’ so you can refresh your mind. It can be all too easy to fill your lunchtime catching up on your to do list and getting lost scrolling through social media. Being stuck to your screen all day can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
✔️ Try this: Use your lunch time to step away from the office and break away from your usual routine. Mix it up and trying something new during lunch.
3. You’ll lack variety
It’s very easy to get stuck in a routine of running to the same café that’s the closest option to your work. But without giving yourself time to properly consider your options, or indeed prepare lunch the day before, it’s inevitable you’ll stress about what to get. The safe decision will be to opt for the same sandwich as yesterday, which can become boring and also limit variety in your diet.
✔️ Try this: Prepare lunch in advance – take in leftovers from yesterday’s dinner which will save you time and money. Or, if you’re pushed for time and the local café is the only option, opt for simple changes.
4. You sit for too long
Nowadays the typical office worker can spend a staggering 15 hours per day sitting. In fact, most of the day is spent sitting – driving, working at a desk, eating dinner or watching television. Walking to and from the office kitchen will likely do little to add extra steps to your day. Research has found that sitting too much is harmful to our long term health and wellbeing. Spending long periods sitting uses little energy and burns few calories. Agricultural workers, for example, burn up to 1,000 more calories per day than those working desk jobs.
✔️ Try this: Walk, walk and walk some more. While it’s important to eat and refuel during our lunch breaks, try and spend most of your time moving. Walk around the block or find a local park to walk through.
5. You miss out on socialising
Spending lunchtime cooped up in the office can limit the time you have for socialising. This can have a knock on impact on your happiness and productivity. Regular lunch dates with friends are a great way to break up the day, recharge and reduce stress. Taking time away from work at lunch will allow you to come back feeling happier and more focused to start the afternoon.
✔️ Try this: Get organised and arrange to meet friends who work nearby during your lunch break. You’ll be less likely to work through lunch if you are meeting someone.
6. You need sunshine
Research by Grace Say Aloe revealed that 67 per cent of us work the same hours each day. With many people working early mornings and late nights, most office workers inevitably spend their time travelling to and from the office when there is limited sunlight. A lack of sunlight can lead to low levels of vitamin D.
✔️ Try this: Lunchtime can be one of the few opportunities we have to get a dose of sunlight. Make sure you get outdoors and recharge your levels of vitamin D. Sunshine is also an incredible mood booster. It triggers the release of our feel good brain chemical serotonin leaving us feeling happier and more positive.