How to Eat Healthy When Work is Crazy
It was 10 pm and I was staring blankly into the blue glow emanating from my laptop in my barren campaign offices.
I had just wrapped up our evening phone bank after a day of events all across the state and because I didn’t have time for lunch I chowed down on a jumbo bag (or maybe two) of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and then joined our campaign volunteers in round after round of Domino’s pizza.
Tomorrow I’d wake up and do it all again.
This lifestyle was just part of the sacrifice you make to engage in important, purposeful work, I thought. I could get back to living healthier later.
Fast forward 5 years and I was in the midst of bootstrapping Bossed Up, and the chaos of launching my own company was all-consuming.
But this time, things were different.
I simply couldn’t start a company about helping women avoid burnout and encourage others to invest in their personal sustainability without walking the walk. The irony of burning out while starting Bossed Up would be too rich.
So I changed my whole approach. I decided to launched Bossed Up while also training for my first triathlon. I put the theories I was reading about and teaching on to the test in my own life and reaped the rewards of sustainable success first-hand.
Last year when I launched our online burnout prevention course, Bossed Up for Life, I spent much of the morning on the tennis courts instead of sweating over my inbox, watching sales roll in. Last quarter I went vegan for the first time while also leading our first-ever #BossedUpUSA tour for women’s history month, cruising coast-to-coast and hosting 21 events in total.
Here’s what I’ve learned: YOU decide what to sacrifice. For me, sacrificing my healthy lifestyle was no longer an option.
I was raised in a household that worshipped around the dinner table. My parents started discussing what was for dinner at breakfast each day. My mom and dad made dinners from scratch for our family of 6 with the love and caring most people reserve for a special night occasion. To this day, my parents pride themselves on their commitment to fine cuisine as an everyday delight.
I like to joke that in my family, food is our love language.
So when I eat garbage, not only do I feel like garbage, but I feel fundamentally deprived. Emotionally empty. Spiritually starved.
If like me, you want to hustle hard, but still consider healthy eating a must, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. I hope they help you in your quest to avoid eating crap when work is cray.
And hey – I can’t wait to hear your best tips and suggestions in the comments below, too! Share your best strategies to help all of us stay healthy and sane when work is nuts.
1. Meal Prep Sunday
Roll your eyes all you want, haters, this strategy is key (even if you don’t take part in posting your meal prep photos on social media). I often make a week’s worth of lunches on Mondays or Tuesdays, since a) I like to savor my Sundays and b) the grocery store is a nightmare on the weekends. Simple make-ahead meals mean lunch and dinner time remains stress-free throughout the week.
Pick up a set of FitPackers on Amazon for microwaveable, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe tupperware that’s so affordable you won’t actually care when they inevitably go missing.
If you want to make meal prep even easier, check out Cook Smarts and their awesome meal plan guides to help keep things simple in the kitchen.
2. Outsource it
Want to meal prep but can’t make the time? It’s easier than ever to get real, local food delivered right to your door and let chefs do the all the work for you. Power Supply is a great company for folks here in DC and I’ve also heard from many who turn to Blue Apron and Plated for dinner-in-a-box style ingredients delivered fresh to your door (some assembly required…).
If these options break the bank, consider your local farm co-op! Often times they have affordable options for delivering fresh produce to your door once a week.
Want another great – and definitely cheap – option? Team up with your friends, coworkers, or neighbors (you remember them, right?). If everyone takes on one day a week to prepare a lunch or dinner for all parties involved, that’s one less day you need to worry about adulting. Just make sure you are crystal clear about your food preferences, allergies, and expectations up front.
3. Always be packing
There’s nothing worse than being stuck starving through an endless meeting with nothing but office kitchen crap available. There’s a reason moms travel with snacks on the go to tame hungry toddlers – why not do the same?
Prevent your own temper tantrum by stocking up on a energy bars (I live for KIND bars) or individually-wrapped snack packs (think mixed nuts, dried fruits, and travel-size veggie packs) and always having an option like that in your purse or desk drawers. I switch from backpacks to purses all the time throughout the week, but they all have a protein-packed energy bar stashed in them somewhere!
4. There’s an app for that
I never could have survived eating vegan on the cross-country #BossedUpUSA tour without Happy Cow, my go-to food-finding app that helps me locate vegetarian and vegan-friendly options wherever I am. Local Eats is another one of my favorites, since it sources the best reviews for all kinds of fare based on people who actually live in those neighborhoods.
For help planning your meals out at home, check out desktop app Plan to Eat that merges meal planning with the calendar you’re already using.
5. Your freezer is your friend
Most meals you’ll find in the freezer aisle are full of sodium, preservatives, and ingredients that will leave you feeling hungry again in an hour. But I adore the frozen section at Trader Joe’s, which has transformed my friendship with my freezer. From their delectable vegan Tiki Masala and vegetarian Pad Thai to my favorite Sriracha veggie burgers, there’s something in there for everyone. Their frozen burritos are $3.29 (for two!) and heat up in the microwave in less than 5 minutes.
The best part? All that frozen goodness is free of those crappy chemicals you might find elsewhere, so you can still eat clean in less than 10 minutes. Ain’t no shame in my microwave game, let me tell you.
6. Grocery stores can be grab-n-go
I’ve already revealed my Trader Joe’s fanaticism, but really, there are SO many ways in which grocery stores are making it easier to eat on the run with them. TJ’s has a fresh lunch section with salads, wraps, and sushi all packaged up and ready to grab on the go. Safeway, Shaws, Stop & Shop, Harris Teeter, and Whole Foods now boast salad bars and hot food options to mix n’ match your own meal together. Often times those grocery store prices can’t be beat – even by healthier “fast food” retailers like Subway.
My biggest lesson learned along the way? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
When I had trouble finding the ideal vegan meal in rural Oregon, I didn’t throw in the towel and eat garbage the rest of the day. Being an all-or-nothing clean eater can add more stress to your plate than anything.
Remember that a “better” option is still great when the “best” one isn’t possible.
How do you eat healthy when work is all-consuming? How do you bounce back when a hectic work schedule takes a bite out of your healthy eating plans?
I can’t wait to hear what strategies you’ve put to work that make it easier for you to live – and eat – #likeaboss! Weigh in via the comments below!