January is typically a time when people plan on changing their eating habits to be healthier. Sadly, many don’t stick with it for more than a few weeks. It can be hard to make big lifestyle changes for a number of reasons. When you’re a business owner, you might feel like you don’t have enough time to make healthy meals every day or get enough sleep at night. You might be so wrapped up in a project that you forget to drink enough water or exercise or any of those things that are good for you.
But what does diet have to do with running a business? Quite a bit. So much of how we feel mentally starts with how we are physically. And how we feel can have a great impact on our productivity and the quality of work we’re delivering. Taking care of ourselves helps us take care of our clients who help take care of our businesses.
I’m not talking about the extra self-care, the more luxurious things like getting massages and going on vacations. I’m talking about the day-to-day are you doing what you need to do to stay healthy things. Eat. Sleep. Exercise. Hydrate. The basics of life. It’s not about the number on a scale, how much weight you can lift, or how many reps you can do. It’s about what you can do to feel good inside so you can perform at your best no matter what you’re doing.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear me say that the “right” way to do this depends on you. I think a big part of the issue, and why so many people don’t stick with any one diet or exercise regimen is because it’s formulated for someone else. There isn’t a one-size-fits all solution for it because we are all physiologically different in what we need. I know a ton of people right now doing the keto thing. That would never work for me. I’ve been a vegetarian for at least 25 years. But I don’t think it’s right for everyone. Some people love crossfit. I think that’s still a thing. It’s not a thing I’ll ever do. Nor would I recommend pilates to everyone (although I kind of do. It’s amazing). It all really depends on your genetics, your abilities, and your goals.
I am pretty sure, however, that if you’re listening to this podcast, one of your goals is to have a successful business. Successful as defined by you. So let’s start by building the foundation that will help keep you at your best so you can focus on what matters.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with food. I love to eat, but I hate having to decide what to eat 3 times a day every single day. It’s exhausting. Especially because I don’t get proper food cravings where something specific sounds good. But it must be done. Choosing the right food can affect how you feel throughout the day. And again, this is an individual thing.
I chose to become a vegetarian for a number of reasons when I was a teenager. Some rational, like the obvious health benefits and caring about animals. Some not so rational, like I didn’t want to eat the food my mom’s boyfriend at the time made for dinner. It started off as a rebellion of sorts, but I instantly found out how much better I felt all the time when I stopped eating meat. I didn’t get so much as a cold for nearly 9 years and I felt lighter – not weight-wise, but not that heavy and sluggish feeling after a meal. So I’ve stuck with it all this time. It helps me stay energized and focused throughout the workday, and every day .
I start every day with a glass of celery juice. About 15-30 minutes later, I have a smoothie – it’s usually a mix of coconut water, greens, frozen berries, orange, banana, ginger, cinnamon, and some superfood powders. I also take my vitamins and other supplements at the same time – a women’s multivitamin multimineral made from raw fruits & vegetables (I’m a big fan of the Garden of Life brand – it’s important to check the ingredient list to make sure there isn’t a bunch of stuff you don’t need to consume in there), Super B Complex, Vitamin D, a probiotic, and CBD oil. It helps me get the day started on the right foot with the right nutrients for me.
Lunch and dinner depend on the week, but I stick to clean ingredients with everything. I’m a big fan of making my own food, which helps a lot. I don’t eat at, or order from, restaurants unless it’s for a social situation. I know people love going out to eat, but for me, I like to know where my food came from and what is actually in what I’m consuming. I also rarely buy anything I can make at home – things like salad dressings and pasta sauces. They’re simple to make, I think they taste better, and they don’t have all those added ingredients when I do it.
Food prep is definitely my answer to those who think they don’t have time to make healthy meals every day. I don’t either, nor do I want to. But I do dedicate a few hours every Sunday to making and prepping all of my food for the week, at least Monday through Friday. That way I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to eat that day or get into that place of being too tired or not motivated to cook. That’s when the tendency is to just grab something quick and not necessarily the best option. It’s all about setting myself up for success, just like with my business.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get 7-8 hours of sleep at night, I’m not at my best the next day. I can still get my work done, but my brain isn’t as clear and my energy level is lower, and that affects my productivity. I end up getting more easily distracted and am less motivated to get things done.
Part of ensuring I get a good night’s sleep means I have to stop working at least 2 hours before I go to bed, ideally more. My brain needs the time to reset. Otherwise it’s like my subconscious is still working when I’m trying to sleep. I swear sometimes my brain is its own person because it does things that the “I” I feel doesn’t do. Not sure if that makes sense at all, but there seems to be an internal disconnect at times. I also make it a point not to eat after 7pm because I find that eating later can affect my sleep as well. I know the common advice is to get 8 hours of sleep every night, but I find that it depends on the person. Some are perfectly fine on less sleep, some need more. 7-8 hours is my sweet spot. Much more than that and I actually feel just as bad as if I get less. I make it a priority to go to bed around the same time every night so I can stay on a regular routine because that’s what works for me. And I don’t want to be that person who’s yawning on a Zoom call with a client because I stayed up late watching a show.
This can be a tough one during the day, especially if you’re working all day from home in a chair behind a desk. I make it a non-negotiable part of my schedule. It’s a priority to me, not only because I want to stay healthy, but because it is part of my pain management routine. I have a lot of issues with joints and inflammation. Some of it is genetic, like my migraines and sensitivity to barometric pressure changes (basically I’m allergic to the weather). Some is the result of a car accident when I was 17. Through many years of trying different things, I found that pilates is what works best for me. Pre-COVID I would go to the studio 4-5 days a week and that was fantastic. Now, I haven’t been able to go for almost a year, and that makes me sad. But, when the studio originally shut down, I invested in some equipment to use at home and I still make myself go to class, so to speak, at least 4 days a week. It’s not the same, but it’s something. O is that now I tend to do it in the morning before I get into my workday vs before when I’d go in the afternoon and use it as a way to separate my workday from my personal time. I’m still not entirely sure which I prefer. But I keep trying different things until I figure it out. With everything. That includes my business. They key thing is to do something to make sure you’re moving. I know I feel lousy if I don’t. And if I feel lousy, I’m not doing my best work.
I do weird little things, too, to force myself to get up and walk around throughout the day. I intentionally don’t have a trash can in my office. I know I can’t handle clutter, so it makes me get up and walk into another room if I need to throw something away. I also took a tip from my friend Melissa and started drinking out of a smaller water bottle. I was in this habit of having my giant water bottle with me at all times, because I drink a lot of water. I’ll get to that in a minute. But that started when I was working in an office. I recently had to tell myself hey, that’s not necessary anymore. You can get up and get more any time you feel like it. So I downgraded from my 32 ounce bottle to a 16 ounce one. That encourages me to get up twice as often. It doesn’t mean I’m going on an hour-long walk, but some movement is better than none.
Water. So important. It always surprises me whenever I hear someone say they don’t drink much water. And that seems to happen a lot. I average about a gallon a day. It’s pretty much all I drink. I don’t do coffee or soda or any drink with sugar. I do love my tea, but I’m a bit of a purist. I tend to stick with straight green, black or oolong loose-leaf tea. Sometimes I’ll add honey, but usually not. And I won’t drink any tea after 2pm because even though there isn’t a ton of caffeine in it, I am super sensitive to caffeine and if I have it too late, it’ll affect my sleep. And I already talked about how important sleep is to me.
Now, I live in a desert, so hydration is extra important to me, but it’s important to everyone. It helps keep you functioning properly as a human, which helps keep you functioning properly while running your business. It can help with your sleep, your mood, and your brain function, too – all of which are important parts of being at your best. If I sound repetitive, it’s because it’s true of all the things I’m talking about here.
It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you about everything. Your body, not your brain, because there is a huge psychological component to things like diet and exercise that doesn’t always align with what we actually need. But when we’re in tune with ourselves, we don’t really have to guess about what to do as much. Go to bed when you’re tired. Eat when you’re hungry. Rest when you’re feeling overworked. Simple. Right? I’m kidding – I know it’s not always that simple. I’m fortunate that I haven’t had to wake up to an alarm for several years. I’m a morning person, so I naturally wake up early, usually between 6-7am. I’m able to follow my natural rhythm and I schedule my day based on my energy levels, which are pretty predictable at this point. I really am a routine person. Not that I can’t veer from it but having that structure in place has been a huge benefit to me, and to my business.
If you’re not sure what is right for you, journaling is a great way to figure it out. You can do it with food. Keep a log of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel each day. You might find that certain foods cause certain reactions, good or bad. You can do it with sleep. Write down when you go to bed, when you wake up, if it took you a long time to fall asleep or if you were out right away. You can do it with exercise. When and for how long did you work out each day? What did you do? How did you feel immediately after? How about the next day? And you can do it with hydration. How much water did you drink? What else did you drink? How did you feel that day?
You can’t form better habits if you don’t know what is and what isn’t working for you. So just like I talk about with time management and scheduling, the best place to start is to figure out how much time you’re actually spending on the things you’re doing. It’s the same advice here. Pay attention to yourself and you can figure out the best way to stay healthy as a person, and give your best to your business so it can stay healthy, too.