There is no one answer, path, or perfect plan when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. This is the problem I'm finding. Too many experts, too many articles, and too many people with good intentions.
I've been very fortunate in my career to have contact with hundreds of people. Workplace wellness is such a hot topic, and offering solutions means I get to speak to large groups regularly. I grew up in a small Mennonite town. Farmer sausage and perogies were a staple in the diet. Neither of which are close to healthy. Try telling a farmer raised on that food to never eat it again. That's not going to be an option.
Try telling anyone that they can't have their traditional foods because it's not in some way healthy. Probably not going to happen.
My latest venture into the world of Workplace Wellness has me providing four seminars spaced 90 days apart. It's to give people targets and goals, then check back to see if they are hitting them and what results they are feeling.
First Quarter: The four pillars of health -- Hydration, Nutrition, Sleep, and Exercise. Once you learn a few tips on how these affect your life, will you change small things to make sure you positively affect each area? Drink an extra liter of water a day, make 3 days of your week strict eating (No extra sugars, no food from a box), ensure at least 2 days a week you get 8 hours of sleep, and exercise is now something you do (walking and simple movement are all it takes to be healthier. Less TV, more moving).
Second Quarter: Fitness v.s. Fads -- You can't be healthy if you stop moving for weeks on end because you started something you hate. The gym, and the life you see in fitness magazines isn't for most people. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that it really only appeals to 10 per cent of the population. In 2010 a Study was released saying that 59 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women in Canada were obese or overweight. We are not active, plain and simple. Most of the reason is because we aren't finding things we like to do. We jump on bandwagons, try early morning bootcamps, or go to things with our friends. People simply need to move and enjoy life.
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Third Quarter: The bond of health -- Workplaces need to realize the massive benefit of having fun. You take any sports team, and you'll see one common theme. They work well together because they are accomplishing physical tasks together. Each member of the team is doing work outside of the game day to be fit and ready to perform. In the workplace, getting walking groups together, creating events to bring people together, or simply ensuring that there are options for activity and ways to get clean after are huge for promoting a bond in the workplace. Open up the ability to be active, give the time, and provide the space and people will respond. It doesn't have to be bootcamps, it can be playing with puppies or walking dogs from the local Humane Society. Movement, and discussions that come from a simple walk with friends build bonds and greatly improve the work place. Try to be grumpy, or down about work while playing with a puppy. It's not possible.
Final Quarter: We are what we eat and bringing it all together - Here is the point. You can be vegetarian, you can be a meat eater, you can call it paleo, or you can call it anything you want. What you need to do is 2 things.
A) Prep real food not from a box regularly -- farm fresh, or locally grown food is best.
B) Eat proper portion sizes -- Sit down with a dietitian and learn what a properly made plate should look like. Calories are not the enemy, fat is not the enemy, carbohydrates is not the enemy. Overeating is.
Here's a snack idea from my Instagram
Breakfast idea from Instagram
To build a healthy and happy workplace takes doing these 5 things.
1) Make regular check up dates. I stress doing it quarterly, just like most companies review marketing, sales and critical numbers regularly. Take time to review the health and activity level of your workplace. It's a big part of saving money and improving workplace productivity. Productivity means making money, or saving it. Either way, the business comes out ahead.
2) Provide access to gyms, instructors, and education. Ensure your staff have the right advice to be successful in their healthy living. The mistake I see regularly is bringing in fitness people that are geared towards supporting the people who are active already, or planning events that focus on weight loss.
*A person's weight is not the best judge of their health. Weight Loss competitions do not improve health and productivity, they encourage the opposite.
3) Ensure all levels and facets of health are covered. Mental health plays a massive role in a persons ability to be active, creative or play a role in a company moving forward to reach its full potential. People need to feel safe talking. Using fitness to create workplace friendships, and a feeling of safety among peers is critical.
4) Make healthy food available. It's a simple way to make sure your staff are full of energy and mental focus from the start of the work day until the end. Teach your staff what to eat, make sure they understand it. There is nothing that compares with bringing in a professional to discuss healthy eating regularly. If most of your staff have coffee and toast for breakfast, most of your staff will be losing brain function by 10 a.m. If they skip lunch and don't drink water, by 1 p.m. your staff will be at less than 80 per cent efficieny.
5) Ensure the mandate to be healthy is top down. If you are an executive, or upper level management, it's your job to make sure what's best for the company happens. You lead by example, and get paid to do so. That means being scene as a role model of wellness. Limit smoking, drinking, and over working. Staff needs to see you taking time to be healthy, and they need to hear you encourage them to do the same.
By working with professionals, like myself, to ensure your workplace understands simple tricks to be healthy, productivity goes up for the employer, and health improves for the employee.
I dream of a world where people eat breakfast or drink a healthy smoothie every day. Drink 500ml of water five times a day at least (morning, snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner). Be active for the sake of moving, not just going to the gym. Breath deep and relieve stress a few times during the day, and sleep at night to make sure their bodies recover.
It's simple things that will turn our workplaces into high productivity healthy places people love to work at.