When I arrived in the U.K. back in March 2014, I was alone for the first four months. Although my partner promised that he was on his way, the unrelenting pessimist inside taunted me, day in and day out. I tried ignoring her by pouring all my attention into building a new business for my company. After all, that's what I was there to do. But when I wasn't in the office, I was mostly crying into my pillow, wondering if I'd meet people and if my partner would ever board that one way flight.
So, how did I gracefully deal with all this distraction and fear, while slowly chipping away at work that had no end in sight?
I ate my feelings, of course.
I've always wondered about those people: those mystical human beings who lose weight when they're stressed. It's a concept that I simply do not understand. They say that they lose their appetite. But in case you're unfamiliar with stress eating, let me educate you: it does not require an appetite. You just shovel in food.
However, after many years of this habit that brought me much shame, a noticed something new about myself when stress eating: I became aware of how my body felt and how my actions impacted the way my brain functioned. I had a big job to do at work, and all the Oreos were stifling my performance. I constantly had a dull headache, I was irritable and emotional, and I was deeply unhappy. All these things affected every area of my life, including my productivity.
Around that time, I came across U.K.-based nutritionist Chris Sandel. After learning more about his approach, I decided that it was time to invest in help. Four years later, I maintain that working with him was one of the best investments I've made. I learned about myself in several dimensions: my belief system; how my sleep, temperature, and energy are all physiologically intertwined; and of course, food.
Chris embedded knowledge and habits in me that I actively use today, which has made me content (dare I say: even happy) with my body and brain.
So I wanted to share one of his most impactful, actionable diet tweaks that has created tangible productivity outcomes in me. It's not complicated, but it does take some habit formation and planning:
Eat more protein. Especially at breakfast.
So simple it's almost underwhelming, right? I'm quickly leaving my personal circle of knowledge, but allow me take it one step further. After my intensive six months of client work with Chris ended, I took the new foundation that he created in me and layered on experimentation with other programs, like Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Body. Although Tim's program in its complete form is all wrong (for me), his iteration on this protein commandment took my body and brain to the next level:
1. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking - ideally, within 30 minutes.
2. Include >20g of protein in breakfast - equivalent to three eggs or a generous scoop of vegan protein.
Since I've incorporated this tweak into my routine, I stay full until lunchtime, have stabilized and constant energy throughout the morning and afternoon, and have an extra edge that allows me to go mentally deep into each problem that I'm trying to solve in and out of the office.
PS - Hopefully it goes without saying that (a) I am not a doctor nor nutritionist and (b) I recognize that everybody, and every body is different.
For me, having low maintenance weekday morning habits are critical, so I cook the pictured protein-packed muffins each Sunday, then re-heat and pair with a smoothie each day of the week. This how I personally am able to integrate this advice into my routine in an easy, doable way.