Healthy Eating Tips for Writers
Guess which promise I kept?
Now it’s almost time for school to resume, which means I’ll be driving, teaching, driving, interviewing and writing. Whew! To heck with healthy choices! Pass the ice cream…and pretzels…and…
If you spend any time writing and find yourself with BICAD (butt-in-chair-all-day) syndrome, or if you’re a journalist (like me) and find that you live life on the highway, traveling from assignment to assignment (and to school to assignment) and then add BICAD, you may face some of the same struggles I do.
This much I know for sure: I need to have better control over diet when I'm in the writing zone. Now, how do I get that control?
Amber Pankonin, a Registered Dietitian licensed as a Medical Nutrition Therapist and a board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition. Amber holds a B.S. in Nutrition Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Master’s degree in Community Nutrition from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Amber also blogs about health and nutrition topics. We talked about some of my food and exercise issues due to my writing obligations. Perhaps, my fellow writers, you wrestle with these concerns, too.
LuAnn: Welcome to The Muffin, Amber. My schedule is one of my main concerns, and I know all writers have such varied schedules. Some people prefer to get up early in the morning and write. Others - like me - are night owls. It's tough to maintain a decent meal schedule! Compound my schedule with my husband’s dairy farm routine and it’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to meals and meal planning. Then I find myself snacking at midnight. What can writers do to maintain a healthy eating schedule?
Amber: This question makes me smile. As a Registered Dietitian that works as a free lance writer, I have the same struggles! Honestly, I usually trust my gut. Meaning, when I'm hungry then I'll eat! However, you and I both know that not all meals and snacks are created equal. I do eat breakfast every morning and I try to limit my snacks to under 250 calories. You could eat six smaller meals every day, but a small meal might be packed with fat, calories, and sodium. It really depends on what you're eating! I usually do three meals and a couple snacks throughout the day but that can change depending on my hunger levels. Sleep is also really important for a healthy metabolism. Even if you are a night owl, try and get consistent rest each night. My other suggestion is to have a plan for meals & snacks. I also try to not keep foods in the house that I know I will overindulge in. (I'm talking to you, salt & vinegar potato chips)
LuAnn: Oooh, salt and vinegar chips. Yum! I mean, pass the carrot sticks. (Smiles) My morning routine seems to work, but by mid-afternoon, I crash and burn. Probably because I think I’m hungry and open the cupboard to see what’s available. Why, hello, box of Wheat Thins. Okay, I know I shouldn’t eat those. What are some healthy snack options that will maintain my energy?
Amber: I reach for sugar snap peas or cucumbers with hummus. It's packed with fiber and not loaded with empty calories. I mention fiber because since most writers aren't moving, constipation is usually a problem. I also love greek yogurt. Chobani makes the "bites" which are around 100 calories/serving. It provides protein that fills me up until dinner time.
LuAnn: I am a hummus fan, so I will need to make sure it’s available. Luckily, I don’t have a problem with empty calories from soda. Sweet drinks are too much for me. I do drink a lot of tea, but even that becomes boring after awhile. Do you have some ideas about sprucing up a drink without packing on pounds? How many ounces should I be drinking a day? And I'm not talking alcohol. (Smiles)
Amber: Infused waters have been trending the last few years. Adding cucumbers, herbs, orange slices, or strawberries are a great way to add life to your water or tea. The blanket fluid recommendation is about 9-13 cups of fluid/day. The amount of fluid you need every day is unique as how many calories you need every day. It's depends on your age, gender, height, how active you are, and even environmental factors. Keep in mind that you can get fluid sources from your food. Fruits and vegetables are about 95% water and meats/cheeses are about 50% water. Yes, coffee & tea do count as a part of your overall fluid intake. If you're a soda drinker, I suggest switching to diet or cutting it out altogether if you can. Again, small changes like that will give you better results in the end.
LuAnn: Perfect! I’m going to try infusing tea with orange slices. Sounds good! Okay, Amber, here’s one of my biggest problems. If I'm in "the zone," I can write for hours without a break. Then, I realize I haven't eaten anything and instead of making a meal, I'll snack, which leads to another snack, which leads to... Should I be concerned about skipping lunch?
Amber: Well, it depends on the person, but let's say a writer is diabetic. This could lead to a drop in blood sugar which would impact cognitive function. For those of us without diabetes, we might feel hungry which could be a distraction. Again, we have to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. I know what it's like to be in the zone, but I also know breaks are healthy. Also, try and keep all meals and snacks away from the work area because that can also lead to mindless eating.
LuAnn: Ding! Ding! Ding! Been there, done that! Another change I need to make is taking a break to exercise. When it’s crunch time and I have a lot of deadlines, I push exercise to the end of the to-do list. I’ll be honest, I just don't like to. What are some quick exercises writers can do between tasks/assignments if they can’t block a set amount of time for exercise?
Amber: Funny that you should ask this because I have been working on finding a balance with this in my own life. I have been researching standing desks and treadmill desks for months now! I used to have a job where I was on my feet all the time. Since I quit my job to become an entrepreneur, I've noticed it's harder for me to get those daily steps in. I would suggest consider purchasing a standing desk or even a treadmill desk. I recently purchased one for myself! In fact, I'm answering these questions while working from my treadmill desk. You also don't have to spend a fortune either. IKEA makes table legs that extend to 42" which are about $30/leg. With the right adjustments, you should be able to assemble yourself a decent standing desk. I put mine over my treadmill and I write and walk comfortably between 1.0-2.0 miles/hour. It doesn't necessarily replace my workout, but it does help me get steps throughout the day. I would also consider purchasing a pedometer. I own a Fitbit zip and I love tracking my steps throughout the day. Fitbit also allows social sharing so I can compete with my friends or others that I know who work from home. Any activity tracker allows you to really see what your activity looks like throughout the day.
LuAnn: Sounds like I better retrieve the pedometer from the junk drawer and USE it! Hello, C25K, my old friend. Great tips, Amber. Now, I need to implement them.
Interview and graphic by LuAnn Schindler