On the surface, working from home would seem to give one unparalleled control over one's diet. Not only do you control your schedule, but you're right there with your fridge. What could possibly go wrong?
In short, everything. Working from home gives one a lot of freedom, but it's almost too free. One advantage of working in a traditional office environment is the structure and rules. Without societal norms and cues from other co-workers, it's easy to become a feral beast and just graze on chips endlessly, or not eat at all.
When you work under your own steam, with a lack of any real supervision, you have to trust that you are being as productive as you should be, and it's easy to de-prioritise anything that smacks of "self care", even feeding yourself or showering.
January is the month for getting your house in order, and no aspect of one's life gets quite so revamped as the culinary. Meal planning is often seen as the key to it all, but the plan won't accomplish anything if it's not implemented.
Luckily, these challenges are not insurmountable, you just need a plan. Whether you are a mindless grazer or one of those strange folk who "forget to eat", a meal plan will keep you eating like a grown-up human instead of a drunk raccoon toddler. Here are some of the common work-from-home eating problems, and how to solve them.
Problem #1: You sleep until the very last minute, allowing yourself no time for breakfast
Besides trying to get up earlier, which I am not at all capable of, there are a few things you can do to help with this. As with any meal planning, it's important to have a handle on the type of eater you are. Ask yourself how you ate when you did work in an office (if you ever did) and pay attention to what you first crave in the morning.
If you like to start your day with a coffee and pastry, set up the coffee pot the night before and either buy or make a batch of croissants or scones for the week.
If you were an eat-in-your-car type, consider a big batch of freezer-friendly, microwaveable breakfast burritos and sandwiches, which you can gnaw on while you boot up your laptop. If you prefer to sip on a smoothie, pre-portion your frozen fruit into little bags, so all you have to do is dump and blend.
I also keep a minimum of at least six hard-boiled eggs in my fridge at all times; an egg or two with a mandarin or other piece of fruit makes for a very easy and surprisingly filling breakfast.
Also, feel free to borrow my favourite breakfast hack: ordering a large pizza, then leaving any leftovers out on the counter — a low risk move — and shoveling it in your mouth immediately after rising from bed, still unwashed and pant-less.
Problem #2: You cannot stop eating
Endless eating is also a risk when one is left to their own devices. The best defence against this is pre-portioning your snacks out, and not stocking your fridge and pantry like a vending a machine. I can't believe I'm saying this, but try to limit your chip and lolly supply to one or two items and stock up on some fruit.
If you think you're hungry, but "don't feel like eating a banana or an apple", you're probably not really that hungry.
You know how you used to pack yourself a lunch for school or an office job? There's no reason you have to quit doing that. Get some washable containers and make and pack a reasonable amount of food for the next day. If you eat your lunch and still feel hungry, eat an apple.
If you still crave a particular snack after that, go ahead and eat it, otherwise it will just distract you from your work.
Problem #3: You don't have time to cook
Once again, packing a lunch will save you here. Not only will you reap the benefits of having your food cooked, portioned and ready to go, but you'll have sole control of the microwave (or stove) meaning you don't have to wait in line. Depending on the type of eater you are, there are few different ways you can "pack" your mid-day meal:
- Make a sandwich the night before: Even if you decide to eat something else, you'll have a ready-to-go piece of decent food you can shovel into your mouth if things start to get dire.
- Make a big batch of something and eat from it throughout the week: Soups, stews, casseroles, fridge-friendly salads and pasta dishes are all great choices.
- Set up a mix-and-match meal plan: I am loathe to eat the same meal day after day, but I also don't want to cook a meal from scratch when I'm already hungry, so I pre-batch a bunch of things that can be used to create a myriad of meals. I'll start by cooking a bunch of chicken thighs (or a whole chicken), roasting a pan of various veggies and maybe grabbing a tub of pre-washed salad greens. I'll also get some tortillas and some instant ramen, then mix and match the protein and vegetables with the carbs and greens to create tacos, salads, and soups. (Bonus points if you make a big batch of veggie broth or stock to cook the ramen in.)
- Make a packed lunch: A bunch of small portions of your favourite things — like good cheese, a piece of fruit and really nice bread — will make you look forward your midday meal and it's really easy to throw together.
If you read about cooking online, you've no doubt seen several listicles that tout the many uses of a single, humble chicken. At this point, you know what a chicken can do for you, so another overly-prescriptive, chicken-based meal plan seems unnecessary. My agenda here is very simple. the next time you buy a whole chicken, I want you to poach it.
Problem #4: You get so wrapped up in your work, you legit forget to eat until 3 pm, at which point you are a hangry mess
Do all of the above, but set alarms on your phone or computer that remind you to eat. Title it "EAT DUMMY", if you need to. If you have a pet you have to feed of plant you need to water, consider caring for your own needs at the same time, so you don't feel like you're having to continuously interrupt yourself.
And, if you start to feel bad about taking a break to feed yourself, remember that you're not so special that the world will cease to function if you take half an hour to eat. You're just like everyone else, and you not only deserve to eat, you have to.