One of the biggest pleasures of life is a well-stocked kitchen whose bounty you can dip into time and again. But in becoming best friends with our refrigerators, have we put our own health and well-being at risk?

In the first article in this series, we explored why remote workers, especially those who work from home, often deny their bodies the movement and activity they need. Now, let’s look at how working at home for extended periods of time can affect our nutritional choices, and how you can reverse those impulses and habits with some simple but effective steps.

But first, let’s address why people overeat or make unhealthy food choices when they spend more time at home.

The common reasons are:

  1. Boredom: The spaces between work are often hard to fill, and eating while watching TV or Netflix is the easiest thing to do to fill up the time.
  2. Stress: Got a tight deadline or conference call with your CEO? Your body craves something familiar to reassure itself that everything’s going to be fine. And that cake in the fridge can look awfully reassuring at such times.
  3. Lack of time: Making a salad or a healthy soup takes time when you’re busy; opening a bag of chips is way quicker and also meets your need for immediate gratification.
  4. Availability: All of the above things come down to what food choices you have available at home. For most people, the impulse to eat something unhealthy will always be stronger than the desire to have something healthier. No wonder you bypass the steamed broccoli for that glazed doughnut.
  5. Lowered social and psychological barriers: At work, grazing on junk endlessly might invite a curious glance or even a comment from your co-workers. But if you’re alone at home, there is no need to exercise any such restraint on either your choices or portions.
  6. Thirst? If you get the munchies in an hour or two after having a satisfactory meal, you might be misinterpreting thirst as hunger—something that could drive you to make unhealthy choices.

If any of the above reasons rings a bell, congratulations! Awareness is the first step towards making a positive change. Here are some science-backed microsteps that will help you stop raiding the larder and attain greater control over irrational cravings.

  1. Make a pact with yourself to only eat when you’re hungry. Rather than going on a diet or restricting your intake, the first step should be to wait for your body to send out natural hunger signals. Each time you’re about to start eating, pause and ask yourself if you really need this food. When you eat intentionally, food will taste better and you’ll have none of the guilt afterward.
  2. Have a designated eating area. Eat your meals in a designated area, preferably your dining table. The objective is to make that your dining zone and make other zones, like your work area, off-limits for food.
  3. Eat mindfully. When you have a meal, eat slowly and mindfully, focusing on taste and texture as your mouth processes each bite. Avoid distracting yourself with gadgets or reading material, and direct your focus wholly towards the meal. You should soon find your stomach filling up sooner than it normally does.
  4. Make decisions in the right frame of mind. Angry? Tired? Gloomy? These are probably not the best times to decide what to eat. If you’ve had a tough day, consider going for a walk to release the stress. Then, when your mind is calmer, decide what would be best for your health, mood and energy levels and act accordingly.
  5. Preparation is everything. If possible, prepare your meals in advance or do some prep work the previous evening. It could be as simple as putting chopped veggies or a smoothie in the fridge so that your cooking time is eliminated or minimised. Also have easy to make ‘filler’ meals like a glass of low-fat milk, fruit or muesli that you can reach for in between meals.
  6. Remove temptation. It is ideal to avoid keeping any high-fat, high-sugar or salty junk at home. If you do have chocolates lying around, keep them in a box out of reach (e.g. on the top shelf of a cupboard), out of sight (i.e. not at eye level) and in an opaque container so that you’re less likely to reach for them.
  7. Maintain a healthy, active lifestyle: Getting enough sleep can help you feel less mentally fatigued, and allows you to make healthy choices. Similarly, when you exercise regularly, you will find it easier to have a weight or fitness goal to work towards, and are likely to compromise it by eating bad foods. The same goes for having hobbies that distract you from being too bored.

Finally, recognise that your body is a wonderful machine and the food you eat is fuel. So eat food that’s worthy of you, and is likely to help you run at optimal levels.

For more tips for telecommuters to live healthier and more fulfilled lives, stay tuned to Thrive Global India.