CEOs & food…
Two things we don’t usually see discussed in the same conversation.
It’s like we’re so passionate about making an impact, changing lives and doing more of what we love doing, that food is just an afterthought or even an inconvenience.
Take a moment and reflect before you read on: What is my relationship to food?
Did you even know you had a relationship with food?
Rewind a few years, I had an unhealthy relationship with food. I was not conscious about where what I was eating came from, what was in what I was eating and how it impacted me.
I was also shovelling food in my face like a time blackout.
I will always remember an evening I went on a date and when the food came I did my usual vacuum cleaner things and when I looked up to come back to the present moment, my date was staring at me open-mouthed in shock:
Her: “Did you see what you just did?”
Me: “Yea crushed this burrito like a Mexican wrestling champion?!”
Her: “You should have a look at your relationship to food.”
So I did and over meditations, present moment focus while I was eating, ayahuasca journeys and a series 10-day water fasts I’ve had many insights:
- I was programmed by food corporations to “Get protein from meat” “Calcium from dairy (regular milk, what’ so regular about it?)” and many other highly researched ways to manipulate us into thinking we are being healthy.
- My relationship with hunger had come from my grandparents who were in the Holocaust. They felt true survival hunger, I was not trying to survive, but I felt that hangry feeling. I used to jump in front of women and children in the buffet line or when food was served at a party, was not a good look.
- We get to enjoy the journey of exploring our true relationship to food, listening to our bodies and connecting to regenerative ways to prepare food that positively impacts the world and ourselves.
Understandably my hunger energy came from a place of scarcity and in a world where for most of us food is in abundance, overeating is so easy to do.
Something I came to accept was that I didn’t need to eat when I was hungry, I could embrace hunger and be at peace with it. I practised feeling hunger without eating, and have been empowered by it.
That a vegan burger would taste just as good, if not better if I slowed down and savoured each bite.
The image above demonstrates the range of emotions we can experience related to food. A common issue I see people confusing feelings of hunger with being ravenous and as a result overeating.
The truth is, food did a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to managing my self-induced stress levels and accepting eating is an important pleasure we should experience has really helped me shift my feelings around food.
CEOs, Stress & Emotional Eating
Whether you’ve just closed your seed round, exited or gone public… these highest of highs are often a result of frequent stress.
It wasn’t too long ago CEOs were expected to suffer these feelings of stress in silence.
It’s no secret the last 12 months have been pretty stressful for many people.
Trying to navigate government response to a virus, maintain profit levels and come out the other side in a good place has been a challenge for most CEOs, especially trying to achieve that while managing a team you can’t see.
So leaning on food as a way of managing your stress is totally understandable. However, it’s not a healthy solution.
And compound that with all of your team members, how do you eat well and ensure your team is eating well?
Do you even feel like it’s your place to be responsible for that with everything else you have going on with the business?
The Nutrition Gap
‘The Nutrition Gap’ is becoming an increasingly popular phrase to describe a growing gap between the nutrients we need and those we actually consume.
Here are some compelling statistics on workplace nutrition.
- It is fuelling a diet-related health crisis with spiralling rates of non-communicable diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer.
- Business in the Community recent statistics report that poor eating habits in the UK cost employers around £17 billion a year
- A 2012 study done at Brigham Young University reports that employees with an unhealthy diet are 66 per cent more likely to experience a loss in productivity.
- A company with 1,000 staff could be losing £126,000 a year in productivity due to obesity-related problems alone.
This article by Forbes, Nutrition: The Missing Piece In The Corporate Wellness Puzzle, highlights a direct comparison between the benefit of improved nutrition and increased levels of exercise.
Combined, they have a monumental impact on workplace productivity and on their own, nutrition had a far greater impact compared to just exercising more.
Here are a few solutions to the corporate wellness problem.
- Offer meaningful benefits packages. Here is an example of 20 Employee Benefits & Perks.
- Encourage flexible working hours to demonstrate you care about your team members personal lives and time management.
- Promote real wellness perks like Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes who provides gym facilities, changing rooms and showers for his team members.
CEOs & A State Of Emergency
Once I took a step back and looked at the signposts causing me to over consume food I realized it was long stretches sitting behind my laptop without eating (5 hours or longer) that were the problem.
I was either skipping meals or ordering food that was high in oil, fat and carbs.
The serving size of take out food was resulting in me eating more than I should have.
By managing our time better and understanding the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger we can move away from the ‘state of emergency’ we often have around food and plan better.
The truth is, eating should be emotional. It’s enjoyable and delicious.
Like all things emotional intelligence, it’s about focusing on the feelings we want to have around food.
Instead of feeling emotions like stress and using food to shift our emotions, we can have positive emotions related to food and make eating a truly immersive experience.
We’ll cover how you can shift your feelings and beliefs around food a little later on.
Are We Eating Our Emotional Intelligence?
When we have low levels of emotional intelligence, we tend to make decisions based on the emotional side of our brain.
We act on cravings because they help us feel better, albeit temporarily.
This is because 90% of our Serotonin levels are produced by the gut as well as 50% of Dopamine. These are our feel-good hormones.
When we act based on emotion and lean on food to help us feel better we desensitize our feel-good hormone receptors and the emotional end of our brain grows.
This growth prevents our prefrontal cortex from making more rational decisions.
We become dependent on food as a way of managing our emotions.
By elevating your emotional intelligence (which we’ll go into shortly) you’ll learn how to manage your emotions yourself instead of having to leverage feel-good foods to get those endorphins going.
What Does The Data Say?
- In one Mayo Clinic study, 40% of CEOs were obese, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
- 33% of adults say they eat to distract themselves from stress.
- In the past month, 30% of adults report skipping a meal due to stress. 41% of adults who report skipping a meal due to stress report doing it weekly or more.
As a side note, here is some data from Mayo Clinic highlighting the overall health risks Executives can face due to their lifestyle choices.
Eating Habits Of Top CEOs
Let’s take a look at the healthier eating habits some of the world's top CEOs have.
Branson said in 2010 that he likes to eat fruit salad and muesli for breakfast. Occasionally, he will also eat kippers, a herring-like fish.
The entrepreneur lives on his private Caribbean island, Necker Island.
The billionaire likes to fill his days with exercise, time with his family, and business meetings, which he prefers to schedule “over lunchtime” to help “lighten the mood”.
For dinner, he prefers to hold group meals “where stories are shared and ideas are born”.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, the e-commerce, cloud computing and artificial intelligence company, has said he avoids early-morning meetings so that he has time to eat a healthy “leisurely” breakfast without any “fatty convenience foods”.
In the past, he said he liked to use the extra time to spend his mornings with his family.
An Overview Of Emotional Eating
Feelings and beliefs
Let’s take a look at the feelings and beliefs we have around food so we can start shifting them.
- Scarcity/ Pressure
- I cannot tolerate my hunger
- If I don’t eat it all now, I won’t have time later
- I’m disappointed with my food choices
- Stopping to eat is unproductive
- I lack energy and feel sluggish after my meal
Now, let’s go through the feelings and beliefs you can adopt to align your relationship with food.
- Doing a cleanse makes me feel so healthy
- I’m curious about improving my physical health through nutrition
- I feel empowered to make better food choices
- Mealtimes are an opportunity for me to relax
- My food choices fuel my focus
Action Steps To Align Our Relationship With Nutrition
STEP 1] Manage your blood sugar levels, dopamine levels and emotional turbulence with a balanced, healthy diet.
Introduce a vegan diet or a more plant-based diet to help stabilise blood sugar levels and create a better environment for you to manage your emotions.
For additional reading on the vegan diet, this article handling criticism of the Vegan diet may be an interesting read for you. Impossible CEO on criticism that plant-based ‘meat' is unhealthy (cnbc.com)
ACTION STEP 2] Non-negotiable breaks to listen to your body.
I found that implementing non-negotiable breaks from work where I sat and listened to my body and how it felt worked wonders.
Swapping this mad dash to the fridge for patience and calm helped me understand what my body was asking for.
Was I feeling lonely and needed a distraction?
Was I feeling anxious and simply needed a brisk walk or some exercise?
Was I feeling drained and tired and needed some time for a bit of self-love?
Or was I just bored and needed to focus my attention on something else?
So next time you’re feeling hungry take a second to stop and listen to what it is you’re actually feeling. Refer to the list above if you need to.
Are you physically hungry or emotionally hungry?
This list of ‘9 Books That Will Change Your Relationship To Food’ may be beneficial to you.
ACTION STEP 3] Approach your meal times from a place of abundance
- You don’t have to clear your plate.
- Stop eating when you’re 80% full.
- Take a mouthful of food, ask your dinner date a question and don’t take another mouthful until there’s a gap in the conversation.
- When you’re craving junk, high sugar food, pause for 5 minutes. Don’t tell yourself you can’t have it, just tell yourself to wait and embrace that feeling. It’s perfectly normal.
- Practice mindful eating. Instead of eating while the telly’s on, sit and be present with your meal.
One of our CEO clients Jayesh Punatar Founder & CEO of Nucleus had this to say about his time working with Lifestyle Perfected:
“I'm so glad I engaged with Lifestyle Perfected to get into shape. Not only did I lose 12 pounds, but I’ve also built a completely new relationship with nutrition. I have been very well prepared to embark on a journey to get into perfect shape and be in an emotional state of happiness and contentment to enjoy life. Thank you very much. The team was great and I appreciate all the support.”
If you’d like a complimentary consultation on your nutrition or another area of business to elevate the alignment within your company, reply to this email or alternatively, you can see our programs for CEOs and for teams here.
We’re also excited to invite you to apply to CEO Circle. A group for CEOs to elevate emotional intelligence, increase impact and legacy wealth. If you are CEO and/or a founder with $1 million or more in revenue or assets apply here.
Sending you love,
& the Lifestyle Perfected team