by Gretchen Schisla
In Part 1 of our interview, Michael Zenn, author of the Self Health Revolution offered some insights into how companies can help their employees obtain better health, resulting in enhanced productivity in the workplace. His first suggestion, “Get all your folks super healthy.”
Let’s say you work for a company that doesn’t necessarily promote a “super healthy” vibe during the workday. While we’d all appreciate a job and environment that supports our good health, Michael Zenn acknowledges what we already know: “Your self-health is in your hands.” With that in mind, we continued our discussion.
What kind of small steps can an individual take while at the office? Can you offer any tips?
Michael Zenn: Here’s what I think happens in the typical office environment: we sort of see it as “I’m at work, this is the office” and there’s a protective bubble around that. We tell ourselves, “OK, I’m going to be at the office — and maybe later on I’ll go and work out — or I’ll make myself a healthy dinner at home."
People close themselves off from other possibilities at the office. For example: a friend of mine said, “You know, I just don’t have time to exercise during the day. At the office, I barely have time to breathe.” I talk about breathing in my book versus just exercise, because that’s really your chance to get oxygen into your lower lobes — which in turn will pump oxygen into your whole body.
That’s really why you should exercise more than any other reason, not to burn calories, but to get oxygen deep into your body. I told my friend, “Why wait until after work? And why are you putting that burden on yourself when it’s 7 o’clock, you’re tired from the day and then you have to go work out? How long are you going to sustain that? How many people can do that over a long period of time? Why not build that into your day? And take 20 or 30 minutes and put your tennis shoes on — or go change in the bathroom and get the heck out of there! Walk around city blocks or wherever you’re at.”
I think about the old Bill Cosby commercial — if there’s a fire, you stop, drop and roll. And I think about that — stop, drop, and roll… just do it where you are. Forget about the gym. Forget about that whole trap of having to get dressed, having to drive through traffic, being there with people that are a lot skinnier than you, that make you feel bad and unsuccessful, and then coming back. It’s a big round trip, and it’s probably not going to happen many days. So, just do it right there at work.
Making the right choices around food are a challenge for many people at work. What suggestions do you have?
Michael Zenn: Build your self-health into work. You could have a little mini-fridge next to your desk, or set a space in the lunch room fridge and put wonderful, healthy foods there. If you get to the office early, make a breakfast smoothie. Or make it at home and take your smoothie with you to work. Keep trail mix at your office. Make your office or cubicle a little “self-health haven,” where you’ve got all kinds of wonderful, healthy things around you, and you look forward to going to work because you have all these hidden things to eat that are fantastic. If you’re set up this way, you never have to be hungry. That’s another trap people fall into.
Here’s a typical scenario: you get to work at 8 o’clock, have a cup of coffee on the way in. By 10 o’clock you’re really starving, but get through it. From 12 to 1 o’clock you go to lunch and eat really fast, a big meal of unhealthy things. Then, you starve yourself again until 6 or 7 o’clock. Finally, you indulge in a large dinner at home, not caring what you eat at that point because you’re so hungry. That’s how many people do it. They may even skip lunch or grab something from a drive-thru. We have these famines we create.
Water is another example of something that’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Have a bottle of water in your car, have a bottle of water on your desk, have a case of water in your office. Keep water around you at all times and you’ll drink it like crazy. It’ll just become second nature. You’ll see it, you’ll grab it, you’ll drink it.
You are talking about setting yourself up for success, rather than self-sabotage?
Michael Zenn: There are all kinds of things you can do at the office to really set yourself up well, because it’s a routine environment. You control it and you’re there every day. I think people see it as a situation that they can’t control and it’s like, “Well, I’m going to go to work and I’ll worry about my self-health before and after.”
But, you CAN really integrate it and it can be a great influence, a great impact for yourself and your co-workers. “What are you eating? What’s that water you’re always drinking?” There’s a lot of opportunity to share, “Here try this!” Just think, if you had a number of people in the office doing things like that, they could be reinforced, “Have you tried Joe’s trail mix? It’s just fantastic." Or, “what he makes with this ingredient is just incredible.” This can result in people bouncing off each other in a positive way.
The people who are the naysayers or the skeptics will then start to be influenced by peer pressure, and not stick to just their own values anymore. I don’t go into the office like I used to — but when I did, I had everything I wanted and needed at my office. I brought my lifestyle to the office. It’s cool and, again, you control it. If it’s there and it’s around you and you stock it, then you’ll do it. Plus, it’s a super opportunity to influence others, because you have a captive audience.
One thought to add
Our workday structure is often ruled by email coming in, resulting in a day where we are sitting in front of our computers, glued to the screen. Now that great weather is here, we have no excuse not to take Michael’s advice to “stop, drop and roll” and go for a walk outside!
To learn more, check out J. Michael Zenn’s book: The Self-Health-Revolution on Amazon.