Take care of your body to take control of your life

Take care of your body to take control of your life

Caffeine and sugar may get you through your day at the veterinary practice, but they won't get you to your happy place. Exercise your mind by exercising your body and your rights to healthy food.
Mar 01, 2011

If you and your team members are like many Americans, you haven't seen your wished-for weight on the scale in years. Your energy level is low because your job stress is high and you don't exercise enough. You rely on sugar and caffeine to get you through the day, but they never fully satisfy.

Plus, there's another important variable in making healthy lifestyle choices: the people who surround you. Not only are you what you eat, you're also who you hang out with. Science backs this up. Studies show that our friends and coworkers affect our diet, perceptions of weight, and lifestyle. Smokers tend to have friends and colleagues who smoke. Heavier people are more likely to be surrounded by people who make poor food choices and exercise little.

As a practice leader, what's your influence? If my team members see me grabbing a cookie or a soda as an afternoon pick-me-up, they're likely to follow suit. If I don't exercise, my staff won't see in me the benefits of making time for exercise. If I'm stressed out, speak crossly, or deal poorly with conflict, I create an environment where these actions are accepted. The practice personality and its employees' bodies are often a direct reflection of its owners and leaders.

I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, our staff, and our patients to be in optimal health. You may think you're mentally sharp, but if you're not taking care of your body, you're not taking care of your mind. One of the biggest revelations to me working with people getting their lives back on track is how "alive" people report they feel as they begin a healthy lifestyle. These people weren't sick. They just weren't optimally living.


Years ago I attended a management retreat with a presentation by a Coca-Cola executive. He said a key driver of Coke's global success was simple: accessibility. Coke's goal was for everyone on the planet to be within a short walk from its products. If a drink is accessible, he concluded, people will drink it.

The same principle applies to our workplace. What drinks and snacks are on hand? Where are they kept? Do you have a candy jar on your reception desk? I recently visited a clinic where the owner bragged that he "kept the candy flowing" to keep his staff happy. Seriously? Of course, that candy found its way to many posteriors.

If bowls, baskets, and vending machines at your clinic are filled with sugary, starchy snacks, you can bet your team members are eating them. Sure, they feel more energized when that sugar high hits—until they crash. Then they're cranky, irritable, and less mentally focused.

Get rid of that junk!

Action plan: Replace junk food with whole foods such as unsalted nuts, water, fruits, and vegetables.

> Bring in healthy "fast food" such as grapes, clementines, oranges, and bananas. Put these foods in easy-to-access locations.

> Expand your palate by trying new veggies—and encourage your team members to do the same.

> Ask sales reps who bring boxes of doughnuts and free pizza to switch to fruit baskets, vegetable platters, or healthy lunches.

> During the holidays, ask gift-giving clients to bring donations for animal shelters in lieu of candy.

It's easier than you think to break the barrage of bad foods. Once people make the connection between what they're eating every day and how they feel, the race to better health is on. You just have to set the pace.


Hydration is another critical element to staying healthy at work. Too many of us don't drink enough water. Eight to nine glasses a day can be a challenge if you're also drinking soda and coffee. Fix that!

Action plan: Drink water, not calories.

> Carry a water bottle and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

> Don't drink your calories. Avoid energy drinks, soft drinks, and fruit juices.

> Unplug your coffeemaker and keep a pot of green tea brewing in your lounge.

The most important element for life is oxygen followed by water. If you're breathing, you should be drinking. Make sure you're drinking good ole H2O.