I gave a wellness talk at a law firm recently, and one of my tips for staying healthy while working crazy hours is to “streamline your Seamless:” pick a number of healthy, go-to meals that you can order during late nights at the office (and stick with those choices). Some of the participants were taken aghast by this suggestion: “BLASPHEMY!“ they cried. “We deserve to treat ourselves for working so hard!”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the “Treat Yourself” attitude is not going to work in the long run, unless you’re trying to gain weight for a movie role (Now Playing: The Chubby, Sedentary Lawyer). I can vividly remember the foods I used to order when I was feeling sorry for myself in my first couple of years as an attorney: oversized servings of pasta with vodka sauce, dumplings and General Tso’s chicken, mac and cheese, burger and fries…the list goes on. I can also vividly remember feeling overly full, lethargic, and just plain gross after I ate those meals.
Know what else rings a bell from those days? The fact that I was 10-15 pounds heavier then than I am now (fyi, I am only 5’2” so that is a good amount of weight for a short person).
Unfortunately, the problem with the “Treat Yourself” philosophy is threefold:
(1) Rewarding what, exactly? When you order heavy, fatty foods for dinner, you’re not actually rewarding your body: you’re treating your psychological need for comfort and your desire for an incentive to get you through an otherwise grueling night. It’s like when your coach takes you out for ice cream after a little league game, or when your parents take you out for burgers after a long hike: rewarding hard work in the form of physical exertion with a delicious treat. EXCEPT that this time, you have not moved out of your chair for 18 hours straight. See the difference?
(2) Treating Yourself Becomes the Norm. Treating yourself is totally fine when it’s an occasional thing. But when you work in Big Law, you’re going to spend a LOT of late nights at the office. In my second year, I had a two-month period where I practically lived at the office. I ate 3 meals a day at the office, at least 5 days per week. 5 nights * 8 weeks * 1,000 to 2,000 calories per dinner = WAY TOO MUCH FOOD for your body and for your low levels of physical exertion.
(3) Nourishment vs. Muffintop. When you’re working late and running on little sleep, what your body really needs is nourishment to refuel, repair your muscles, and give you energy to get through the day: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats and lean proteins. But when you choose to treat yourself to “bad” foods, you will fill your body with empty calories, artery-clogging fats, and lots of simple carbs that will cling to your waistline and give new meaning to the word “muffintop.”
Admittedly, moving past the Treat Yourself dinners and streamlining your Seamless can be a tough process. And you won’t see inches melt from your waistline in short order. But what you might notice is that you are less bloated, more energized, and better able to focus on tackling your late-night tasks (no more food coma).
If you need help making the switch, just ask me! I am the Lawyer’s Health Coach, after all.
Megan Grandinetti is a New York city-based attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher. Megan’s work as a health coach focuses on improving the health and wellness of lawyers. Find out more about Megan (a.k.a. “Health Coach Meg”) by visiting www.thelawyershealthcoach.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/healthcoachmegnyc.