Today I am thinking about an article I read not long ago. It started off by comparing the food served at tech companies like Google to the type of food that is being served at many hospital cafeterias. Later on the article described the gym and workout facilities at Google and I'm paraphrasing here, but the closing argument was that better food and gym facilities should be as ubiquitous as restrooms in hospitals. Your experience may be different than mine, but I have never worked at a company that had a cafeteria or a gym. Years ago my husband was employed by a local computer company that had a very nice workout room, you could even attend classes hosted there for free if you were an employee, but for most of the rest of us this is not our reality. What bothered me most about this article was the air of entitlement that accompanied these statements that sounded very much like demands. I have gone to doctors who have told me to lose weight, and not one of them told me that the vending machines I had access to were responsible for my weight gain. Their answer to my weight problem wasn't to lobby for a gym at the office building where I worked, or healthier food choices at the mall across the street, I was expected to take ownership for my food and excerise decisions.
I feel compelled to write this since it addresses two prongs of dangerous thinking. The first is that you can reasonably compare industries such as technology which is for profit, and hospitals which are typically non-profit organizations and draw the conclusion that since one company is treating its employees this way, that is the standard for others, and hospitals should rise to the occasion by implementing a similar food and exercise plan. While the article did mention that there was likely to be more funding available for a company like Google, it offered no plan for hospitals to upgrade their cafeteria offerings or add an area devoted to exercise, merely stating that this should be done since restrooms are standard in any hospital environment. Two weeks ago I spoke with my brother-in-law who works for a hosapital. He's a nurse practitioner with PA type responsibilities due to employee shortages in his department. Since he's been working extra hours, sometimes seventy-plus hour work weeks he has received some additional compensation that will likely remain in place once more staff is hired. The hospital he works at is part of a larger complex that has several cafeterias, and one of them works with a local natural foods store to offer options like organic greens for salads. It's more expensive, but according to him the food is fresher and tastier.
When we were talking about the cost of visiting any cafeteria I asked him why he didn't pack a lunch like my sister does. My sister, who is also a nurse practitioner works at a vein clinic that is attached to a medi-spa. There is no onsite workout facility and one thing I would like to ask the author of the original article is what about the physicians and healthcare staff that is not directly employed by the, or a hospital? Are these people less deserving of a cafeteria with higher quality foods and a place to exercise? A gentleman I know is a marathon runner and he is also a physician. My cousin is a physician, her husband works at a law office, and they are both marathon runners and have completed races that are longer than marathons just for fun. These people have found a way to get exercise and better quality foods into their diets by bringing meals from home. I am entirely in support of cleaning up cafeteria entrees, eliminating vending machines, and creating an environment where stress is minimized, however if I don't have some idea of how to do that, I'm part of the problem instead of part of the solution. It sounds funny to me sitting here at home that when I visit the doctor, I am told to clean up my diet and get more exercise, and I do not believe that the author of this article is speaking for all, or even most physicians, however ultimately the burden of my health rests on me, and that is why I believe that better food in the cafeteria and workout specific areas are symptoms that fail to address the larger issues at hand.
The following are some ways for this anonymous author whose article I can't find to eat healthier meals during the week, and just for the fun of it, I've incoporated a couple minutes of fitness activities.
1. Choose a day to prep meals for the rest of the week. You can do this regardless of what type of diet you have. Fill Tupperware containers or glass mason jars with salad toppings, add the greens, and store until needed. There are many websites that teach people how to layer ingredients so they stay fresh and a glass jar with a good seal keeps things fresh. Try it if you don't believe me.
2. Make large batches of things like chili, or red beans and rice that you can package into smaller containers. Soup is another nutritious budget friendly option with almost an infinite variety of options.
3. Try eating two larger meals instead of three or more smaller ones. The idea that people need three squares per day can be challenged. It may not work for all, but it's worth experimenting with to see if it could work. My mother has eaten this way for years, and on stints when I've tried it I've lost weight and felt better.
4. Exercises such as jumping jacks, planks, and TABATA style workouts can be done almost anywhere. One four minute stint every other hour will be an improvement over doing nothing, and there are many quick activities that can burn calories as you go even if it's just walking more quickly than you were previously.
5. Empower yourself with statements such as the following; Even though the cafeteria serves food that I find unhealthy, and the vending machines are a temptation, I make food and beverage choices that give me optimal energy. Or, even though I feel that it's unfair that Google employees have a workout facility that I would enjoy, there are many things I can do to stay active and fit.
6. Go work for Google. If the company is that attractive, maybe there is room for a former physician or other healthcare worker there.
7. Talk to people who are in food service and management at the cafeterias. I've done this with our school system, and I don't know what sort of regulations the hospitals have, but the schools have certain guidelines they have to follow such as opening a new can of applesauce or peaches if one student wants them and they are on the menu that day. There may be a reason that the food that's being served is of the nature and quality that it is, and it may even be that some people like and want this food. Perhaps this has already been done, but the author didn't mention anything about it.
8. Make a list of the things that you are grateful for instead of complaining about the food and lack of exercise specific area. A few I can think of are: employment in an economy where many are unemployed and under employed. The chance to be a physician in the first place. The fact that if these are your complaints, they are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Few want to listen to others complain. They have problems of their own and I might even go so far as to suggest that from the perspective of others, being a physician means you have the good life if only because of the salary that accompanies that occupation. Physicians may see things differently, each of us has our own world view, and my cousin graduated with a mountain of debt, but she enjoys her job and the opportunity to work with her patients. Money isn't everything and neither if food or exercise.
9. Sit down and plan out the ultimate cafeteria or workout facility. Think about what you would do, how you would fund this, and take your plans to the people who are responsible for this type of decision making. Or resign yourself to the food you don't care for while realizing that you don't have to eat it and there are other exercise options that don't require a gym membership.
10. Ignore everything I've said and rage at the injustice.
While it may seem as if I have taken this opportunity to speak to an unknown author, I am really talking to myself here. There is no reason that I am overweight or out of shape, but I am, and I don't have the excuse that my career choice is hectic and stressed. I know there are things I need to be doing, things I should be doing, and things I could be doing to improve my health and set a better example for my children. So I'm disappointed in myself as a person, this medical doctor, and quite a few others who take the short cuts without realizing that in life, there aren't usually short cuts that are worth taking. It's one thing to have the answers, or even some answers, and another to look in the mirror and say, yes, today I will change myself.
Until next time,