Food, Fuel & Energy

I attended an event a few weeks ago, and had a good fortune to meet some incredible business owners – people who are thinking about how they can invest in their people and meet their needs more effectively so as to free them and ‘fuel’ them and inspire them to bring more of themselves to work every day.

To kind of create a win-win, where employers are getting more from their people and their people are getting more from their work place.

You know that this ‘fueling your Team’ goes across all the domains of our lives;

  • physical,
  • emotional
  • mental and
  • spiritual

Today it’s all about one of our core needs physically speaking. This IS aimed at you as an individual but it’s also something for you to be thinking about (if you are in a managerial or leadership role) for your business Team as a whole.

Nutrition– what a hornet’s nest! In the endless stream of contradictory studies and conflicting advice and confusing data, the easiest fact to lose sight of is that food is fuel.B97288377Z_120140228131744000GT54TBUD_11

Nutrition, is one of those areas (a little like parenting perhaps), where everyone thinks they have the right answer but no one can ever quite agree on what that answer ought to be.

But this much we know;

As individuals and as a society we are eating much more than we did and we’re eating in bigger portions and we’re eating it faster.

All of that is serves us poorly when it comes to managing our energy and in the longer run as it relates to our health, because of course, when you look at those three; more, bigger and faster, you can say for sure that we’re getting fatter and fatter as a consequence.

The more weight we gain the more energy we expend and the less healthy we become. So just as the ethic of more, bigger, faster has dominated the workplace for 200 years and no longer serves us well, so it has come to the be in the way we eat, with a similar cost to our productivity and to our sustainability.

Look at this as an example and consider it.

  • Between 1960 and 2012, the average weight of an American man between the ages of 21 and 29 jump from 163 to 196 pounds.
  • And during that same period the average woman went from 140 to 164.

I can’t give you any European or Australian data as I can’t find any substantiated reports.

  • That’s frightening, 1/3rd of Australians and Americans as you probably know are now overweight and another 1/3rd are obese.
  • So, 2/3rd of all people in these two countries (and these countries have the highest rate of fat and obese in the developed world), fall into that category of fat or obese.

And even in countries with traditionally slimmer populations, the numbers are rising dramatically. So in France for example, the percentage of those who are overweight has increased by 50% during the past decade and now stands at 42%.

Let’s now connect this back to its relevance to our lives. Here is the most terrifying consequence of obesity; it’s close to overtaking smoking as the most preventable cause of death.

Today it accounts for a hundred thousand deaths a year in the USA. There was a National Cancer Institute study and they found (this is just one example), that an obese 50 year old, was more than twice as likely to die as a normal-weight 50 year old (controlling for other risk factors).

And even a slightly overweight 50 year old runs a 20% to 40% higher risk of dying prematurely

Let me give you just one example of how preventable this is.

For every 500gm of excess weight the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, increases by 4%.

The incidence of type 2 (also called adult onset diabetes) has doubled over the last 30 years and is expected to double again by 2025.

Equally striking, maybe even more to the point, is the fact that this disease is almost completely preventable simply through lifestyle changes.

You never have to go to a doctor or to a hospital if your lifestyle (in terms of diabetes), supports a healthy behaviour.

Another National Institute of Health study of about 3,000 adults at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes found that their likelihood of developing the disease could be reduced by nearly 60% simply through a program of modest weight loss.

Modest weight loss means 5% to 7%!

This is really the number of kilos you can count on one hand and can lose quickly and easily by doing 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

What’s the connection to our workplace?

Well, for employers the costs associated with obesity (which total around $150 billion a year (USA)), show up;

  • in the form of higher health insurance premiums (if you happen to pay them),
  • absenteeism
  • disability claims and
  • perhaps equally importantly in more indirect ways, such as lower energy and stamina, and a higher likelihood of depression, all of which relate to lower productivity among YOUR employees.


So if you are the manager or leader, why wouldn’t you;

  • encouraging your employees for example to work-out during the work day or perhaps even on their ‘private’ time?
  • why wouldn’t you provide better food in your staff or lunch rooms and even in your vending machines?
  • at your meetings be provide the right kinds of food.

As opposed to the kinds that leads to these pretty awful results.


At my business, we provided our Team with free morning and afternoon tea and lunch. Of course they could bring their own or go to the local take-away shop or they could have what was provided.

The fact that it was healthy, nutritious and tasty ensured that most Team members eventually started to eat it.

Our Team’s productivity was in my opinion exceptional. Sick days and absenteeism were also very much below industry average.

We all regarded this as a win-win!

Moving on…

But the most immediate impact of food, the immediate influence is on our energy levels. And that’s really where I want to focus my attention. Along with oxygen, food is our most essential form of fuel, but most of us struggle to eat in a way that is healthy, sustainably energizing and pleasurable.

That’s the quadrille; healthy, sustainable, energizing and pleasurable.

Instead we’re constantly skittering between one or another of those goals often even over the course of a single day without ever feeling that we’re getting exactly what it is we are looking for in the food we eat.

The principles or keys of eating for sustainable high energy foods turn out to be very simple.

There are 4 keys.

  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Frequency
  • Pleasure

 Blogger Bio: Dr Diederik Gelderman of