Killing Me Slowly: Why Eating Lunch At Your Desk Is A Bad Idea

Have you ever eaten lunch right at your desk, with the intention of “getting ahead”? Has it become a common way to spend your lunchtime? If so, I have a wake-up call for you: This feeble attempt at playing catch-up could be doing you more harm than good! You might think you’re being productive by “multitasking”. But as it turns out, by munching on the job, you’re actually denying your mind and body the energy they need to be optimally focused and truly productive in your career.

It might sound too simple to be true, but the greatest workplace gift you can give yourself is getting up from your desk each day for a lunch break (even if that means taking 10 minutes to eat a sandwich). For focusing on your eating instead of on your computer, your brain will thank you in unforeseen ways.

This concept dawned on me with profound clarity a couple of weeks ago, after I gave the personal energy crisis test to a team who had gathered in NYC from around the world for their annual summit. Everyone’s scores indicated that they were somewhere between having significant deficiencies in their energy and being in a full-fledged personal energy crises, except for one: the person who ALWAYS took her lunch break. I have no doubt that there is a correlation, and here’s why….

A Little Mental Gymnastics

When you work while you eat, even with just a computer screen and mouse, you’re draining your energy. Although the act of chewing is a reflex that you needn’t focus on, the process of reaching for your food and bringing it carefully to your mouth over and over does indeed require attention that toggles your senses to-and-from your computer screen. Essentially, it’s what we mistakenly refer to as multitasking (which in reality is not what it purports to be, since there is an actual shifting of attention in quick succession that occurs). Each of these switches eats up glucose and oxygen at alarming rates, to the degree that the nourishment from your sandwich will be depleted nearly as quickly as you consume it.

Furthermore, by muscling through at lunch, your work is not going to be 100% anyway. Denying your brain the opportunity to refresh itself periodically throughout the day only perpetuates this deficit. Even if the work you’re doing on the computer while eating isn’t really work at all (like organizing your inbox or web surfing), your energy is still gobbled up, and you’re in danger of developing anxiety and eventually burnout!

It’s A Matter Of Health

Eating in front of your computer screen is strikingly similar to eating in front of the television for one big reason: Before you know it, you’re at the bottom of that party-sized bag of Doritos. By not being mindful of your food intake, the body doesn’t acknowledge that it’s being nourished. The result is that you tend to not feel as full as you are, and you consume far more calories than necessary. Combine this with the fact that you haven’t stood up to take a physical break for lunch, and you’re in danger of a personal health crisis. In case you haven’t heard, prolonged sitting is the new smoking. It’s recommended that you rise to your feet at least every 60 minutes, not simply “to get your blood flowing”, but to avoid developing heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Why Miss Out?

Aside from your mental and physical health, there are plenty of other reasons for rising to the occasion of lunch break that we can all relate to. For instance, eating lunch with a colleague or friend equals relationship building and time well-spent. How about 20 minutes to eat and another 20 minutes to take a walk? I couldn’t think of a better way to replenish physical and emotional energy. Look at it this way: If it amounts to loving and nourishing your mind, body and spirit, you WILL increase your productivity to a level that justifies being away from your desk for a lunch break each day. And while you’re at it, you might even enjoy the beautiful flavors and sensations of your meal.

To learn more, and to take yourself to the next level in energy management, consider joining DRIVEN for our 4-part Workshop Series exploring personal energy. I promise you won’t regret it!