We all know the arguments for sorting out our diet, and squeezing in some exercise: better sleep, more energy, a better body, and a healthier, longer life. But did you know that getting healthier could also make you wealthier too?
As experts in anti-ageing and longevity — one of us, Tim, is a fitness guru, author and former C4 broadcaster; the other, Anne, is a health campaigner and London health club owner — we’ve spent years researching the link between diet and wealth. We’ve discovered numerous studies, which show weight and looks can effect career advancement, income and ‘job prestige’.
And, however unfair it seems, for women in particular, the more you lose in extra weight, the more you gain in perceived competence, and vice-versa.
A joint University of Florida and London School of Business study found that slim women earn £5,400 a year more than their larger counterparts, while another study at New York University reported a 0.6 per cent decrease in income for every one per cent increase in body mass.
Totted up over the course of a career, that’s a big boost to your personal net worth.
Tim Bean, a fitness guru, and Anne Laing, a health campaigner and London health club owner, have spent years researching the link between diet and wealth (file photo)
Better health means more money in the bank, simple as that. Being in great shape with lots of energy makes you smarter, more focused, more driven, more attractive and more credible.
And before you start complaining that you’re too old — that’s nonsense. Age has no bearing on our ability to compete.
Getting fitter and leaner — losing the 4pm slump in energy, ditching the excess weight around the tummy, fixing that chronic lower back pain — is perfectly possible for all of us. A great body operating at peak performance is a powerful business asset for both women and men of any age.
An unhealthy working life — relying on caffeine jolts at your desk, snatching a fat-laden sandwich for lunch and using alcohol to unwind at night — takes its toll physically and psychologically, both of which are bad for your pay packet.
Out of every ten senior managers, research shows that nine are already feeling the effects of burnout to some degree; six have taken time off for stress or stress-related reasons; four are losing sleep worrying about work, and three are overweight.
Sadly, these are the people who will step out of the race first, retiring on a lower income or losing opportunities for promotion and the increased salary that goes with it.
But although the business world is getting tougher, faster and more stressful, that doesn’t mean mid-life office workers should step aside for fresh-faced youngsters, they just have to change the bad habits that are making them weaker, softer and sicker.
Getting healthy is the best way to keep ahead of those upstarts nipping at your heels, and gives you a big advantage over rivals for that amazing new job you’ve always wanted, but never had the energy to go out and get. You’ll look younger, too.
After decades working with business people, including senior directors, entrepreneurs, and clients from seven of the world’s biggest banks, we’ve devised a set of simple rules — The Wealthy Body Plan — to get you into the peak of good health, fitness — and make you richer, too.
Former chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley Europe, Dame Amelia Fawcett, calls it ‘truly revolutionary’. But don’t take her word for it.
They say eating hard-boiled eggs, which are a nutrient-dense food, is a great way to stop hunger in its tracks (file photo)
Try these 14 quick-win rules to extend your career and improve your earning power…
1. DITCH ALL THAT FOOD ON YOUR DESK
Throw away all the food and drink on your desk or in your drawer. Nutrient-dead foods like biscuits and chocolate bars will sap your energy, leave you foggy-headed and ultimately put you at risk of diseases like diabetes.
Instead re-stock your drawer with these essentials.
- Small bottle of balsamic vinegar or low-fat dressing to drizzle over undressed canteen salads.
- A knife, fork, spoon and small plate, for healthy soups and stews brought from home in a flask.
- Green tea bags instead of coffee.
- A healthy emergency snack such as organic oatcakes for times you can’t leave your desk.
2. THE HARD-BOILED EGG IS YOUR FRIEND
Never eat toast at your desk for breakfast. Cut out croissants and banish bagels, too — these are empty fast carbs that will suck the energy out of you.
But don’t skip breakfast altogether or just eat fruit. Start the day on unprocessed foods instead. Try quinoa, a seed that’s high in protein, omega-3 and multi-vitamins, or go for an omelette or scrambled egg from the canteen. Or go hard-boiled. At 80 calories each, hard-boiled eggs are a fantastic, nutrient-dense food to snack on and stop hunger in its tracks.
Put a few in a sandwich bag and take them to the office.
3. PLAN MEALS LIKE YOU DO MEETINGS
Go into your day knowing where and what you’ll be eating, and at what time. You wouldn’t leave business decisions to chance, so don’t do it with your nutrition.
Despite all the fad diet regimes, we still recommend four to five small meals spaced throughout the day. Eating this way is one of the key secrets of staying in shape.
By eating small portions regularly you won’t overload your body with too many calories at one time and your metabolism will remain steady throughout the day.
4. HALVE YOUR COFFEE INTAKE
Caffeine-based drinks are often combined with massive amounts of sugar and other chemicals — even a skinny cappuccino has 100 calories of sugar from the lactose in the milk. But even if you’re drinking it black, from a business performance perspective, caffeine doesn’t work for you.
In raising the stress hormone cortisol, it suppresses testosterone, which is partially responsible for mood and confidence. In the long term, elevated cortisol shortens the attention span and slows the speed at which you process information. It’s not good for the business brain.
They also advise halving your caffeine intake as it raises the stress hormone cortisol which shortens the attention span and slows the speed at which you process information in the long term (file photo)
5. EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
When buying lunch, buy a second portion to eat at 4pm. But make the portions small. And whatever you do, do not purchase a ham sandwich (which remains the most popular British lunch, sadly).
In fact, ditch the processed, carb-heavy sandwiches altogether. Replace with dishes such as chicken salad, sushi, three-bean soup, veg sticks with hummus or bring in your own healthy, veg-based stews. Aim for eight to nine portions of vegetables per day.
PS: don’t be afraid to break out your own meal if meetings overrun and lunch becomes an unhealthy sharing platter. Tuck into your tuna and oatcakes with pride. You want to be clear-headed later, not in a fat-laden muffin-induced fog.
6. AVOID THE OFFICE MICROWAVE
Research demonstrates there is a loss of nutrition in food that’s been microwaved. One study found that broccoli zapped in the microwave lost up to 97 per cent of its beneficial antioxidants, the natural compounds many scientists believe protect against disease, while steamed broccoli lost 11 per cent.
If the office kitchen doesn’t have a hob, eat your veg raw.
7. HAVE MEETINGS AFTER THE GYM
Enter your gym time in your diary and treat it as you would a meeting with your boss.
Yes, you have meetings and emails, a hellish commute, a family you want to see in the evening, and way too many other demands on your time. But so does everyone else.
Thirty minutes a day in the gym isn’t wasted time; it’s enough to build strength, fitness, and shape and above all it’s an investment in your future.
The best time to work out is first thing in the morning when your growth hormone levels are at their peak, but any time is better than none.
Try to schedule difficult meetings for immediately after going to the gym — studies show that concentration and mental performance is better then.
If you can’t leave the office, keep a set of dumbbells by your desk, and whenever you get 60 seconds free, blast through a quick set of press-ups, curls or squats.
Remember that when you’re sitting you’re burning almost the same calories as you would be lying down. Take your phone calls standing up.
8. MEASURE YOUR WAIST EVERY WEEK
Take your waist circumference measurement an inch above the navel. Men should measure less than 38in; women less than 30in. Anything above this moves you into high-risk territory for many diseases, including heart attack, stroke, dementia and diabetes.
By checking each week, you can watch this crucial measurement come down gradually and know your health is improving.
Your prospects will improve at the same time. Looking good tells your clients that you take your health seriously enough to be of the best use to them. It’s an obvious win-win.
9. ORDER OFF THE MENU
Never hesitate to ask for food to be prepared exactly the way you want it. We are continually amazed at the number of very senior people in business who don’t seem to have the backbone to ask for their food to be cooked the way they need it to be. Who is paying whom here?
Order wholefood nutrient-dense items you can find on any menu, or which can be easily prepared in the kitchen. Eggs. Fish. Chicken. Ask for meat and fish steamed or grilled or poached with sauces or dressings ‘on the side’.
You don’t need to see the menu to know what you want. And don’t feel bad about asking for a half-portion; the size of restaurant helpings are often too big to be healthy.
You should also keep booze to a minimum and only have a drink or two on a special occasion (file photo)
10. EAT BEFORE YOU GO OUT
A small dish of something healthy at home means that you’ll have staved off hunger pangs and can then order something equally small and healthy at the restaurant.
11. KEEP BOOZE TO A MINIMUM
Don’t drink alcohol during the working week. Drinking is an accepted part of business culture, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s healthy.
If you consume too much of it, a bottle of fine red wine costing hundreds will make you ill in just the same way as too much cheap fizzy lager. Alcohol is a neurotoxin, a diuretic, a depressant and a carcinogen.
We say it’s OK to have a drink or two on a special occasion, but note the word ‘special’. Evenings are not special occasions — they happen every day.
If you’re drinking with clients and they insist on pouring you a glass, take a sip and then sit on it all evening — no one will notice.
Or ask for fizzy water with a dash of apple juice, drink it from a champagne glass and stick to it. Ignore the pressure, especially on business trips when everyone’s at the hotel bar.
Instead, play a strategic game: you’re the one who’ll negotiate the best deal the next day, not the woman drinking G&Ts.
12. DON’T CHEAT ON YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP
You can’t perform at work without quality sleep so go to bed earlier. Sleep deprivation affects the hippocampus of the brain — the part that operates memory — and also affects hormonal processes by which we feel and respond to hunger, making us eat more.
So aim to get to bed about 10.30pm every night. Sleep research shows your brain cells regenerate better by getting to bed earlier. Shut down your email alerts and turn off your smartphone after dinner.
If you’re a nightbird, try bringing your bedtime back by 15 minutes a night so that the change is a gradual one.
13. DE-STRESS WITH SOME ‘DESKERCISE’
Manage stress at your desk by tilting, tipping and turning. Modern stress is a by-product of the old evolutionary reaction to a threat — the physiological fight or flight response, which releases a series of chemicals into our blood stream to prepare us for action.
But in an office it isn’t appropriate to leap across the desk and strangle a colleague, and running away isn’t an option either.
In many cases, the source of our stress — time pressure, decision-making, workload — is a ‘threat’ we can’t even see.
One of the best ways to avoid boiling over is to take time out to relieve physical tension in the shoulders and neck.
Tip your head straight up, jutting the chin forwards. Tilt your head slowly to the left, then the right, feeling a stretch down the outside of the neck.
Turn your head smoothly to look over your left, then right, shoulder. Repeat three times.
14. PRIORITISE YOUR SEX LIFE
Read any biography of a successful CEO and you’ll see they never over-fill their schedules (OK, with the exception of Tesla boss Elon Musk, but even he acknowledges that he works too hard).
They know how to say no to tasks of lesser value in order to focus on those items that yield the most — like exercise. They always factor in time for exercise.
It’s important to keep your personal relationship in tip-top condition too. Sadly, many surveys of busy older executives ranked their sex life somewhere between ‘yawn’ and ‘awful’. And they were the ones who were being honest . . .
A 25-year study by a leading U.S. university of people aged 60 to 96 found that women who said they enjoyed their sex lives lived seven to eight years longer than those who were indifferent.
The same applied to men, though it was the quantity rather than the quality of sex that made the difference there. So pay attention to your intimate life outside the office; it’ll keep you feeling and looking younger.
Adapted by Alison Roberts from The Wealthy Body In Business by Tim Bean and Anne Laing (Bloomsbury, £12.99)