Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

This 1 Bad Habit Ruins My Productivity More than All Other Bad Habits Combined

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Man sleeping on desk at work

Preface: Tongue and cheek, hyperbole and self-deprecation

I received interesting feedback to this “out of left-field” article from many readers via email.

Some people liked it. Some hated it.  Some were confused by it.  Some offended by it.  Some inquired “what are trying to sell me?”

I’m selling nothing.  This article is largely tongue-in-cheek.  I include hyperbole with a self-deprecating tone throughout to make a point, which is I’ve found that what, when and how much I eat impacts my productivity.  That’s it.

Main Article

There are two types of people in the world.

Those who really love to eat and those who don’t care much about food; they eat because they have to.

I fall in the first camp.  I love eating. Always have.

My favorite restaurants as a kid were buffets, also known as a smorgasbord.  I remember my first one.  I could not believe such a place existed.

After 2 plates of all my favorite foods, I created an 8″ high soft-serve bowl of ice cream with every topping available.

I was a 10-year-old gourmand.

I’ve been to many buffets since then.  I also learned to pace myself.  There’s an art to getting the most out of all-you-can-eat restaurants.

In my teens, I had a summer job where I couldn’t wait for Fridays, not because it was the last day of the week but because a local hotel had an all-you-can-eat Chinese smorg that included sweet and sour spare ribs for some crazy low price like $7.99.  What a deal.  I always ate myself into a food coma. I can’t believe I actually remember the price.

In my teens and 20’s, I could still function in a food coma.

When I finished school and started working, I had loans to pay so I was on a budget which meant brown-bagged lunches.   Those lunches were usually a stack of peanut butter sandwiches.  It doesn’t get much cheaper than that.

Besides, I was programmed to spend very little money on anything having been a student for so many years.

Then I managed to become a full-time blogger and niche site publisher where I worked at home. This meant eating cheap at home.

After cabin fever set in, I leased an office in the downtown core of a large city.  That was 3 years ago, which was the end of cheap lunches.

The Mad Men Lunches Begin

There are amazing restaurants all around my office.  I’m like a kid in a candy store.

It didn’t take long before I graduated from a quick sandwich wrap at a nearby coffee shop to full sit-down feasts in various restaurants near my office.

My workday lunches turned into something similar to the ad men of NYC in the 1960s.  Watch this grotesque demonstration of a sumptuous midday feast enjoyed by Don Draper and Roger Sterling in one of my all-time favorite Mad Men episodes.  Here’s the type of lunch I’m talking about:

After all that, Don and Roger have a meeting to attend.  You know that’s not going to end up well.

Be warned, the following video is gross – as you could only expect after their Roman-sized feast.


Then one day I stumbled into a hotel that has an incredible breakfast buffet every day.  I’m talking made-to-order omelets, bacon, sausage, potatoes, a fruit bar, bagels, granola, cheese and cold cut platters, homemade smoothies… the whole nine yards.

I thought those were only available as a brunch on Sunday.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I went in, ate for an hour and learned that this extravaganza was put on every day until 11 am.

I knew then where I was eating every day.

Sure enough, I became a regular and ate there most days of the week.  It got to the point where they started comping meals because I went there so much.

And then I discovered that most of the large hotels in the city offered such a breakfast. I had to try them all.  It became a game of trying to figure out which was the best breakfast buffet.

Turns out they’re all fantastic, each one better in its own way.  One offers better homemade smoothies.  One has better scrambled eggs.  One has better potatoes.  I could go on and on.

By way of background, I’m in my 40s. I say that because sadly I’ve come to realize I cannot handle a food coma like I could in my 20s.

It took a while, but in time I realized my productivity plummets for the rest of the day when I overeat.

It came to a tipping point last Friday when after thoroughly enjoying such a feast, I actually could not work after it.  That was 11:30 am.  I packed it up and went home.  To add insult to injury, I had bicycled to work so I cycled 15 km in a food coma.  That was no picnic.

I knew eating too much during the day impacted my productivity, but never had I actually not been able to work.

Something had to change.

The daily smorg had to end.

It’s bittersweet. I enjoy sitting in those restaurants for an hour drinking coffee and having a long, leisurely feast.

But I don’t enjoy it so much that I’m willing to ruin the rest of my workday for it.  I have too much to do.  I like what I do and don’t wish to cut my day short because of bad eating habits.

And so this week I’ve had no choice but to totally alter my daily eating habits.

I now kick off the day with a small breakfast so I’m not ravenously hungry by 10:30 am.  When I get that hungry, I pig out at restaurants.  If it’s the smorg, it’s a 3-plater.  If it’s a restaurant, it’s an appetizer and full entree, sometimes capped with dessert.

My reformed eating routine starts with a light breakfast – a couple of eggs and fruit.  By eating light in the morning, I avoid getting so hungry that I end up feasting.  Instead, I have the control to eat a small wrap or large salad.

What a difference eating light makes on my productivity.

I don’t conk out by noon.  My energy remains the same throughout the day.  No food coma.  No discomfort.  No lethargy.  But sadly, no feast.

Thinking back over the last couple of years where I’ve eaten absolutely huge feasts, I’ve compromised my ability to get a lot of work done in the afternoon.  It’s frightening to think about how much I didn’t get done as a result of eating myself into a food coma daily.

Without a doubt, eating a massive feast midday is one bad habit that hurt my productivity more than anything else over the years.

I’m not here to tell you how you should eat or about some new-fangled diet.

If you’re in your 20s, eat up.  Food coma probably doesn’t impact your productivity.

But, if you’re like me and you notice that you don’t have the same level of energy or laser focus in the afternoon as you do in the morning, maybe adjusting what, when and how much you eat will make a difference.  It sure has for me.

I’m not changing the way I eat to lose weight.  That’s not necessary; I’m not overweight.  Amazingly, I’m not overweight given my penchant for eating heartily.  It’s probably because I’m reasonably active and only ate that one meal a day.  Yeah, that’s how full I’d get – I’d be satiated for the rest of day except for a very light snack or dinner.

Nevertheless, no doubt stuffing myself like that, even if reasonably healthy food, can’t be good for me.  I suspect overeating in one sitting regularly is not good for one’s health.  Instead of having 3 square meals per day I had 1 spectacularly huge meal per day.

I like eating big meals so much that I’d rather do more exercise to avoid getting overweight than eating less.

The only thing that is prompting me to drop the daily feast is the fact too many days have gone by where I can barely work (or can’t work) in the afternoon on account of too big of a feast.

I’m not some nutritionist.  I don’t follow any particular diet.  I more or less eat what I like, but now it’s more frequent smaller meals so my brain an body can cope.

If/when a day arrives where I don’t have much to do, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll frequent the breakfast smorg again.  Instead of going through the motions in the afternoon, I’ll just go home.  All other days, I cross my fingers I stick to eating like a normal person.

I bet you’re disappointed (I would be too)

I suspect you expected some magical productivity tip that would skyrocket your daily output.  Sorry, this article is nothing like that.

However, I suspect there are other people who could improve their alertness in the afternoon by changing eating habits.  I can’t be the only blogging gourmand.

I know for a fact all the productivity hacks in the world would not improve my productivity as much as avoiding food coma and ensuring I maintain energy levels throughout the day.


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