It comes as little surprise that taking control of your eating can help you improve your body image, prevent illness and bring you happiness. But did you know that your diet can affect your leadership abilities as well?
With the rise of illnesses like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what’s on your plate. But healthy eating habits do more than just improve your overall health—they also impact key leadership characteristics that can help you improve your management style and ultimately benefit your company. Here are some reasons for you to take a pass the next time there’s a box of donuts in the breakroom.
Better Mood & Energy Levels
Having energy to make it through long workweeks and keeping an optimistic mood are crucial to being a successful leader. Healthy eating is linked to lower rates of depression, but it also affects our bodies and minds in more subtle ways to give us a boost.
For instance, eating well can work with your body chemistry to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. Green leafy vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates and whole grains are great for maintaining energy levels over long periods of time, and they’ll help you avoid the dreaded midday energy crash caused by eating too much refined sugar and white starches.
Furthermore, avoiding junk food can improve your gut health, which has been theorized to improve your overall mood. The science behind it is that your gut is home to trillions of bacterial cells that act as a sort of “second brain,” passing signals from your gut to your brain. An unhealthy microbiome can lead to health issues like a weak immune system, while a healthy gut has been linked to improved mental health.
Basically, about 90% of receptor sites for serotonin, the chemical that makes you feel confident, happy and motivated, are in your gut. As a result, many scientists believe that if you keep the bacteria in your gut healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, these receptors will be healthier and you will be happier. This positive attitude can greatly improve your motivation, and your work and leadership performance will rise in tandem.
Better Time Management
This might come as a surprise but eating well can help you with your time-management skills, which are essential for being an effective leader.
It all comes down to scheduling: following the meal-scheduling rules of healthy eating, such as having full meals at certain times of day, will force you to structure other aspects of your workday. For instance, one of the main rules of eating well is eating a full breakfast.
Instead of sleeping in and rushing out the door with a muffin in hand to make it to work on time, scheduling time for breakfast will give you more time to wake up properly and figure out your day. The result will be a more prepared, relaxing workday that will help you be more productive.
On the other hand, skipping breakfast and rushing to work is a recipe for a stressful, ill-prepared day that will make you feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up. And we all know that a chaotic day can spawn the little mistakes that undermine effectiveness.
Better Image & Reputation
Maintaining a strong, healthy image and reputation is necessary to inspire your employees and foster their productivity. For example (despite the importance of fighting against negative stereotypes), the reality is that if you’re fit, you’ll be seen as a more capable leader.
Research shows that overweight leaders are viewed by employees as having poorer leadership capabilities and job performance than fitter ones. In other words, having a slimmer physique through healthy eating can help you gain respect among your team.
This respect and reputation are necessary for strong leadership, as you must be an example to employees to foster their productivity. Workers mimic the traits, good and bad, of their leaders. If you’re perceived as being ineffective, that perception may negatively affect your workers’ effectiveness as well.
Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes. However, leaders who keep healthy eating habits can more easily pick up the traits that will make them successful. By replacing that cheeseburger with a whole-grain sandwich, you can take strides to more effective leadership.
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