Why is taking a lunch break so important? With Jessie Pavelka

Over the course of 2020, lots of our comfortable routines have ground to a halt. We’ve been faced with a host of new challenges that have led to an unbalance in both our personal and working lives. 

In the face of uncertainty, some of us turned to food as a comfort, some us sacrificed lunch breaks and worked longer hours for a distraction, some found escapism through exercise, whilst others struggled with the motivation to move. ‘Normal’ routine became a thing of the past, and we were forced to determine a new set of guidelines to live by.

Last year, a survey by online recruiter Reed revealed that a whopping 68% of people don’t take what is considered ‘a full lunch break’, while an earlier survey found that 90% of workers who took a full break felt ‘refreshed and ready to go back to work.’ 

Whilst our brains are already navigating the current pandemic, and the vast majority of us are bringing work into our homes, the damage of missing our midday break may be felt to an even higher degree than before the outbreak. 

Getting back into routine thinking

We put it to Jessie Pavelka, globally acclaimed health, fitness and wellness expert, and co-founder of Pavelka Wellness on how we can use routine thinking to rewire our healthy habits.

Jessie says that recognising when our healthy habits have broken down, and the reasons behind this, is key. “Our need to survive in the face of uncertainty often leads us to focus on the things we deem most important to survival; for a lot of people that is work, and it will take the front seat. If you don’t step away from that, it can be a grind and it’s easy to see capacity with no limits. 

“We know, though, that energy and focus levels do become depleted and, rather than constantly being in survival mode waiting for something to happen until we act, we need to be more proactive in our approach.”

Jessie suggests that by tapping into our internal power to switch from being reactive to proactive, we’re able to find solutions to rebuild that positive environment. 

“This proactivity will help us provide solutions to those ever-common questions that arise, to better anchor ourselves to a feeling of control. Healthy interactions with people, food and exercise shouldn’t be left out of the picture when considering how to rebuild a positive environment.”

The importance of building a lunch break routine

Self-care doesn’t always make the cut in our busy schedules. But, calling time on your morning and refuelling for a productive afternoon every day is essential – in order to think and act from a healthy space. This is routine thinking.

Jessie suggests that a lunch break is not only essential to refuel with healthy eats, but an opportunity to refresh your mind too.

He says, “If you haven’t had a moment to think about what’s happened so far in your day between meetings, lunch is a great time to think ‘what’s next’, and to refuel. Sitting in your chair constantly, in your head, can be exhausting. But for many, it has become a reality, done for hours on end, with no thought for hydration or mobility. To me, lunch is like your pit stop. Your figurative tyre, oil and gas change to refuel and get ready for what’s to come.”

You need to tell yourself, 12-1 is my time to eat healthily and get moving, to do what I need to do to feel good.

Have you ever noticed that 3pm slump? If energy levels depleting, tired eyes and foggy head sound familiar, it might be helpful to address how you’re taking your lunch break, and what and when you’re eating and drinking. 

One of the common reasons behind the slump may be a lack of low glycaemic foods, which provide a slow release of energy. But, you might not have the knowledge to address this. You might be eating lunch on the move, combining it with your daily walk and unknowingly causing painful, bloating episodes throughout your afternoon.

Navigating a change in habit, both through diet and routine can be daunting, and seeking support from a nutrition professional can be a worthy investment.

How to ensure a lunch break becomes a regular fixture

Jessie wants to encourage you that, if a lunch break or your general wellness never makes it onto your calendar, you can change this. “You need to tell yourself, ‘12-1 is my time to eat healthily and get moving, to do what I need to do to feel good.’”

Jessie suggests the following for building healthy lunch breaks:

  • Build healthy rituals. This is a great place to start, but they shouldn’t be seen as a tick box but, instead, as something you want to do naturally because of experience. These rituals will act to build consistency. It could be as simple as taking a five to 10-minute walk outside to get into your body. Start experiencing what it’s like to step away, appreciating all the sounds that come with it and what they mean to you.
  • Truly invest in the task at hand. If that’s lunch, take the time to connect to the experience and let it have a meaning. It’s so easy to rush through things right now, but by being aware we have the opportunity to grow. Take the time to consider how it’s going to make you feel as you prepare it and eat it with a loved one. 
  • Identify what gives you energy and bring people into the experience. Whether that be your lunch, or a completely different activity such as a podcast, book or walk. What leaves you feeling energised? By then sharing those experiences with your teams, friends and family, you’ll start to build accountability around that one-hour window.

Taking a lunch break might seem of little importance when we’re stretched for time, but the benefits of that hour are often underrated. It might be that you struggle to place value on a hearty lunch, or you have trouble with lunch inspiration; whatever holds you back, working alongside a nutrition professional can support you in fuelling your workday from the inside out.

Jessie Pavelka is a globally acclaimed health, fitness and wellness expert, personal trainer, and co-founder of Pavelka Wellness and app JP4. Jessie’s philosophy is to help people change the way they think about health and wellbeing through building a new relationship with health, and through four key elements: Eat, Sweat, Think and Connect.

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Written by Katie Hoare
Katie is a writer for Nutritionist Resource.
Written by Katie Hoare
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