June 10th, 2012
Pop Tarts® and Peanut Butter: Fueling the Freelance Muse
By Dana Neuts
Whenever I tell people that I work from home, they often react with envy. Sometimes they tell me, “oh, you’re so lucky!” and other times they say, “I wish I could work in my pajamas!” Yes, these are a few of the perks of the freelance life, and I am grateful for them, but working at home isn’t as easy as it sounds.
There are dozens of distractions to keep me from a hard day’s work. The lawn needs mowed, clothes have to be folded, or the dog wants to go for a walk. Things that I ordinarily hate doing somehow seem more pressing than the article that needs researched, the book that requires editing, or the blog that needs to be written. I could procrastinate and distract myself all day long, but it is hard to earn a paycheck that way, and I don’t want to live in, or eat out of, a cardboard box unless absolutely necessary.
So I must motivate and discipline myself on a daily basis. How? By fueling my muse with proper nutrition and exercise. I realize that doesn’t sound very sexy, but for me it absolutely works. Sure, I’d rather eat a box full of sickeningly sweet, strawberry-flavored Pop Tarts® washed down with a six-pack of Diet Coke as I work, but I’ve found that doing so drives my creativity away. When I eat like that, my brain gets stubborn and sluggish. My keyboard does too as the Pop Tart® crumbs wedge in between the keys and the spacebar, but I digress.
When loaded with sugar and unhealthy carbs, I simply can’t function for any length of time, particularly after the crash. You know the one I’m talking about – you’re full of energy, typing and thinking 100 miles an hour, the ideas are firing one right after the other, and then all of a sudden, without warning, your face falls flat on your desk. Your hands won’t move, and you are essentially comatose. Your cat hops up on the desk to see if you’re still breathing while the dog is inspecting your drool for leftovers. Nothing good is coming out of that brain today. Game over.
On the other hand, if I start the day with a meal of 200-300 calories that is high in protein and low in fat, I can work for hours. For example, I might have a veggie-filled egg white omelet, low calorie toast and fat free yogurt for breakfast or, if I’m in a hurry, a good, quality peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with carrots and celery on the side. [Note: caffeine is optional.] It is surprising how much I can actually eat for just a few hundred calories, and I rarely get hungry on this plan. Add 30 minutes of cardio daily and similar meals every two or three hours, and my muse and I are unstoppable. I don’t need caffeine, I can skip the nap and I don’t feel the desire to run to the fridge every five minutes. I’m satisfied, and I’m on fire.
I know, I know. Pop Tarts® and a triple mocha sound much more inviting first thing in the morning, but believe me, healthier meals and exercise will change your work life forever. Instead of sitting at your desk wishing you’d won the lottery, you will feel alert, productive and creative. And, as a special bonus, you’ll sleep better too.
But don’t take my word for it. If I haven’t convinced you that fueling your muse properly is the way to go, challenge yourself. Try this for three days. Give up those chocolate mini-donuts and your morning latte this week, and try healthier options. Just about anything high in protein will do: a creamy vanilla protein shake, yogurt with low fat granola and fresh fruit, or cottage cheese, an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter. The choice is yours. With nutrition labels readily available and calorie and nutrition apps easily accessible, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Just plan ahead so you’ve got healthy snacks handy, and see how your new routine impacts your work.
At the end of three days, I think you’ll find that your creativity and productivity are easier to access. You will also feel better, and you might even shed a few pounds. The only problem now is what to do with that industrial-sized, variety pack of Pop Tarts® you bought at Costco last weekend. No need to panic; they make good door stops!
[I’ve got to give credit where credit is due: Thanks to my chiropractor Dr. Brian Bussard for this healthy-eating plan and Walter T. Middlebrook, Assistant Managing Editor/Metro for Detroit News, for the “Pop tarts® and peanut butter” inspiration.]
Dana E. Neuts is a full-time freelance writer and editor and is the publisher of iLoveKent.net and iLoveWashington.net. An avid SPJ volunteer, she is the regional director for SPJ’s region 10, serves on the membership committee, and is the chair for the freelance committee. She is also a candidate for the office of national SPJ Secretary/Treasurer. Follower her on Twitter (@SPJDana, @SPJFreelance, @VirtuallyYourz).