by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Every once in awhile, someone will say to me – “it must be nice having all the time in the world to do whatever you want?” Now that I am older, I reply with less sarcasm when I say, “It has its benefits.”
The old saying about “time flys,” or “ is fleeting” is correct; most of us are consumed with work and family. Our rush to achieve, reaching those goalposts of success, all have a price, and for many, that price is precious time with family and health.
I dug into some research on time and use of it have changed over the last 120 years. On average, Americans, Canadians, and those in Great Britain have over one thousand hours more free time then factory workers in 1900. Automation and modern conveniences played a key role in time-saving. Our current tools allow for everything to be easier, faster, and convenient. But when you ask, people will tell you they never have enough time. The reality is our time isn’t available in blocks like it used to be, it is fractured into small slots, or consumed by interactions through smartphones and computers, over actual people.
In today’s life, we rush and grab what we can to eat behind the wheel or from a deli counter. We know we need to eat better, but who has the time to cook? Clients have said to me over the years. “When I retire, I’ll have the energy to peruse the farmers market stalls and cook meals from scratch,” or “it is just me, why bother,” are frequent responses to my question about meals. Electronic time suckers are all around us, social media, YouTube, News, email, web searches…. Instead of taking a half-hour to eat we turn to our phones or, we use our lunch for the gym where we gulp down a smoothie, and work-out for 15 minutes then off to work once more. These lifestyle choices are major contributing factors to declining health. We have forgotten the importance of just being.
In the 1930-80s, you knew when it was lunchtime by the increased traffic, or chime of the courthouse clock. Local diners could count on a lunch crowd. For those stuck inside, lunch was a chance to get outside for a break from the noise and dust and set in the sunshine or fresh air while they ate. Now for the first time in history, we don’t have time to feed ourselves. We have multiple generations who have been manipulated, by advertisers and TV, that highly processed industrial foods (replicator foods) are nutritious and expedient or we order from a take-out menu for ease and our time should be spent on “more” important issues.
In hospitals in the 1970s, nurses got a blessed forty-five minutes to get off their feet, decompress from the demands of patient health, and eat a hot meal as part of their compensation on-site. These times allowed for a collective sigh and regathering of strength and perspective to finish the shift. This vital break from work, according to researchers, allowed individuals to be more productive, less stressed and use fewer sick days then we do today. Researchers estimated that 80 percent of today’s workers eat one or more meals at their desks and in their vehicles. Law enforcement, nurses, and teachers report they seldom get regular bathroom breaks and grab whatever is available in the vending machines, so they have more time for administrative work and or patient care.
This year I saw first hand at the annual Oregon Holistic Nurses conference how exhausted nurses are and Americans in general. Longer hours, with no regular meal breaks, means we rely heavily on caffeine, sugar and ultra-processed foods to get us through the day. For many they are never able to catch a breath, stretch, or eat an actual meal. Research confirmes when individuals have regular meal breaks, allowing for ample time to eat, it translates to healthier employees, increased efficiency and work satisfaction.
Our perception of time and our ability to utilize it becomes less frenetic and more balanced. Our stress levels lower, and our health improves. Lifestyle plays a significant role equal to diet in long term health, maybe even more than the actual food choices we consume. Individuals who capture their time back by shifting away from social media, screen time and TV, spend more time engaged with family and friends, fostering community connection that adds to a sense of contentment and longevity.
To meal breaks, and the benefits of time.
© 2019 Holistic Nutrition for the Whole you