After completing nutrition school, I worked for a short time as a weight loss counselor. My clients were about 99 percent female and my job was to help them meet their weight loss goals.
At first, I assumed I would be focusing on menu adjustment, working with the clients to make sure they were getting the right nutritional balance, and monitoring caloric intake and changes in health. But it wasn’t that simple. The true nature of the job was similar to that of a therapist. These women had to overcome some serious mental and behavioral challenges, many of which were more important to their success than the physical nutrition plan they were following.
One of the most common problems I encountered was that my clients had problems at work that were spilling over into their personal lives. I noticed an interesting pattern quite quickly: Most of these women worked in jobs where they were caring for others. They were nurses or teachers or stay-at-home moms. They spent the entire day making sure that other people were safe, and they never took the time to think about themselves. That mentality carried over to their time at home. They were constantly putting the needs of others far, far ahead of their own needs. And often, they were so exhausted at the end of the day that they simply didn’t have the energy to care for themselves. So they over-ate, grabbed convenience food and quickly gave up on exercise.
It became clear to me, in the short period of time I worked as a nutritionist, that life can’t be compartmentalized. Nutrition and health can’t be managed without also addressing career and stress and every other aspect of life that could be impacting success. They’re all working together and influencing one another.
It’s Always YOU
You can’t simply create a “work persona” and a “home persona”. You’re the same person in both places, and what happens in one life impacts the other. There are no barriers. You can’t turn off your work brain the second you leave the office and— no matter what you do—you’re taking your home brain with you to work each day. You can’t simply tell yourself that what you do at work isn’t the “real” you. If there’s a conflict between your work values and your home values, for example, eventually there will be a point at which the two can no longer coexist; one will change the other so they match.
Understand the Impact…And Manage It
Instead of trying to better separate work from home and create more distinct compartments for your life, the more appropriate course of action is to recognize the inevitable blend that occurs and find ways to work with it. Often, you’ll discover that a problem in one area of your life is the result of problems in another. Just like most of my weight loss clients realized they were experiencing work stress that was negatively impacting their personal health routines.
The solution is to manage both your personal life and your professional life with a holistic point-of-view. Make sure your goals are aligned and that the steps you are taking in one area aren’t having a negative impact on another. Find ways to integrate the areas of your life to make sure they are all supporting the same goal—your success.
Photo Credit: cbgrfx123 (Flickr)