The food service industry is one of the hardest and most unforgiving work environments which one can endure. The hours are long. The days (and nights) are stressful. It’s hot, sweaty and billowing with steam. And after every shift you’ll come home with a cut, burn or bruise that you didn’t have when you clocked on. So what propels us through this daunting career path? It’s almost certainly not the money. Unless you’re lucky enough to be one of those rare few chefs that breaches the world of celebrity with a ubiquitous cookbook or a spot on a daytime TV show. We endure such adverse conditions because we genuinely love food. And, though we may be gluttons for punishment, we love working in kitchens. We love the heat, the intensity, the passion, the camaraderie, the sense of working together against impossible odds to beat the clock and send out immaculate covers time after time.
But whether you’re an ambitious chef out to make your mark in the world, or a KP with big dreams starting at the bottom rung, you owe it to yourself to take care of number one. And when you’re working long hours, awkward shifts and in exhausting conditions, that’s often easier said than done. But as busy as you are, you’re never too busy to look after yourself in kind and body.
Here are some tips to help you take care of you, no matter how hectic your schedule may be…
Make the time to eat well
It happens to the best of us. We spend so much time around food that by the time we’re ready to clock off, we’re absolutely sick of the sight of it. So, we soldier on until we reach the point where our blood sugar plummets, and the cravings start to kick in. So, what do we do? We inevitably reach for the nearest fatty, salty, or sugary treat available. After a brief insulin spike, we start crashing down again and so we fill the gap with more refined carbs to give our blood sugar a boost.
You’re a professional. You know how nutrition works. You need to make the time to eat well!
Even if this means batch cooking on your day off, at least you know that you’ll always have quick and easy access to a nutritious, home-cooked meal. And you’ll likely save a fortune on impulse-bought fast food and take aways, too!
Feeling unwell? Ask the internet… the right way!
When you’re working long hours and unpredictable shifts, it can be hard to find time to see a doctor if you don’t feel great. And it’s not like sick pay is a common luxury in the service industry. As such, you may be tempted to consult the internet when you feel under the weather. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Rather than consulting Dr.Google (which can only bring prognostications of doom and increased anxiety) use a reputable online doctor and pharmacy. This can give you access to the treatment you need with the flexibility your profession requires.
Make sure you get at least 7 hours’ sleep
Your stressful job may not always be conducive to restful sleep. Especially when you likely clock off just as the rest of the populace has been in bed for some time.
However, without at least 7 hours of sleep a night you can never be truly healthy. You’re just building on a shaky foundation. You may find that taking active steps to relieve stress like taking a hot bath, relaxing with some aromatherapy oils, reading a good book and a vigorous workout all help to prime your brain and body for a restful night’s sleep. Which brings us to…
Join a 24 hour gym, and if you can’t… build your own
Finally, if you want to stay healthy, exercise is pretty much non-negotiable. And while you may be shattered after a long shift, a trip to the gym can be a great pick-me-up and a prolific stress-reliever. But if you work long and unsociable hours, you may find that the opening hours of most gyms are prohibitive. It’s worth checking to see if there’s a 24 hour gym within easy reach of your home or workplace.
If not, you can still burn fat and build muscle at home, even if you don’t have the budget, means or space to build a home gym. All you need is a couple of resistance bands and some dumbbells to cover all your major muscle groups and get great full-body workouts.
Whatever your circumstances, there are no excuses! Often, the only thing getting between you and a good workout… is you!