Q: Do people have trouble deciding what to with their 15 minutes of time?

More people tell us they struggle more with making the time than knowing what to do with it. But if you're getting a brain cramp, try this approach inspired by Teresa Thomas:

How old are you? 37? Great! Make a list of 37 fun things to do. Don't think Bucket List.* What sounds like fun? What would you make or see or do with an unexpected 5-day weekend of freedom? Use 15 minutes of your next lunch break to make this list (without bogging yourself down with judge-y-ness) and see what pops up. You just might land on the next quiet dream to feed, or maybe you'll see a pattern pointing in the direction of an activity you'd find satisfying.

Try it and let us know if it works for you.

*In fact, let's not use "Bucket List" anymore. How about a name like "Going For It List" that doesn't suggest impending doom? If you have an even better name, please tell us. We're sick to death (pun intended) of "Bucket List." 

Q: What is this?

The coaches have been doing this for awhile, so we sometimes forget that you might be just kicking off your own Box Lunch Lifestyle. (Our bad.)

Here it is in a nutshell:

Box Lunch Lifestyle is a common sense practice for a more satisfying life built on better food and better ways to spend your time during your weekday lunch break. Eat food you make yourself for 15 minutes, then spend 15 minutes making progress on that thing you've always said you wanted to do.  Your 30-minute lunch break can turn an ordinary day into an actual turning point. If you can change your lunch, you can change.

How's that?

If you send this to your friends or coworkers, we'd love to hear what they think, too.

Q: Any ideas for when I DO eat lunch out? I'm doing so well, but I don't want to mess up.

That doesn't sound much like "messing up." A better lunch is almost always possible. You don't ever fail. You "win" or you "learn."

When you look at a restaurant or fast food menu, ask yourself, "What ingredients do I see?" Most of the time, you can order things--even if they're not on the menu--that are just ingredients: vegetable sides, a piece of meat, fruit, even bread.

We'd challenge you to go farther. Is the menu item something you'd make for yourself? Would you really deep-fry the chicken breast, or would you broil it in the oven at home? Would you make that steak salad? (We hope so!) Scrambled eggs v. eggs Benedict?

Its your lunch. You make your own rules about what matters. You've got this.

Q: Isn't it hard to stay focused on just one thing even for 15 minutes?

Sometimes. For some of us.

A secret weapon? Set an alarm. If you don't have to keep checking a clock, your odds of "detaching" from Work Think are better AND there's less potential for other pesky distractions.  If you don't have to look at a screen at all for 15 minutes, that screen has no hope of pulling you in a direction you've already told yourself you don't want to go.

It's just for 15 minutes. You've got this.

Q: What can I put on vegetables so that I eat more of them?

A question back to you: Do you prefer your vegetables raw or cooked? It matters! Some vegetables you may just like better cooked--and it's okay to cook them. Try it! Just don't cook your vegetables beyond recognition. Cooked food should still look...you know, vibrant and like the food it was meant to be. So try steaming or roasting instead of boiling--or microwaving. (This isn't hard.)

Here are some options we hear people like on RAW vegetables. These are so much better if you make them yourself, but there are good store-bought options, too.

  • sour cream or mayo-based dips (we [heart] these)
  • guacamole
  • nut butters (cashew, almond, peanut)
  • hummus--or ful medames, which sounds fancy, but it's sort of a hummus made with fava beans instead of chick peas

On COOKED vegetables, you need BUTTER, man! Splurge on some butter from a dairy near where you live--even within your state. Butter (salted or unsalted) made from milk from grass-fed cows can be really tasty. Here are some other things to try:

  • marinara sauce
  • bacon fat (yes! but know your pigs and be sure they're healthy)
  • parmesan, feta, or blue cheese, or other finely grated cheese
  • freshly-squeezed lemon juice and/or olive oil
  • your favorite salad dressing (try it!)

It's not cheating if you add something to vegetables to make them taste better to you. Just make sure what you add is also food you understand. 

 

 

 

 

Q: What should I do for fifteen minutes?

This should be a seriously FUN part of the whole Box Lunch Lifestyle experience! But we get that spending time doing what we want just because we're inspired to can lose its place in our busy lives. We're out of practice. But we also hear people say, "But I don't have anything I want to make or build or explore...I'm pretty much fine. I don't do 'those things.'"

We're not buying it.

If your fifteen minutes of time at lunch doesn't yell, "I'm starting a website!" or "I'm learning origami!" (and yes, some people DO want to learn origami...), this is a chance to listen to some quiet dream that's been hiding.  Just sit for fifteen minutes with a blank piece of paper. Play some music , or find a nice view to enjoy if you can, but just sit, and think, and remember. We know it sounds "yogi-y" but you might be surprised what bubbles up in your head. For example, you might remember a class you loved in school but never really "got" because you didn't have [enough time, the right teacher, etc.]. Why not "get it" now?

Make a note or two. See what tomorrow brings. And give yourself credit for making space for that hidden, quiet dream to speak. This kind of listening is tough, but you're tough enough.

Q: What do you mean by "better" fats?

Some people like (or hate) particular eating trends--and those trends often include embracing or shunning specific fats. "Olive oil is good for you!" "Lard will kill you!" "Nuts are good!" "Nuts are bad!" Here's a collective sigh from our coaches: SIGH!

When it comes to food, Box Lunch Lifestyle doesn't advocate anything more than eating what you UNDERSTAND and LIKE at lunch--and that includes fats.

If you cook with some kind of fat (or oil, or whatever), understand what it actually is. If you don't understand how oil comes from corn, Google it and see what you learn. If the idea of eating the fat from an animal's body grosses you out, then it's not for you. But KNOW what a fat is before you put it in your mouth.

Consider asking yourself, "Would I eat this--by itself--on a piece of bread?" Say...butter? Olive oil? Bacon? Avocado? Bacon AND avocado? (Mmmm...) Peanut butter? Lard? Soybean oil? Nonstick spray?

There are no mystery ingredients in an avocado.  And you'd probably enjoy a little taste of butter even by itself. We're less sure about the nonstick spray.

You make your own rules about that matters--and that include what's "better" for you.

 

Q: How can I convince people that it's important to take a break at work?

You probably can't. The people who "never have time" or "simply can't [fill in the blank]" may have excuses, but they may have reasons, too, that we just can't see.

What you CAN do is create an opportunity to make a different choice.

  • Managers: Try setting different expectations. Could you be rewarding star employees even when they compromise their wellbeing by overworking?
  • Coworkers: Be a pal. How recently have you said, "You work so hard. What would make it possible for you to take a break?" Just one invitation from someone else to take a break together might be the excuse they need to start a new routine.
  • Box Lunch Lifestyle Enthusiasts: You are proof that it IS possible in your workplace to take a break, eat something better, and feel better overall. You are the real deal. People will notice, and some will follow your lead.

The thing about giving someone an opportunity to make a different choice is that you're not asking them to say they're wrong. (People HATE wrong.) But they might say, "Huh. I didn't realize that. Okay. I'll give it a try."

 

Q: What are your thoughts on pasteurized yogurt as a probiotic source, or as food in general?

We definitely have opinions about food, but the Box Lunch Lifestyle coaches are not nutritionists or dieticians. So take our yapping for whatever it's worth, and definitely don't listen to anything we'd have to say about probiotics.

Homemade food is best. Homemade yogurt? It's possible, but unlikely. If you eat yogurt, though, aren't you even a little bit curious what makes it taste so...yogurt-y?

Tons of sites (like this one, or this one) have their own ideas about what makes some yogurt "better." The Box Lunch Lifestyle crew likes food with ingredients we can pronounce, and that would make a tasty mouthful all by themselves (like strawberries or sugar rather than acesulfame potassium). If you can only find better yogurt that's unflavored and you need a little "sweet," try stirring in some raw honey. It tastes better than you might think. For real.

Q: Can I make lunch for someone else?

Is this a trick question?

Here's a trick answer: it depends.

The making-your-own-lunch thing is a pretty big part of the Box Lunch Lifestyle approach to food. So, what is it that's important to you about making lunch for someone else? How are you helping that person? Any chance that "helping" could actually be "replacing something that would feel good to that person or help that person learn"?

How about this suggestion from Box Lunch Lifer Lisa G. instead: exchange homemade lunches with a coworker or friend. That way, she or he still gets the pleasure (it's true--you'll see!) of both making a homemade lunch and eating one. Just imagine the potential for memorable lunch food and conversations.

It sounds like a sneaky and totally FUN way to hold each other accountable.

Q: Can Box Lunch Lifestyle help me with portion control?

YES! Another huge win from making your own lunch is that you're usually portioning out your food BEFORE you're hungry. This makes the choice of "better food" WAY easier than facing the less-better choices in a cafeteria line (or on the drive-thru menu) when you're starving...and everything smells so good. 

And since you asked, we're going to let you in on a tip-top secret tip. This portion-control tamer works whenever you are tempted by easy access to more food (e.g., working from home).  AND it works just as well at DINNER.

If you want more food after your plate is empty, DO NOT get a second helping of something you just ate. Not even salad. Eat something different (preferably homemade--and just a half-serving of it. If you're still hungry, eat another half-serving of something else. You can repeat this as much as you want, just don't eat the same food twice. This sneaky-snake trick works for oh-so-many reasons:
1) you're not automatically saying "no" to yourself (because who wants to hear that??)
2) it can steer you away from craving-triggering foods (for this coach, it's any kind of pasta or bread);

3) it's kind of a pain to find something else, so if you're just being lazy, you might skip the extra food;
4) thinking about a different food slows down the whole process (so you might realize you're really not hungry) AND
5) you may get a funny look from people at the table if you go much beyond 1 or 2 different half-servings. Peer pressure. It's not just for middle school anymore.

By introducing a little "interference," the non-impulse part of your brain might help you if your goal is a different choice.

It works. Try it.

Q: Are you making any New Year's Resolutions?

No.

Why wait for some arbitrary day to do something you think could make you a better person?

If you're planning to start something new on January 1, we DARE you to do it today. Because if you're not willing to do whatever it is right now, we're betting that you won't be doing it at the end of 2018 either.

Starting today is brave. C'mon. Do it.

 

Q: How do you "defend" this time?

It's not easy, but it's worth fighting for. Here are some ideas:

  • Your lunch break doesn't have to be at the same time every day. Be crafty. Make it work.
  • Tell your friends, coworkers and family about your intentions. Let them know you'll be taking some time for yourself during the day.
  • Don't get too discouraged when you just can't avoid a last-minute meeting or errand, BUT DON'T SKIP LUNCH. Just because "lunchtime" has passed, don't wait for dinner. Eat. Look away from the screen. If you don't get 30 minutes one day, be sure you get a few. You deserve this.
  • If you don't bring a lunch and need to grab something to eat on the go, don't make that an excuse to use 15 minutes of time just to do something that matters to you. Your body and spirit will still appreciate a chance to reset--even though you ate a few fries.

 

Q: I'm a bus driver for Metro Transit. Sometimes I have only a few minutes between shifts. Any tips?

Not everyone has as much control over when or how they take a lunch break. But if making lunch matters to you, here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Build a 30-minute mosaic. If one block of time is impossible, don't skip it all together. You work hard. You need a break. Piece the time together over a shift however it works for you.
  • Find a well-insulated lunch box that you love. LunchBots has one nice option, and Wirecutter recommended a couple others earlier this year.
  • If better food is a goal for you, think "good" instead of "healthy." Whatever you make for you IS good. Enjoy it. Don't skimp on healthy fats (butter, good mayo, guacamole) that can help you feel less hungry for snacks between lunch and dinner.
  • Look for a quiet spot. You must enjoy people if you've chosen this career, but it may be refreshing to have time alone during such an "others-focused" workday. What are your escape options?
  • Ask what would make you feel good physically during your lunch break. If you sit a lot, maybe a few simple stretches would give you a different kind of energy as the day goes on.

The most important thing is that you do what works for YOU. You deserve this time. Give yourself credit for making a plan--even on the days that take a funny bounce and aren't what you expected.

Make your own rules, and let us know what makes a difference for you.

 

Q: How can I motivate myself to do meal prep on the weekend?

We get it. You only have two days of freedom, and you may not be excited about using that precious time to chop vegetables or cook.

But you will have to eat. Eventually.

Here's an idea: What day DON'T you like? Let's say it's Monday. (We hate Mondays, too.) If that day's already a drag, then add one more chore to it rather than "spoiling" your Saturday. On Monday night when you're feeling beaten down, go ahead and get this out of the way as fast as you can, then relax knowing the rest of the week only gets better. Just save leftovers from Sunday night's (homemade) dinner for Monday's lunch. 

There you go. Bob's your uncle. And you landed a pretty good punch on a day that usually gets you first. You win.

Q: I really don't know what to eat.

(Technically not a question.)

You probably do know what to eat. You do eat now. 

The problem might be that you're actually thinking, "What SHOULD I eat?" which is very different. Try starting with an easier question:

What do you LIKE to eat?

Make a list--of everything. What do you really like? Don't worry about what's healthy, homemade, paleo, or can-only-get-at-Katz's right now. Make the longest list you can.

Could you make any of these yourself? Or something close? Be honest. What are these things MADE of? Meat? Cheese? Eggplant? Chocolate?  Making a list of what you know is IN the dishes you like will help spark ideas for food you might be able to cook or prepare in some simpler way. If you like eggs benedict, for example, you probably like eggs. Making hollandaise for lunch may not be practical, but how about hard boiled eggs? Simple.

This exercise can be a more satisfying (and WAY more fun) approach than just getting someone else's list of "should eat" foods. Try it. Let us know what you come up with so we can share your ideas with the whole team.

Q: How's it going?

People ask how many others are trying Box Lunch Lifestyle.

Here's the answer: more than you might expect. ;)

A Q for you: Why does it matter? At the heart of this practice is finding simple ways to make your life feel more like your life, and your body feel more like the YOU it's meant to be.

Box Lunch Lifestyle isn't for everyone. Not everyone wants to reconnect with food that looks like food, or wants to look away from a screen while they eat. Make your own rules. Be the example. And wonder what you can do to help the people in your life find those things that make them feel not just satisfied every day, but really fulfilled--if even in the smallest of ways.