“To borrow an analogy from horse racing, your workforce are your thoroughbreds, you must feed and keep them accordingly”
Diana Spellman, Partners in Purchasing.
This was the overriding message emanating from the latest Footprint Forum, the brainchild of the Footprint Media Organisation, entitled ‘Mood Food’ – discussing and debating the links between nutrition and the optimum performance of your workforce.
Top delegates from the upper echelons of foodservice flocked to London’s Stock Exchange, packing the first rate conference facilities to hear a raft of fascinating talks, each speaker offering their own unique perspective on the importance of nutrition.
Beginning proceedings was ex-England rugby star, television personality and now ambassador for Sodexo, Matt Dawson, MBE.
Having previously been crowned as winner of Celebrity Masterchef, Matt is extremely well versed in food and its effects on diners, yet the crux of his address was centered around the importance of nutrition on elite athletes. He was able to draw upon his own experiences with England, citing the root and branch changes brought in when Sir Clive Woodward was swept in to the fold as Head Coach.
Matt talked about the punishing regime the team endured during their pre-2005 world cup boot camp, and the amount of scientific scrutiny given to every last detail of their development and training. Nothing was left to chance. Food was weighed to the last gram, with players given regular urine samples to assess and treat their levels of dehydration.
Even the salt levels in sweat came under analysis. No two people will produce the same level of sweat when in training, revealed Matt. Some sweat contains more salt than others, meaning this was also under the microscope.
Matt talked about the importance of hydration, stating that if you were to lose just 2% of your bodyweight in sweat, your concentration levels could be inhibited by as much as 25%.
It is telling that their most decisive and glorious passage of play – settled with one swing of Jonny Wilkinson’s left foot – came in the final few minutes of the final game, when, in the face of high intensity, energy levels are notoriously low and hydration is hard to come by.
It was Matt’s assertion that their gruelling preparation resulted in England being the quickest, fittest, and most hydrated team at the finals. Sports science and an almost neurotic focus on nutrition playing a highly significant role in their victory.
Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience & Fellow of Magdalen College, John Stein was next to take the platform extolling the virtues of Omega 3 in a fascinating talk.
As one of the UK’s foremost academics, Professor Stein is a man to trust. He used the forum to discuss not only the startling correlations between the rise in violent crime and lack of omega 3 in the modern diet, but our lack of fish intake in general.
He revealed that while New Zealand has the highest reported incidences of depression in the world, Japan has the lowest. The former, although an island nation, reportedly eats very little of the stuff preferring red meat, while the latter has the highest pound for pound consumption of fish on the planet.
Professor Stein finished with the chilling analogy that the rapid deterioration in our diets is actually changing the physical and mental makeup of our minds in a shift comparable to climate change, directly impacting on our concentration levels, mood and stymieing our creativity. I now have a bottle of cod liver oil capsules in my medicine cabinet. As, I predict, do 90% of the other attendees.
The most widely read nutritionist in the UK, with weekly columns in The Times and The Sun, Amanda Ursell was invited to talk knowledgeably about the benefits of a fit and healthy workforce to the wellbeing of a business.
With a background in journalism, Amanda had, in a previous life, been granted access to a number of CEO’s who understood acutely that a better business attitude to nutrition can improve productivity, profitability and even drive staff loyalty.
It was her assertion that these leaders knew exactly what to eat and when to eat it to keep their own minds in optimum fettle. Led from the front, it is a culture that has permeated down into workforces across big business. The knowledge that good nutrition can combat stress and drive profitiability has allowed these organisations to stay ahead of the game both mentally and physically.
Jessica Colling is responsible for new product development and extending the ways that people can engage with and improve their health at vielife, a public sector and corporate consultancy.
She talked candidly about the research link between nutrition and workplace performance, presenting some startling facts to make the business people in the audience sit up in their seats, including:
People with good nutrition have 15% higher mood score
People with good nutrition have 6% higher job satisfaction and handle stress better
People with poor nutrition report being 15% less productive at work. Equivalent to 16 days per year of lost time
Jessica was of the mind that better nutrition is a long-term process, made up of simple step changes.
If, for instance, you decide to change your diet, this could lead to you having more energy and deciding to take up physical activity, which could then lead to you becoming less stressed. A simple message but one that is sure to resonate in the minds of the attendees for a long time to come.
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