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Workplace Award Do you have the right fuel to make it through your workday?

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.

Today, most of us depend on some type of machine to get to work – usually an automobile. Cars have evolved into high-tech machines, but most still require gasoline to fuel the engine, along with other fluids such as oil, transmission and brake fluid to operate other systems.

The human body is also a high-tech machine that requires elements such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and water to work properly. Similar to a car, what is put into the body impacts how well it works and performs, whether at home or at work.

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The difference between a car and the human body is that the car has more advanced warning systems, and will not operate if fuelled incorrectly. This creates the discipline that if you want a car work correctly you need to add the proper fluids in the correct places and in the right amounts.

The micro skill of fuelling explores the importance of providing the body with the right ingredients every day. Similar to the car metaphor, what we put into our body will impact how well we run each day.

People who eat healthy every day consider food as a fuel instead of a pleasure or escape. For people who struggle with their weight, food is often associated with an escape or pleasure, not just nourishment. In other cases, some people just don't pay attention to the volume or types of foods they consume and how that affects their body.

The World Health Organization actively promotes the link between diet and disease. Many diseases such as diabetes could be avoided by better dietary habits.

Just as habits are created by one choice at a time, your body's energy and health can be defined one meal at a time. Following are a few tips to help develop the micro skill of fuelling so that you can improve how you feel, and how much energy you have, during the day both at home and at work.

Discover what fuel types and portion sizes your body needs.

Take a few moments and explore the Eat Well Plate provided by Health Canada. Every nutrient has a purpose and too much or too little over time can cause problems to your long-term health. Use this as a guide in designing your daily meal plan. The more structure you have around your eating, the more likely you will eat with purpose.

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Practice asking, "How does this food choice help me?"

It's good to enjoy food; however, when learning to eat healthier and in the right amounts it's helpful to simply ask how a food choice is helpful so the why is clear to promote purposeful and healthy eating. This action can help curb poor choices, such as those high in sugar, salt or fat. The goal of this question is to focus on the fuel and nutrients your body needs first.

Understand the link between food and feeling well.

One example is protein-based foods like fish, chicken, eggs, meat, milk and almonds. All these foods support an essential acid that impacts well-being. Simply using a protein calculator can help you define how much protein you need each day to help you feel good, be strong and have enough energy to be productive while at work and when you get home.

Understand how your machine stores and burns fat.

One pound equals 3,500 calories. If you burn on average 1,800 calories a day and take in 2,000, in a month you will have gained about two pounds. Repeating this pattern for six months will result in a 10-pound weight gain. Purposeful eating suggests knowing how many calories you need each day and tracking them. Weigh in once a week and monitor your progress. Monitoring calorie intake and body weight will reinforce purposeful eating over time, which will help you control your weight and improve your health.

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Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link: http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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