How to Eat Your Way to Freelance Success

by John Soares on April 23, 2012

Do you want a successful career as a freelance writer? Then you must be very careful about what food you put in your body.

What you eat determines how much energy you have and how much work you’ll get done, and potentially how long you’ll live  — as a healthy writer you have the best chance of a long and productive career.

StrawberriesI have a science background (biochemistry degree from the University of California, Davis, plus biochem research in laboratories at Cornell University and Sweden’s Lund University) and I’m a strong believer in using scientific studies to determine what’s really happening in our bodies.

The recommendations here are based on the best research available from nutritionists and scientists, and they incorporate the latest guidelines from the Department of Agriculture, which recently replaced the well-known food pyramid with the food plate.

The U.S. government's new food plate emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats.

The new food plate emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats.

Now let’s look at specifics…

8 Keys to Choosing Healthy Foods

  1. Eat at least 9 servings per day of vegetables and fruits (that’s up from 5 per day in the old guidelines);
  2. Try to eat as many colors as possible of fruits and vegetables: red bell peppers, yellow pears, green lettuce, blueberries, etc.
  3. Emphasize whole fruits over fruit juices.
  4. Include beans and peas and other legumes.
  5. Eat whole grains and avoid the processed grains commonly found in products such as white bread, many boxed cereals, and most pastries and cookies.
  6. Include modest amounts of nonfat and low-fat milk products such as yogurt and milk.
  7. Eat low-fat/lean meat only, and in moderation. Go with fish when possible; chicken is also good source of quality protein. Get most of your protein from nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.
  8. Consume healthy oils from vegetables, nuts, and fish.

12 Guidelines for Healthy Eating

  1. Eat smaller meals. Eat until you’re about 80% full and then stop. A full stomach means your body focuses much of its energy on digesting the food, and this frequently leaves you sleepy and unable to do anything at a high level of competence.
  2. Eat more frequently. Have a modest-sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and add healthy snacks like fruits and whole-grain products in between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner.
  3. Eat foods that have been minimally processed whenever possible.
  4. Make locally produced foods a priority.
  5. Eat organic foods or foods with minimal pesticide treatment when practical.
  6. Vary the foods you eat. Try new foods. Don’t make a habit of eating the same foods again and again.
  7. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  8. Avoid foods that have substantial amounts of sugar, salt, and white flour.
  9. Don’t eat anything at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Your body needs time to digest the food, and you don’t want a full stomach when you’re trying to go to sleep. (Think heartburn and discomfort.)
  10. Pay attention to the latest studies about nutrition. Evaluate them carefully before making major changes in your diet.
  11. Be wise about what nutritional supplements you take. I only use those recommended by doctors, although opinions do vary. I personally take fish oil and calcium supplemented with Vitamin D every day, and one-half of a low-dose multivitamin with minerals three times a week.
  12. Know your own body and what it needs. This means you pay attention to how you feel after you eat specific foods, and you are aware that you could have allergies to certain foods, or not be able to digest some things properly, like gluten.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a weight that is appropriate for your height and body structure will make you feel better and allow you to get more done in all areas of your life.

The best way to lose weight is to follow the dietary guidelines above and begin an exercise program that includes moderate aerobic activity appropriate for your overall health. Consult your doctor first before beginning a weight loss program, and be very wary of all those diet plans and weight-loss powders and pills: They are only truly designed to make your wallet lighter.

The key to losing weight is to consistently burn more calories than you consume. But make the change slowly: no radical downward shifts in caloric intake and intense exercise programs. Begin with the healthy foods discussed above in appropriate amounts that leave you satisfied but not bloated, and also start an exercise program in consultation with your health care practitioner.

Your Take

How healthy is your diet? How can you change it to make it healthier?  How does your diet affect your writing productivity? Tell us below!

(Strawberry photo courtesy of aMichiganMom)

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cathy Miller April 23, 2012 at 6:57 AM

Excellent advice all the way around, John. One of the main reasons for me leaving the corporate life behind was my need to get healthy. I don’t blame the job, even though it was stressful. For me, I recognized my unhealthy behavior was a sign that I wasn’t happy with something in my life. I needed a major change,

Since starting my own business, I returned to my healthy weight and healthy eating and it makes all the difference in the world in my work and my life.

Take the time – it’s so worth it.
Cathy Miller recently posted…What Footprint Does Your Business Writing Leave Behind?


2 John Soares April 23, 2012 at 9:25 AM

One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is the ability to have all the healthy food I need right in my house. Most people who work regular jobs wind up eating out a lot, and that’s where it’s so easy to get too many calories or too much sodium.

And now it’s time for my mid-morning snack: an organic banana.
John Soares recently posted…Six Tips for Marketing Your Freelance Writing from Lori Widmer


3 Marla Beck April 23, 2012 at 9:49 AM

Terrific post, John. It’s great to see you writing about the connection between energy, creativity and writing – so, so true!

I learned to change my diet 9 years ago. I eat whole foods — no sugar, no flour. I didn’t feel good the first few weeks of eating this way, but after that initial adjustment, I started feeling great and continue to enjoy feeling energized and great, inside and out.

That said, I don’t think it takes a radical change in diet to make a difference in we feel. Sometimes I just need to remember to grab a snack when I need it.
Marla Beck recently posted…Writing not getting done? Why "productivity" isn’t the answer.


4 Sharon Hurley Hall April 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Great tips, John. I can definitely agree that changing eating habits had a knock-on effect on energy, creativity and productivity.
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted…My Blogging Adventures 2012


5 John Soares April 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM

I’ve found that eating a modest and healthy lunch helps me avoid that afternoon slow-down that can really hamper my productivity.
John Soares recently posted…New Freelance Writer Community: About Writing Squared


6 John Soares April 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

I’ve cut almost all sugar and refined flour from my diet. My one weakness is coffee: I like it with half-and-half and organic evaporated cane sugar.

And I agree that radical dietary changes aren’t necessary. Small positive changes do make a significant difference, and they can lead to more small positive changes.
John Soares recently posted…Is a College Education Necessary to Be a Successful Freelance Writer?


7 Samar | The Writing Base April 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM

I love food – be it home cooked or fast food or high end gourmet stuff. Since I also tend to put on weight, I have a simple rule. Eat healthy during the week and binge out on the weekends. Doesn’t help me lose weight – but it certainly prevents the needle from moving up!

For anyone who’s doesn’t want to exercise, I suggest you take the stairs – a floor at a time till you build your stamina. Rule of thumb: Only climbing them up counts!
Samar | The Writing Base recently posted…About Writing Squared – The 5 Buck Forum


8 John Soares April 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Samar, I also occasionally let myself indulge in higher-calorie days. I think that’s fine as long as overall I don’t gain weight.

And exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as simple as taking a 20-30 minute walk every day. I also love stairs and often climb them two or three at a time.
John Soares recently posted…Freelance Writer’s Guide to Library Research


9 Madeleine Kolb April 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

The terrific thing is that eating healthy doesn’t mean you’ll feel deprived or that you’re eating cardboard. Eating foods of different colors is a great tip in terms of nutrition and of visual appeal. A salad with lettuce, red and yellow peppers, carrots and cucumbers, for example, looks just delicious.

And trying new foods is a delight. Years ago before I started going to farmers’ markets, I’d never eaten kale or kolhrabi or bok choy or jicama. Now they’re some of my favorites.

Eating healthy has so many benefits.
Madeleine Kolb recently posted…How are those brain fitness games going?


10 John Soares April 23, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Madeleine, I frequently try new foods. Every time I do a major shopping trip I try to find something new I haven’t had before, especially something exotic that’s also healthy.
John Soares recently posted…Why Choosing the Right Words Matters


11 Dave Doolin April 23, 2012 at 9:23 PM

I recommend 99 Ranch for new foods, especially new fruits and veggies. It’s right there, on your way into (or out of) San Fran. I’m so lucky I can walk there!


12 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Dave, I’ll check ’em out next time I’m headed to SF. They have a cute video on their website.
John Soares recently posted…Nine Key Steps to Freelance Success on LinkedIn


13 cmichaelsny April 24, 2012 at 2:00 AM

Eating a healthful diet can help you maintain your current weight, lose unwanted weight, prevent disease and increase your chances of preventing illness in the future..
cmichaelsny recently posted…Learn the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder


14 Puneet April 24, 2012 at 5:56 AM

Really nice one. We need take care of health because health is wealth. Money is no of worth if you have no health. nice post.


15 Jeri Baker April 24, 2012 at 6:21 AM

John, thanks for the tips. I am always trying to eat healthier. It still amazes me how many chips I used to eat not long ago!


16 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

My partner Stephanie and I both love potato chips. That’s why we hardly ever have any in the house!
John Soares recently posted…The Well-Organized Freelance Writer’s Home Office


17 Gambolin' Man April 24, 2012 at 7:50 AM


Sound recommendations! I confess work needs to be done (personally) in several of these areas!
Gambolin’ Man recently posted…THE SECRET WORLD: A Spirited Ramble through the Historic Gold Run Diggings to Canyon Creek and the Washed Out Bridge


18 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 9:28 AM

It’s a process for all of us Tom, me included.
John Soares recently posted…Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Freelance Writers


19 Linda Formichelli April 24, 2012 at 9:10 AM

Great advice, John! Many people don’t know this, but besides being a full-time freelance writer I’m also a certified personal trainer and a wellness coach. I find that if you manage to get in some movement every day, you’ll find that you’re so much more productive with your writing that it makes up for the time you spent exercising — and then some. I’m really into yoga now, but anything you enjoy and will do most days of the week will work fine — walking, running, weight training, biking, Pilates…whatever.
Linda Formichelli recently posted…Where’s your line in the sand?


20 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 9:31 AM

I so agree Linda. I do both yoga and tai chi, and even though I have a very busy work day today, I’ve already done 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of tai chi. I did two of the fast tai chi forms because those give me a bigger boost of energy than the slow forms do.
John Soares recently posted…Is a College Education Necessary to Be a Successful Freelance Writer?


21 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 9:32 AM

And for those of you interested, check out Linda’s HappyFit Coaching services.
John Soares recently posted…Why Choosing the Right Words Matters


22 Tania Dakka April 24, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Love this post. This is what my whole site is about – being fit so you can be the most productive and the most creative you can be. As freelancers, as writers, as creatives, we get so hung up on our projects and doing what we love that we often dismiss the impact that our diet has on our minds and bodies because we’re too involved. But, it can’t be an excuse, it has to be a lifestyle. Great post!


23 John Soares April 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM

Thanks for the kind words Tania. I’ve noticed so many times that what I eat, and how much I eat, affects my energy. Many years ago I started eating a healthier diet, and I really saw the jump in my work output and my overall energy and happiness.
John Soares recently posted…Six Tips for Marketing Your Freelance Writing from Lori Widmer


24 Renee Wade April 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM

As a science-oriented person, you might want to check out Weston Price”s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is a wonderful thing, however the rest of the government’s ideas about good eating are suspect – big ag has big ties to big gov. Saturated fats have been demonized for several decades now,and we are eating less beef and butter, but our hearts are not getting any healthier. Nicolette Hahn Niman, a vegetarian lawyer turned cattle rancher, has done a lot of excellent documentation on this subject. Her book is Righteous Porkchop.


25 Jacob April 26, 2012 at 6:17 AM

Okay, so nutrition is important… I agree :) My diet consists of as much natural and fresh stuff as I can eat or get my hands on… I’m always snacking and never sitting down for big meals… lots of water and juice and tea and coconut water… pretty much anything with vitamins and nutrients and those sought after antioxidants!


26 Mark @ How to Win the Lottery May 7, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Yes eating correctly is the key to a lot of life’s pleasures work and play. I recently tried the juicing diet, not because I was over weight but I wanted to see if taking in more micronutrients would make any difference to my over all health.
I have to say it has and I now juice two meals five days a week and eat healthy for the rest of them with an occasional treat in there.
Mark @ How to Win the Lottery recently posted…Picking a Lottery System


27 Darlene Hull May 8, 2012 at 4:46 AM

Really enjoyed this. I just had a discussion with my husband last night about “wouldn’t it be great if someone solved the obesity dilemma by publishing the truth about how the body loses fat?” Unfortunately for him, a healthy diet (following all the guidelines above) and exercise 6 days a week is not doing a thing for him weight-wise, but it does make a big difference to his attitude and ability to think clearly. We who sit at desks must be even more diligent in our food and movement habits!

Thanks for sharing!
Darlene Hull recently posted…Please DON’T “Like” My Page!


28 Benjina July 4, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Terrific post and excellent advice ,John I believe that if you change eating habits, it will has an effect in energy creativity and productivity definitely. Eating healthy has so many benefits.
Benjina recently posted…Low Carb Diet: Art and Science of Low Carb Living


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