Over the past couple months I've started hanging around with some Chicagoland techies, and attending tech events around the city. One particular trend that I started noticing is the poor health choices that techies are given during events like hackathons, workshops, meetups or company launches. I initially thought the poor food choices were just constrained to my old job, but not as widespread across the industry.
Pockets of hope
The only other workplace that I had the opportunity to fraternize prior to June, was Google Chicago. They're an awesome office, and Google invests heavily in the health and well-being of their employees. Ask any Google software engineer to name their top 10 ten things about the company and the cafeteria will definitely come near the top of the list. Complete with SteelCase furniture, rest areas, massage therapists, two chefs and loads of healthy eating options they seem to be a place where health and wellness of employees is put to the front. Of course, even with their healthy eating options, employees still have wine, beer, sodas and a range of unhealthy options to contend with.
Hold the Pizza
Of the umpteen events that I attended, all but one was replete with pizza and beer, and the other event was catered with burritos and Coca-Cola. I didn't attend college in the US, so my only reference I have for this pizza and beer regime is from watching college movies. In Trinidad we had many other options for food; doubles, bake doubles, bake & shark on the beach and BBQ. Some research on this pizza epidemic shows that this stems back to WWII when wearied allied troops occupied Italy and were on the lookout for good food to satisfy their hunger. Pizza soon found international fame through the troops, and today it's the food of choice at hackathons and tech events alike. Even for events open to the public, with a high range of people who are allergic to either dairy or wheat, pizza still remains the go-to dish at events - much to the chagrin of either the health conscious or the allergic.
Doing some average and not-so-precise math, we can approximate 2 the average number of calories in a slice of 12 inch pizza to 200 calories. Then with 3 slices of pizza and 2 beers, we're looking at at least 900 calories... 900 empty calories. Seeing as pizza is mostly carbs and cheese we can see how this gets converted to sugar and cholesterol. Yum! It seems while the tech industry is out solving problems for the world we're creating quite a few health problems for ourselves. Although a warm slice of pizza initially makes your belly feel good, the end product usually sits like a log in your intestines while your body converts most of it to glucose. So there's that initial rush of energy followed by the crash when the energy runs out. The same goes for too much beer and wine, and over-consumption those have the adverse effect of making you look like an utter fool in front of potential business partners.
The next time you host a tech event, skip the empty calories. When your tempted to have sodas and beers also add bottles of water and fresh juices or vitamin water. Instead of RedBull or 5 Hour Energy, encourage participants to take a social walk, a short nap or even natural energy drinks. Instead of providing loads of carbs, provide a mix of carbs and protein like trail mixes and nuts. Think of a hackathon as more of a marathon, where its about the long haul not the short sprints.
If you've never been to a hackathon before, you can tell the experienced software engineers from the young 'uns. The wiser folk pack their own midnight snacks and have a water bottle with them, the inexperienced ones are running around at midnight hyped up on RedBull. It would be good the healthy generation of engineers shared the secrets of healthy development lifestyles with the next generation.
The last thing we need is for the intuitive development minds of this generation to be debilitated by poor health when we could so easily prevent it. Make healthy choices my friends. And if it's within your power... skip the pizza.