During the holiday season, Chef’s too often succumb to the demand of serving others. Rightly so, but not when it comes at the expense of your physical and mental health. The endless hours of spending every spare moment giving to others leaves little time for chefs to take care of themselves. And doing so is unsustainable.
It’s crucial for you, as a chef, to take responsibility for the care of your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Embracing this discipline will reap benefits far beyond the mere relief of your aches and pains.
You work a brutal job, an incredibly physically and emotionally demanding job. Treat yourself like the athlete you are. Stay in the game and perform at peak levels by putting yourself first so you can serve others.
Top Ten Tools Every Chef Needs to Relieve the Physical Demands and Stress of Their Job:
Here’s a list I created and put in order from cheap to luxurious. Many are under $20. Most are under $100. All of them are worth it, chef, because you are. No excuses!
- Stretch Bands — theraband-type products allow you to stretch out your shoulders and arms after hunching over a cutting board for twelve hours. Attach behind a door or onto a hook. Pack them in your bag and off you go.
- Foot Roller — Back to those feet! Seriously, how much pounding do your precious feet take in a given day? Treat them, and in doing so, treat yourself. (I keep mine next to my bed, rolling on it each time I get in or out. Best way to end and start the day!)
- Foam Roller — This simple yet ultra-effective tool will roll out knots in your upper shoulders, lower back and sore legs. Three minutes on one of these bad-boys and you’ll actually feel better getting out of bed in the morning.
- Back Stretcher — After a day hunched over a hot flame, restoring the natural curve of your lumbar spine is essential. Get one, lie down, elongate, and open you back up. Feel the opening (so good!), and find the flow.
- Massage Hook or Massage Stick — Get those hard-to-reach knots in your back and shoulders. Get in there deep. Make it hurt so good.
- Alternative on the cheap: Go out in woods. Find good stick. Use accordingly.
- Foot Bath — Fill it with hot water and epsom salts while you watch a 1a.m. movie after your shift. Take care of the appendages (your feet!) that take care of you.
- Tens Units — electrical stimulation ain’t just for elite athletes anymore. These small, portable devices are great. Place the adhesive pads on your sore shoulders, neck or back. Turn on any of the many settings, and feel the healing energy targeted where you need it. They work by stimulating the muscle in tiny pulses to exhaust it out of a state of spasm. (These things will change your life in twenty minutes. Seriously, I’ve had mine for over 30 years!)
- Inversion Table — As Seen on TV, this device is a mainstay in our chef household (my husband gets on it everyday, and after every work shift). Getting upside down and off-weighting your spine is ideal when you suffer from sciatica, muscle tension or back spasms. Need I say more? Just hang out like a bat and let gravity do its thing to undo your work day.
- Chi Machine (Swing machine) — Trouble with circulation in your lower legs? Get relief from swelling, improve circulation for better overall health, and loosen your back and hips. The swing action reverses the flow of energy in your body after a long day upright. Just lie down and let the machine do its swing thing. (I got mine ‘used’ on eBay and use it for just ten minutes before an 8-hour standing shift. I’m not a chef but I volunteer as an usher at a theatre and a stadium so I see concerts and shows every week. Using the swing machine before and after a shift makes all the difference, especially when I come home with swollen ankles and back pain from standing on concrete.)
- Full-Body Zero-Gravity Massage Chair — Yes, I said it. A full-body massage chair will change your L.I.F.E. They’re quite expensive (this one is under a grand, so don’t get sucked into spending thousands unless you’ve been saving your tip money for a while). Once you grow your Ideal Client list and bring in profits with your business, this investment in yourself will increase your BodyMindSpirit Orgasmia ten-fold. Multiple settings for multiple stimulations and body types of all sizes. Yes, massage chairs are that good and lightly used ones are for sale on Facebook Marketplace by the dozen!)
- BONUS – Hot Tub — Need I say more? When the time is right, pull the trigger. You can even get salt water ones these days.
Chefs Put Demands on Their Bodies in the Kitchen Like Athletes Do on the Field
Back in my corporate days I worked in Risk Management and Human Resources at a Lake Tahoe area ski resort. Looking after more than 1,500 employees (many who worked in the 11 food establishments on property), I was able to: decrease injuries, speed up return-to-work rates, and expand loyalty and happiness by treating our team like the athletes they were.
You, chef, are an athlete too. You use your body everyday. Your mind too. Give back to them and they will give back to you.
Four Things To Remember:
- Invest in yourself. Don’t be cheap — you deserve this.
- These tools for your physical care are not toys or hobbies. They are investments. (Tax deductions too.)
- You don’t have to buy new. (Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, + Craigslist = Great Deals.)
- The physical demands of your job put repetitive stresses on your body that you must UN-DO every day to relieve their toll. (If you don’t, you won’t last. Plain and simple.)
For Personal Chefs and Private Chefs, Caring for Your Body is a Critical Part of Running Your Business
My friend calls his body his ‘earth kit.’ I think what he means is that this bag of skin and muscles and fibers and bones is a vessel. A vessel for his soul.
Your soul, it seems, tells you to be a chef.
If you’re using your body, breaking your body, wrecking your body working hard for someone else’s business instead of your own I’d encourage you to become a Personal Chef or a Private Chef, but that’s another blog post altogether. (Maybe check out my blog post 11 Ways Independent Chefs Can Make Their Living.) Either way, you’ve got to take care of your earth kit.
Work safely and treat your body well, chef. Please. It carries your soul where you need to go.