Get Off the Sugar Rollercoaster - Manage Your Stress Through Food
We’ve all been there.
The day begins with a healthy breakfast. You grab your home made lunch and pat yourself on the back for a job well done…so far. If all goes well, you’ll keep your food choices to the healthier end of the spectrum even with the four meetings and catered lunch the firm is providing.
After lunch and another meeting, where you grabbed a tiny cookie to satisfy your sweet tooth, you have a quick break and can sit down to answer the multiple emails that are in your inbox. They taunt you with the fact that you’ll never be able to get them down to a manageable amount. *Sigh*
Suddenly, an hour has passed, you come up for air long enough to realize you’re hungry STARVING! How did that happen? You glance at the time. 3:45pm! You’ll never make it until you get home and with your stomach growling, you do what you hadn’t planned or wanted – you reach those bite sized Halloween candies that have been left at work by a colleague (who ironically probably doesn’t allow her children that much candy). 3 is a good number to have right?
Within 20 minutes you feel better, guilty, but with more energy. Enough to get you through the day. More emails, one last quick meeting and you’re rushing to get home and cook dinner for the family.
As soon as you walk in the door, hunger hits again and it’s snacking on whatever’s in the cupboard as you rush to prepare dinner before soccer starts for the kids.
And there we have it. Stress is high. Energy is up, energy is DOWN. And it’s all related to those little glands that regulate our stress levels and manage our blood sugar.
In a nutshell, high stress ( even moderate level ‘busy busy’ day to day stressors) keep our bodies in state of fight-or-flight. This pattern causes our adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline which allow for a hefty release of sugar into our blood to help us have enough energy to stay focused and productive. Unfortunately too much blood sugar is considered a toxin by the body and it will begin to move the sugars into our fat cells (specifically those around our abdomen – muffin top anyone?) to protect us from the inflammation that too much sugar causes. The drop in sugars then causes us to crave MORE sugar to compensate and if the stressors remain (which for most of us, they do), the blood sugar imbalance cycle begins.
High stress = high cortisol= more sugar cravings = more belly fat = stress on the body/inflammation = cravings for more sugar = more belly fat etc etc.
While we can’t always control how our diet will be ALL day, here are a few health hacks and a recipe that I find helpful for so many of my patients to help keep their blood sugars balanced and thus, cravings at bay.
1) Stay Hydrated – oftentimes we think we are hungry, but thirst is the real culprit. Aim for 8 glasses of water per day. I often suggest getting a LARGE water bottle that you can keep at your desk. Mark off gradations (say 11am, 1pm, 3:30pm) and drink to this level if you haven’t reached your quota when you look at it. Our bodies are over 90% water and if we are dehydrated, adrenaline will have a more profound effect on our system = more chances of blood sugar imbalance.
2) Combine any simple sugars with a small amount of clean protein/fibre/healthy fats. Think apple with almond butter, hummus and veggies, a hard boiled egg and piece of fruit. And if you consume a less than ‘desirable’ food (i.e. that Halloween candy), couple it with a handful of raw almonds/walnuts. This will slow the sugar release into your system allowing your adrenals to balance cortisol for a more gentle, consistent energy.
3) Set a reminder to eat (be it a snack or meal) every 2-3 hours. The majority of busy professionals I work with need to eat regularly to keep them fuelled and primed for a day filled with an endless list of to-do’s. Don’t let the time slip away. A simple alarm can make sure you take a moment to breathe and eat so you can attack the rest of the day with vigour.
Chia Water! – The High Energy Drink
This superfood is another one of my favourites. It is a tiny little powerhouse of nutrition – packed with fibre, magnesium, calcium, protein and zinc, just to name a few! This is a great hydrating beverage in the afternoon to beat those cravings, balance blood sugar AND give you an energy boost!