I was speaking at a conference on the weekend, and I asked the attendees the following question:
“Do you have a lollie jar stashed in a drawer at work? There were quite a few nods in the room, and one guy even said they have a Lollie Locker!
Whooska. Well, at least he was honest.
The thing is, they’re pretty much in every shift working workplace on the planet.
Incredibly, (but not surprisingly), they line the drawers of most hospital wards … but don’t get me started about the food in the hospitals. I’m going to save that for an entirely different email!!
Anyway, I digress.
Getting back to the lollie jar. Does your workplace also have those “fundraising choccies” that make several appearances throughout the year??
It’s for a good cause, right?
Well … yes, I’m not going to disagree with that, but at what cost to those who are consuming these sugar-laden treats?
You see, when we’re constantly sleep-deprived our bodies are essentially in a state of ‘fight or flight’ which leads us to crave sugar.
It’s crying out for help by saying “I’m struggling to function here. My body is telling me that I should be in bed, but you’re forcing me to be awake and alert in the middle of the night, or early hours of the morning”.
So when your brain receives this message, it instinctively thinks your body is under threat. It’s in danger.
And what is the best fuel source to get you out of this danger?
Glucose. AKA the fancy term for sugar – although there are different types which I won’t go into in this particular email.
Now glucose will supply fast-acting fuel to your muscles which will enable you to run away from this impending threat.
The trouble is, you don’t have to run from anything. Well not technically anyway, although I’m sure you’ve had plenty of times where you’ve wanted to run away from your shift!
Even though you know sugar is bad for you, and it’s not going to benefit your health, you crave it, because your body is tired (and stressed), and crying out for help.
So whilst glucose (or sugar) is going to help you to ‘escape from danger’, it’s not providing your body with what it needs when it’s tired, and that’s NOURISHMENT.
Sure. This sugar fix will give you an initial pick-me-up, but the more you eat sugar, the more your body will crave it because it will spike your blood-sugar levels quite severely, only to come crashing down soon after. This leads to a vicious cycle of constantly craving and eating it.
In addition, your poor pancreas, which is responsible for releasing insulin to move the glucose out of the blood and into the cells to bring these levels down, essentially becomes overworked leading to a condition known as insulin resistance.
Unfortunately, there’s an abundance of research which highlights a strong correlation between shift workers and insulin resistance as a result of poor sleep and circadian disruption … and that’s before we’ve had anything to eat.
Over time, this can lead to pre-diabetes and eventually type-2 diabetes both of which are chronic health conditions that are preventable through better health and lifestyle adjustments.
So please make the decision to value your health. Your body is precious and worth taking care of, which means popping the lid back on that lollie jar and walking away.
If you’re needing something to perk yourself up (and you’re not just eating for the sake of eating), try swapping it for something that’s going to nourish your body instead. This means choosing something that contains a combination of healthy fats, protein and natural sweeteners from whole fruit like a Coconut, Strawberry & Nut Yoghurt Tub.
P.S: You may also like to tune into a podcast episode I recorded a while back titled’Shift Work and Insulin Resistance’ (episode 85), as I delve into this topic in more detail.
Oosterman, J, Wopereis, S & Kalsbeek, A 2020, ‘The circadian clock, shift work, and tissue-specific insulin resistance’, Endocrinology, vol. 161, no. 12, pp. 1-30.
Stenvers, D, Scheer, F, Schrauwen, P, la Fleur, S & Kalsbeek 2019, ‘Circadian clocks and insulin resistance’, Nature Reviews Endocrinology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 75-89.