Ever wondered why your day’s been hijacked by dodgy food cravings, lack of energy or dismay at your blood sugar levels? Look back on the choices you’ve made since waking up and discover the difference they can make to your wellbeing.
Every day, we’re presented with a steady procession of split-second decisions that, on their own, seem small and unimportant. Separately, the question of whether we hit the snooze button for a few minutes of extra sleep, opt for lunchtime pie and chips or take an afternoon walk seems neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. But, when we put them all together, the choices we make can add up to a big difference, not only to the way our day pans out, but also to our long-term health and wellbeing. Consider some of the decisions you make each day and where choosing the alternative may lead you.
6am- alarm goes off
You hit snooze… a few times… and drag yourself out of bed just in time to shower, throw on some clothes and run out the door to work.
the impact: You’re stressed about the fact you might be late for work and feel tired and sluggish. Hormonal changes in the early morning generally cause a rise in blood glucose levels. This is because your liver, sensing that energy levels are running low because you haven’t eaten all night, dumps glucose into your bloodstream to prime you for the day ahead. When you have diabetes, a lack of insulin or insulin resistance makes your body unable to use this extra glucose effectively, so your blood glucose levels rise as you snooze on and are then liable to run high through the morning.
You climb out of bed, put on your trainers and head out for an early-morning walk, followed by a stretching session.
The impact: You come back refreshed and full of energy to start your day. Your metabolism is firing and switched on to fat-burning mode and your blood glucose levels are comfortably on track for the rest of the day.
There’s no time for brekkie, so you grab an industrial-strength coffee at the station and drink it on your way to work.
The impact: The coffee helps you get going initially, but you soon run out of energy and are hungry by the time you reach work. But as you’re running late, you don’t have time to eat. The combination of missing breakfast (which may cause your liver to release glucose for energy) and the stress of rushing to get to work sends your glucose levels up. You can’t concentrate, and crave sugar and caffeine to kick-start your flagging energy levels and soon reach for another strong coffee to keep you alert.
You have a large glass of water while you prepare a bowl of natural muesli with yoghurt and berries. You sit down and enjoy eating your breakfast before you get ready. You then prepare a salad for lunch and head off to work.
The impact: A good breakfast
with low-GI carbs and protein kick-starts your metabolism, keeps hunger at bay, helps control blood glucose levels and maintains energy levels through the morning. The muesli and fruit boost your fibre intake, the yoghurt provides calcium and the oats can help lower cholesterol levels. Allowing an extra 10-15 minutes for breakfast gives you a relaxed start and helps you to avoid the mid-morning munchies.
10am- time for morning tea
You’re ravenous because you missed out on breakfast, and with your energy fading, you resort to yet another coffee. Hyped up from all the caffeine, you long for some soothing stodge, and the biscuit tin beckons. You know chocolate Tim Tams are not the best choice, but you’re too hungry to resist.
The impact: Your blood glucose levels are up and you’re still lacking in energy, hungry and on the hunt for something else to eat in less than an hour. Those four biscuits have significantly boosted your daily fat and energy intake, but you’re still not satisfied and your body is waiting for some good-quality fuel. No wonder experts say skipping breakfast can lead to an increase in appetite and weight gain.
A recent study found that people missing this vital meal were 34 per cent more likely to be obese, with a poorer health-related quality of life.
You had breakfast so you’re not starving, but you know it makes sense to refuel with a piece of fruit and a cup of tea.
The impact: You’re fine when an unexpected meeting delays your lunchbreak. Your blood glucose levels are stable and you feel full enough to keep going until the meeting finishes at 1.30pm.
11am- stressful phone call
You’re upset and need something to make you feel better, so you head straight for the kitchen for a coffee and a soothing slice of cake.
The impact: The sugar and stress hormones send your blood glucose levels up and the coffee further increases your already-raised blood pressure. Having a solid lump of fat-rich carbohydrate in your tummy feels temporarily calming, but the emotional and physical discomfort of your high blood glucose levels soon changes that.
Although you feel upset when you hang up, you calm down by taking a few deep breaths, then head out for a quick walk around the block.
The impact: Stress hormones send your glucose levels up, but the walk helps to bring them back to normal. And stretching your legs helps diffuse tension so you come back feeling more relaxed and ready to get back to what you were doing. While the temptation to reach for chocolate is there, you know from experience that this only makes you feel worse and that a short walk and some fresh air is the best alternative.
You‘re struggling to get through that long meeting, and are ravenous. Any resolve to make healthy choices is forgotten as you grab a meat pie with gravy and chips, then go back to your desk to eat it.
The impact: You feel uncomfortably full after the meal, as the fatty food sits in your stomach and is slow to digest, which means your energy levels are still flagging. Your blood glucose levels spike after the meal, making you feel tired and thirsty. You’ve been sitting all day with no fresh air, and without the fuel your body needs, you soon hit the afternoon energy slump.
While the late-morning meeting takes longer than you’d like, your sustaining breakfast and snack keep you going until you’re able to have lunch. You tuck into the tuna and bean salad you prepared at home, followed by a large glass of water and a piece of fruit. You eat slowly and, once finished, resist the temptation to pick by putting food out of your mind with a walk in the park.
The impact: You feel satisfied and energised, ready to throw yourself into the afternoon’s activities. Your lunch provides fibre, sustaining low-GI carbs, healthy omega-3 fats and a range of vitamins and minerals to boost your daily nutrient intake. The low-GI carbs in the meal along with your post-lunch stroll help keep your blood glucose levels under control during the afternoon and prevent the afternoon energy slump. Your short walk in the sun boosts your vitamin D levels, helping your bones take up the calcium they need.
5pm- time for home
You still have work to get done, but your energy levels are nosediving and you’re no longer able to concentrate. So you head home and buy a chocolate bar to eat on the way in the hope that it will give you some energy and take the edge off your hunger.
The impact: Despite the fact that you’ve hardly moved all day, you get home exhausted and collapse in front of the TV. You wonder how you’ll have the energy to cook dinner. Your blood glucose level is high from the chocolate bar and you know that exercise would help to bring it down. But you just don’t have the energy or the motivation to get out and walk.
After a productive day’s work, you pack up and head to the gym for your yoga class. Knowing dinner is still a few hours away, you have a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts before you leave work.
The impact: Your afternoon snack boosts your energy levels so there’s no risk of a plunge in blood glucose levels or of you arriving home starving and desperate for a snack. You feel invigorated after your yoga class. It’s a great muscle workout after sitting down all day as well as a soothing way to relax after work so you can turn off and enjoy the rest of your evening.
7pm- dinner time
Hungry and too tired to cook, you call the pizza shop and order home delivery. You eat in front of the TV, filling and refilling your glass of sauvignon blanc.
The impact: The pizza, helped along by a sweetish wine, sends your already-raised blood glucose levels higher, and you struggle to stay awake. You soon collapse into bed with the beginnings of a hangover but are too tired to get a glass of water to fend off your symptoms. The effect of high blood glucose and wine in your system means several bathroom trips in the night, resulting in wakefulness as the alcohol wears off. At 3am, you lie there, weary but wide awake, worrying how you’ll find the energy to get up and go to work again in just a few hours.
You take out the ingredients for a healthy stir-fry, which you shopped for on the weekend. You sit at the table to eat and put on some relaxing music. You finish the day with a cup of herbal tea and two squares of your favourite dark chocolate before going to bed.
The impact: You really enjoy your meal and feel satisfied when you’ve finished. You still have the energy to do some chores and prepare your lunch for tomorrow. Your blood glucose levels are on track and you know you can afford to have the chocolate and still wake up with a good blood glucose reading.