Stress is commonly considered to be the modern evil, plaguing us in our busy 24-7 lives. You may have first-hand experience of the way in which stress plays havoc with your self-control. Perhaps you take more risks, drink more or make one too many visits to the cookie jar when stress has the upper hand.
In the short term, feeling stressed may cause us to lose our appetites. However, in the longer term the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands will cause us to feel hungry again and motivate us to eat. And it’s not usually a bag of carrot sticks we reach for is it? Nope, the chances are that our snacks will feature plenty of sugar or fat – or maybe both – as stress reduces the levels of serotonin in the brain and sends us seeking sugar and caffeine as a pick-me-up. Doughnut anyone?
Scientists now believe that stress is one of the risk factors which can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, a metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to regulate blood sugar. Emotional stress may lead to the types of behaviour that challenge our body’s ways of managing blood sugar, such as overeating fatty and sugary foods, or drinking too much alcohol combined with a lack of regular exercise. Eventually the body is unable to cope with the stress of the constant flux, and diabetes is the result*.
Mindful awareness and meditation are known to reduce stress, making us less likely to fall prey to these urges in the first place. They can also make us more aware of the actions we take when stressed, and may allow us to see that sliver of an opportunity to step in and break the habit of automatically reaching for the cookie jar or heading for the chip shop when it all starts getting a bit much.
*Interestingly, it has also been shown that eating a diet rich in animal fats (meat, eggs and dairy) also increases the risk of diabetes by raising acidity levels in the body. Perhaps it’s time to experiment with Meat-free Monday and Doughnut-free Friday as well as getting plenty of daily exercise!