Like R&B singer Lauryn Hill once sang, ‘the sweetest thing I have ever know, was like the kiss upon the collarbone’… that was of course, until I came across a corporate office and millions of Hersey kisses. After visiting offices around the country, I can honestly say that today’s professionals are working in a real-life Candyland board game! No matter how hard you try to stay on the path you get caught daily in the Lollipop Woods, Peppermint Forest, Molasses Swamp, Gumdrop Mountains, Ice Cream Sea, or Candy Castle (aka your candy bowl, jar, or drawer).

You might wonder just how sweet are Corporate America’s teeth? Well, the average adult eats ½ pound of sugar every day or roughly 250 grams of sugar. To put that into context a teaspoon and sugar cube are both 5 grams. To make this matter fatter, every gram of sugar/carbohydrate equals 4 calories so the average individual is eating 1,000 calories of sugar per day! In 2011, the average professional was consuming 170 pounds of sugar per year…that means the average person is eating a life-sized and weighted gummy version of me! Holy addiction, Batman. Watch out sugar is everywhere and is even hiding in ingredient lists under 56 different names!
I personally think our massive sugar consumption is one of the most underrated threats to today’s business bottom lines and waistlines around the world. But how could something so delicious be so detrimental to our productivity and health? Let’s unwrap the 11 ways of How Sugar is Sabotaging Your Work:

1. Hyperventilation

Sugar is very acidic and when it enters the blood stream will lower blood pH. Your body will begin to breathe faster to increase alkalinity and balance the pH. This rise in breathing rate will activate a stress response and your pace of breathing will also decrease the amount of oxygen that gets into your lungs. That means your blood brings less oxygen to body cells and brain leading to workday fatigue…and cravings of more ‘high-energy’ foods.

2. Fat Storage

This stress response will also cause the hormone cortisol to spike blood sugar again in your circulation, which will cause the hormone insulin to store blood sugar in cells or as fat if there is no more room in your cells for more sugar.

3. Energy Crash

After the fast blood sugar spike from consuming sugar and simple carbohydrates or stress you will inevitably have a blood sugar crash. This crash will take your energy down with it as blood sugar is available fuel that no longer is present.

4. Sugar Cravings

Now that blood sugar has crashed the brain goes into a panic because sugar (and water) is its main fuel source and will cause you to crave sugar to bring blood sugar back up. This is exactly how the vicious cycle continues all day long for professionals across the globe.

5. Creativity Cramp

The combination of fast breathing and stress response will put your mind and body into a life-or-death, fight-or-flight state. This will cause your left-brain to become dominant. The left-brain is connected to logical and linear thinking as well as doing what you have always done. This prevents activation of the right brain, creativity, novel thoughts and holistic thinking because it’s not a smart idea to do a cartwheel while running from a lion!

6. Foggy Focus

This stressed state from unstable blood sugar will cause you to be externally focused and on the lookout for any potential threats in your environment. Every little stimulus in your office will grab your attention and you will experience mental hyperactivity fogging up your focus.

7. Sick Days

News flash for Mary Poppins is that a (tea)spoon full of sugar might make the medicine go down, but it also makes the immune system go down for 6 hours! As a reference, a can of Coke has around 10 teaspoons of sugar...can anyone do the calculation on how long that would lower your immunity?
8. High Cholesterol & Blood Pressure

Table sugar is also called sucrose and is made up of two different sugar molecules: glucose and fructose. Every cell in the body can use and make energy from glucose, but not with fructose as it can only be metabolized in the liver.

Here’s an example of what happens with a 120-calorie glass of orange juice. Fifty percent of the calories can be used by the brain and body to replenish cellular energy as glucose. But what happens to the other 50% of the calories and sugar in fructose form? 100% has to go to the liver for metabolism and since the liver already received enough sugar (energy) from glucose, all this excess will be converted to triglycerides (sugar on it's way to fat storage), uric acid (high blood pressure & gout) and cholesterol. This is not just happening with juice, but agave, honey, fruit, baked goods, processed foods and candies.

9. Sour Mood & Restless Sleep

Everyone has heard of the happy hormone serotonin and it also helps keep us sharp and concentrated throughout the day. Serotonin mirrors blood sugar and insulin, which is one of the reasons we feel good when we eat or drink something that raises our blood sugar like a sweet treat. The problem is when blood sugar crashes shortly after that 3:00pm cookie so does our serotonin levels leaving us left feeling blah. And what’s the best way to cure the blahs? Another cookie!

These rapid changes in serotonin create anxiety and irritability making you not the most desirable person to be around in the office. Also serotonin converts to melatonin the hormone that helps us get to sleep. Chronically low serotonin from blood sugar instability can lead to depression and insomnia

10. Acne

When we eat sugar the hormone insulin goes up to help store high levels of blood sugar in our body’s cells. As insulin goes up so does testosterone simultaneously in both men and women. Testosterone also causes our oil glands in the skin to increase production that combines with bacteria on the skin leading to acne.

11. Aging

Say it ain’t so! Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are formed when sugar reacts with amino acids (building blocks of protein). It's one of the major molecular mechanisms whereby damage accrues in your body, which leads to disease, aging (wrinkles), and eventually, death. Sugar especially fructose is pro-inflammatory and inflammation is one of the major root causes of all disease.

Facing a Sugar Craving

Going cold turkey on sugar is tough because it is so addictive; try these powerful questions before acting when facing a craving:

‘Am I really hungry?’
If so, ‘What is the very best sweet option for me?’ (i.e. sweet potato, organic 70% cocoa chocolate, carrots, bell peppers, a pear, golgi berries, raw honey in a mint tea) Bonus points for also asking: ‘And what fat or protein can I add to slow my blood sugar?
If not, ‘what is something sweet I can do for myself or something else right now?’

21-Day Sugar Challenge

Now you can clearly see the how sugar and processed carbohydrates can sabotage health, happiness, good looks and work performance. It’s time to take control of our own destiny by making a change aligned with our heart and dreams not stomach.

The recommendation is no more than 25 grams of sugar a day. Your challenge is to use food labels, apps, and websites to track your sugar consumption over the next 21 consecutive days aiming for 25 grams or less. Be aware that grams will add up quick! This is not an easy challenge, but a very worthwhile one that will provide immediate results in all aspects of your life. I know you are up for this challenge because… you know it’s worth it. You got this!

Author's Bio: 

Lance Breger is an Executive Wellness Coach and the Founder of Infinity Wellness Partners, a comprehensive corporate wellness company that prepares executives and organizations for the most productive and healthy work-life. Lance has led online/on-site training programs for over one thousand professionals through his company’s four pillars of wellness: fitness, nutrition, mind/body and ergonomics.

Lance was named a 2016 Top Health Promotion Professional in the nation by the Wellness Council of America. Lance is also a Master Instructor for the American Council on Exercise and the recipient of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Program Director of the Year award. Contact Lance for coaching, consulting and speaking at: lbreger@infinitywellnesspartners.com