Cake – a quiet killer?

High awareness? Guilt? January? Cake’s on our frontal lobes right now…

It’s all over the news

Dentists across Britain are blaming “workplace cake culture” for rising health issues across the land. At the root (sorry) of the issue is sugar. Which plays havoc with us – psychologically and physically.

The psychology of cake: peer pressure

Ok, this is not just cake, but the whole group eating experience.  We may feel pressured to conform, and be part of the group – ridiculous as that sounds, it does have an emotional effect. We like to belong! And we’re less likely to say no if everyone’s doing it. Especially if Sue from two desks down says “Ah go on, it needs eating up.” Saying no makes us stand out. It goes beyond this simple summation though, and is pretty serious. For anyone who has an emotional issue with food (and that’s likely to be a larger proportion than we think) the cake culture could be causing real psychological harm.

It’s turning us into physical puddings…

There is absolutely no doubt about it, sugar IS contributing to our rising levels of obesity, and the associated health issues which go with that. It’s also contributing to our low levels of oral health. Our teeth are taking the flak. But what’s it doing to our brains?

…and goldfish

Cake may create some lovely memories – celebrations, afternoons with friends, Billy’s birthday at the office. But apparently, it may also be wrecking them. Research is suggesting that excess sugar consumption leads to hippocampal and frontal lobe dysfunction. This “could be predicted to impact memory” (Cheke et al, 2015)

…very old goldfish

Cheke’s study also suggests that brains of obese people contain less white matter – prematurely aging them by around 10 years.  But all this doesn’t mean that too much sugar will definitely make us forget everything and die 10 years earlier. It does mean that carrying a little extra weight round the middle makes it harder not only on our knees (something like 4lb extra pressure on the knees for every 1lb on the tum) but also on our brains.

So how do we combat the cake?

Become mindful! Research evidence backs this up.  “Attentive Eating Principles” have been indicated as a positive method to increase our memory and awareness  of meals – and this in turn leads to less overeating. Taking time to acknowledge our food, to eat without distractions, means that we are less likely to overeat in both the short and long term.

So rather than eating 4 donuts without really noticing, take time to appreciate the flavours and textures without distraction, and you’re more likely to feel satiated after one. You’re also less likely to return to polish off the final two later in the afternoon, as you remember eating the first one.  (remembering eating affects our feelings of fulness)

What about Billy’s birthday?

Poor old Billy. Make him a humous cake. Cucumbers and carrot sticks for candles.

Ha! Not sure that would go down well? If you don’t think your workplace is ready to go cake-free, you could investigate low/no sugar options… I once won an apple and courgette cake in a raffle. I have to admit I wasn’t entirely sure… And then ate quarter of it without really realising.  Not very mindful!! Once it had all gone I tracked down the baker, and found out it was a special diabetic recipe, with virtually no sugar in it (bar the apples).

I wrote a blog a while ago about the Magic of Change, and how to change culture easily – you might find it useful.

What do you think?

Is your workplace chomping its way through the cake? Do you all bring in savoury treats instead? How do you go about changing cultures?

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