May 29, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Lawyer…and Sugar

By Nikki G. Maples, a member of the Austin Bar’s Health & Wellness Committee, and a family law attorney who cares about the health of her colleagues.

What is “brain fog”? Exactly as it sounds, it is the opposite of feeling clear or level headed. Listed below are symptoms of brain fog—but before reading the list (stop…don’t jump ahead!)—let’s conduct a simulated exercise.  Go ahead and close your eyes if that helps!  Picture yourself in a courtroom during trial, in a conference room taking a deposition, in an office surrounded by your peers and colleagues,  or even ruling from the bench. Essentially, picture any high-stress situation in your legal career where you are expected to perform with excellence. Now, read each symptom below and consider how that symptom might impact your performance (with the added bonus of commentary from yours truly).

Ok, here we go. Symptoms of brain fog:

  • Low energy / fatigue…Because low energy really promotes excellence;
  • Irritability…Judges, colleagues and clients really love when lawyers are (even more) irritable;
  • Trouble concentrating…Not exactly a helpful trait when the pressure is on;
  • Headaches…That annoying throb in your temple only adds distraction to the situation;
  • Forgetfulness…Not a very impressive trait to your client;
  • Low motivation…Doesn’t exactly promote success;
  • Anxiety…Can be sensed by everyone around you; and
  • Confusion…A really fun state of mind, especially when the opposing counsel notices.

Most, if not all, of us know the information related to the effects of sugar and the brain. Even with that information, we still tend to indulge. Personally, I live by the rule of “everything in moderation and balance.” By the slim chance that someone is oblivious to the effects of sugar, here are a few quick and dirty facts.

  1. Sugar can impair cognitive skills and functioning, as well as self- control (see list above).
  2. Sugar can have a drug-like effect, stimulating a craving for more sugar and several studies show that sugar could be more harmful than cocaine. (Disclaimer: I am not promoting “everything in moderation and balance” as it relates to cocaine….I’m just passing along the research conclusions.)
  3. Sugar can zap energy and increase tension as a result of tiredness.
  4. Excessive refined sugar consumption can be a contributing factor in depression. In contrast, natural sugar consumption (found in fruits and vegetables) shows no correlation to higher rates of depression.
  5. Excessive sugar intake is thought to cause insulin reaction that might increase deposits of beta-amyloid proteins and increase the risk of developing dementia.
  6. Sugar can negatively affect one’s memory.

The content provided here is strictly focused on sugar and the brain. Let’s not forget about the obvious negative impact that sugar has on our bodies as a whole, such as weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.

The takeaway from this PSA: Your brain needs sugar to function, but you don’t have to eat refined sugar to fuel your brain.

Sugars are found in the majority of our foods. The processed foods that are advertised as “sugar free” have simply replaced sugar with a different–usually processed–chemical. The sugar that our brains need for optimal functioning can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables. This isn’t hard information to grasp. It’s obvious. We all hold the knowledge. And, as lawyers, we understand the value of knowledge. We all know how to cross examine a witness. Regardless of whether we do so on a regular basis, lawyers hold the skill and knowledge to conduct a cross examination. When cross examining a witness, we apply our knowledge because our case depends on it.

Likewise, it is time to start applying our knowledge about our sugar intake because our lives depend on it. So, put down that caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and grab a glass of water or juice.  (And I mean real juice, from real fruits, not the Ocean Spray stuff!)

The Negative Impact of Sugar on the Brain, Verywell Mind, Nov. 24, 2018
6 Negative Effects of Sugar on the Brain, Hotze Health & Wellness Center, Intl, June 28, 2018
Brain Fog Causes + 7 Natural Causes, Dr. Axe Food is Medicine, Jillian Levy, CHHC, Aug. 12, 2018