Good morning! Happy Monday!
I decided to start this week off with a challenge. It’s the second day of summer and summer is the time for trying new things. So…let’s talk about artificial sweeteners!
Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that mimic the sweetness of sugar, without the calories. They come in many forms: aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet N Low), and sucralose (Splenda). These sugar substitutes appear in hundreds of foods and drinks that line our shelves: diet sodas, Crystal Light, yogurt, gum, ice cream, granola bars, and many other “diet” or “lite” foods.
Although the FDA has approved all these, aspartame and its friends are linked to a number of health problems, including cancer. Still, I must admit, I faithfully consumed these products for quite a few years, hoping to save calories and lose weight.
Over the past year or so, I kept hearing about studies that linked fake sugars to weight gain. I disregarded these studies completely. How can that be true? I’d think. By drinking Diet Coke, I’m not drinking real Coke, so they must help you maintain your weight. And by chewing sugar-free gum all day, I’m not eating.
But the research shows that when our bodies have sugar, they want more. That’s why a sweet snack or high carb snack (which breaks down into simple sugar) can keep us going back to the candy jar all afternoon. Our bodies don’t recognize sugar substitutes, but the fake sugar still causes us to want real sugar. So an afternoon Diet Coke might lead to a major Skittles binge later.
But I just would not believe it.
After reading a few books lately about the problems with fake sugars (“Master Your Metabolism” being one of them), I started to pay more attention to how harmful they might be. Then I had my “Wake Up, Sister!” moment when I realized I never had a sweet tooth until I started dieting. I was never into candy or dessert, but once I started drinking Diet Coke, I sure was. If I had water with a meal, I didn’t want anything sweet. But if f I had Diet Coke, I had to have a Snickers bar. And if I had four Diet Cokes while out to dinner (not unheard of for me), I had to have the molten chocolate cake for dessert.
So five weeks ago, I finally quit. Cold turkey. I quit gum, Diet Coke, Light & Fit yogurt, and all their little friends. I quit coffee with Splenda and sugar-free vanilla. I actually used real sugar and honey a couple times in my tea. This was a huge step for me; for years those healthy-looking brown Sugar in the Raw packets have made me fear weight gain, so I filled my drink with the yellow, pink, and blue chemical packets.
I’m so glad I quit. My sugar cravings are about a tenth of what they were before–back to how they were when I was a kid. And I know my body isn’t processing weird chemicals whose long-term effects aren’t really well known.
I’ve done it for over 28 days now, but I am extending a one-week challenge to you. Check the labels. If it’s artificially sweetened, say “See ya!” I’m not saying you should start downing a regular Pepsi with every meal, because yes, that’s going to lead to weight gain, but try giving up the “lite” stuff for a week and see how you feel. Having natural oatmeal for breakfast might help you realize that some whole fruits are sweet enough. Not having a substitute at lunch might help you make a healthier afternoon snack choice.
Once you quit for a week, I’m telling you, your tastes will change. You’ll start to recognize how yucky and weird “banana flavor” is (because it does not, in any circumstance, taste like an actual banana).
Are you up for the challenge.