I thought I was doing good with my ability to avoid sugar, years ago.
It wasn’t even that difficult, honestly. I was just favouring zero-calorie sodas or sugar-free sweets, where sugar was substituted with artificial sweeteners. The most important thing, after all, was not eating the calories.
But how come I was white-sugar-free and still craving sweets?
I was craving anything really, my appetite knew no boundaries, from bread to chips, to ice cream — except I was painfully not giving in. Plus, I was grazing all the time: not real meals but tens of small bite-size portions and light snacks spread throughout the day. I guess many of you can relate to that.
Eventually, I got off the train of artificial sweeteners but it took me some time because, first, I had to get out of my deeply radicated “diet mindset”. The diet mindset, to me, is a joyless way of relating to food where you can only eat what’s allowed, where you feel you need permission to eat a whole avocado (because oh my goodness, the fat!) or a square of chocolate (you crazy or what?). A diet mindest also brings a lot of guilt with it (that, you can have kilos of).
Let me explain better. In Sugarlibre, for example, we work around taking our distance from eating too much sugar. But the main focus of the program is actually to live free from food obsessions, to clear our mind of food-related thoughts and of that damaging diet mindset. It’s a journey to freedom.
So, once I got out of the “diet mindset”, I was able to shift my focus from calories to nutrients, from eating to lose weight to eating to stay healthy. And that’s when I started looking for more natural and unprocessed food.
Thanks to this, my health improved in general and I cannot attribute that to just one of the many changes I made. However, it sparked some curiosity in me, so I tried to learn something about artificial sweeteners.
I have dedicated a whole chapter in Sugarlibre to them and I thought I would share an extract with you here.
Back in the days, I have been an abuser of all things fat-free, low-fat, zero- calories, sugar-free. Of course I have.
Did they make me thinner and happier? No, although I had convinced myself that they were healthier options and even tasted nicer than the original whole versions!
At one point, I naturally abandoned all artificial substances because I had come to believe that the less processed had to be the best option.
It made sense. Now science is backing up my intuition, stating that they are cause to health risks and provoke obesity.
What we are eating in order to make us thinner is actually making us fatter. How is that even possible?
I’ll tell you how zero-calorie food can trick you into overeating.
Drinking a sugar-free soda, for instance, might make you decide “you know what, I can eat that cake since my soda has no calories”. That piece of cake was maybe not even in the picture in the first place had you not given yourself permission by drinking a diet soda.
An artificial sweetener has generally a much more powerful and intense sweet taste, like 200, 300, even 20,000 (Advantame) times sweeter. This does not help you to take your distance from sweet tasting food. On the contrary, over time you will need to top sugar with sugar to achieve the level of hyper-sweetness you are accustomed to. No wonder a bowl of vegetables will never be appealing in comparison.
The tip of your tongue is the area in your mouth dedicated to detecting sweetness. When in touch with a sweet substance it immediately tells your brain “hey, get ready: sugar — aka energy calories — is coming!”. But real sugar never comes nor doesn’t real energy and this generates conflict in your body.
It should be clear by now, that keeping your sweet tooth in use will only sabotage your attempts to go sugar-free. This basic concept could really just be the key to it all. It’s as simple as that (“artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence”).
Artificial sugar, or even stevia, agave, malts… It doesn’t matter how healthy the option: if you crave sweet, you are still in the addiction zone. Period.
So why are we using artificial sweeteners in the first place?
Because they have little to zero calories. We have always been told that eating fewer calories than those we consume leads to weight loss, so by logic we think it is the quickest and easiest way to get thinner. And this society is unfortunately still largely driven by image and aesthetic patterns we feel we have to comply with.
The key point here is another: as humans, we favour easy immediate solutions over longer committed paths. However, the journey toward a healthier, happier you is marked by several small steps each of them giving you clarity and, above all, experience.
Only when you have experienced on yourself can you understand what works for you, and why. And go back to the wisdom of your body.