Do you opt for “sugar-free” when ordering your coffee, or picking out that sweet treat to satisfy your craving, thinking that you’re making a healthier choice than going straight for the sugar? Well let me tell you, marketing tactics are GOOD. However, they’re not typically great for your health. In some instances, you’re better off eating that pumpkin bread made from whole wheat flour, pumpkin, eggs, white sugar and spices (like the one I couldn’t resist this weekend at Tanaka Farms!) over a sugar-free, packaged pumpkin muffin full of chemicals that replace the sugar, but cause inflammation, digestive issues and weight gain! Yes, you heard that right. Eat the REAL pumpkin bread if that’s what you’re really feeling. It is a common misconception that artificial sweeteners and sugar-free products (note, I said product, not actual food, because these are not what I would even consider “food”…) are healthier alternatives to the real deal. I’m here to do you a solid and let you know that these artificial sweeteners are actually wreaking havoc on your body and brain. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, Splenda, Equal, etc., are created in a lab, and trick your body into thinking it’s getting calories along with the sugar, but since there is no nutritional benefit, your body is like “um, hello?” and you find yourself hungry again very quickly. This is great for business if you’re Kellogg’s, but not great for your waistline or mood if you’re a human. When you eat sugar or an artificial sweetener, you actually reinforce your sugar cravings by activating the pleasure center in your brain and creating that dopamine hit, just like you’d get from a drug. Unfortunately, this also often comes with an upset stomach, weight gain, digestive issues and inflammation in the body.
Typically, when we consume something sweet, such as a strawberry, there are also a plethora of benefits alongside the natural sweetness, such as fiber from the skin and flesh of the fruit. There are also calories from the food, which take time to break down in your digestive system, and enzymes that go to work for you the way they should. This leaves you feeling much more satisfied than eating a sugar-free donut that sends your blood sugar sky-high and then leaves you sleepy and hungry shortly thereafter, without the vitamins and minerals that a piece of fruit also contains. You then reach for something else to bring you back up and you continue on this rollercoaster ride until you go to bed, and even then you may not be able to fall asleep.
There was a time when I thought an ideal day looked like this: Sugar-Free Red Bull before my workout, Sugar-Free Venti Soy Latte for breakfast, a salad with Sugar-Free Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing (better than creamy dressings, right?!) and a pack of 100 Calorie Cookies or Crackers (only 100 calories, so what a great dessert!), another Sugar-Free Red Bull for the afternoon, a cup of Sugar-Free Yogurt as a snack and a Lean Cuisine (Mac and Cheese was my favorite) and a Sugar-Free chocolate pudding for dessert. Guess what? I weighed less than I do now…but I looked and felt so much worse! I had cystic acne from my hormones getting whacked out by this processed garbage, I was always bloated and so uncomfortable I had to unbutton my pants on my drive home, my mood was all over the place and my energy was low. I also had a lot more anxiety. But I was so proud of my 1200 – 1500 calorie “diet” and watching the scale drop. Then I woke up. You literally couldn’t pay me to eat that shit now. I’m can’t believe that I ever ate those things and didn’t realize what I was putting in my body. I have seen a remarkable transformation in my body, skin, muscle tone, energy levels, hormones and mood since I began to incorporate whole, natural, unprocessed foods, with all of their glorious fiber, protein, amino acids, complex carbs, natural sugars and calories (that I don’t count at all). I stopped listening to what the advertisements were telling me and what the labels on the packages said, and began listening to my body and here’s the trick – eat foods that don’t HAVE labels. The next time you want to grab something sweet, first try asking yourself if fruit sounds appealing to you. If it doesn’t, then you may just be stressed, bored or continuing a habit loop (this is something that I help clients deconstruct so often in our individual sessions). If you truly want to indulge, go all the way and treat yourself with whole, natural ingredients. Even better, leave the packaged stuff right where it is and try baking your own sweet treats at home! It can be such a fun, creative and therapeutic outlet right now, and I bet you’ll find that you feel better after eating something you made yourself too. Some sweeteners that I like that even have some health benefits are monk fruit, coconut sugar, and stevia (look for pure stevia, not a blend). Read labels carefully. Sugar is “high fructose corn syrup, date syrup, molasses, anything ending in “-sucralose”, for example, but a great way to avoid those things is to eat whole foods that don’t even have labels!P
What I’m Loving Right Now:
- Simple Mills Pumpkin Muffin Mix
- Liquid Stevia Drops in my coffee and iced green tea (the cheapest and best organic green tea I’ve been using for years) with lemon always for optimal absorption of antioxidants
- Stevia powder for Dave who prefers the powder over liquid
- Coconut Sugar (also in Earth+Star drinks that are delicious)
- Date Sugar
- Monk Fruit (Lakanato)
- Ceylon Cinnamon (which actually adds a natural sweetness to foods and drinks)
- Raw Honey
- Organic Maple Syrup (I avoid Agave because it causes a higher glycemic spike)
- Bananas add a natural sweetness to baked goods and smoothies
- Try using less of whatever you’re using right now. You’ll likely begin to notice that you don’t need as much and things will begin to taste too sweet as your taste buds readjust.
As always, I strongly recommend and encourage you to choose whole, unprocessed or very minimally processed, real foods whenever you can and your body and mind will thank you. If you are struggling with cravings or want to chat more about this, feel free to reach out to schedule a complimentary discovery call with me here.
In Good Health,