It’s now been more than three weeks since I last took so much as a sip of Coke/Diet Coke of any kind. That’s rather cool 🙂 Odd as it feels now, I really didn’t think I’ve ever be able to cope without it. In those three weeks, I’ve done my best to avoid all forms of artificial sweetener too, though I’ve been amazed at how difficult that is if you’re not really studying labels.
Just to give you an example of what I mean by that, I took a little time to study the labels in the fizzy drink aisle of my local Morrison’s last week. It’s not too surprising to find that all of the “no added sugar” drinks include artificial sweeteners. What I was really surprised by was finding that the majority of the regular non-diet drinks also contained artificial sweeteners. of the entire aisle of drinks, there were only three fizzy drinks that were sweetener-free. For the record that was Coke and a couple of the less-common Fanta drinks.
That means that every time you’re drinking lemonade, or just about any other fizzy drink, you’re drinking sweeteners. That’s quite scary.
Anyway, let me tell you a little about what it’s been like for me. I went totally cold Turkey at first and was only drinking water. That felt good, but it was also a little boring at times, so after a few days I began to drink Fruit Juice mixed with water, which gave me a lot more options, and was a lot more pleasant. I’ve also bought some fizzy stuff as a treat every now and again, but only ones that use sugar to sweeten them.
So let’s summarise that for a moment. I’ve gone from a world where I drank almost nothing other than fizzy drinks with artificial sweeteners in them to drinking mainly water, but with occasional fruit juices mixed with sparkling water, along with occasional sugar-based drinks. I’m sure that in time there’s an argument that says that some of those should be removed from my diet altogether, but for now, I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far.
It wasn’t pleasant at first, but I feel absolutely fine now, and I’m really proud of myself for getting through the initial withdrawal symptoms. What’s been most interesting to me is that I’ve also learnt a lot about the impact that the stuff that I drink has on my general appetite and well-being. I can best explain it like this:
- Artificial sweeteners trigger off cravings in me to simply eat
- Now I’ve stopped the artificial sweeteners, I no longer have the same cravings
- Drinks with added sugar trigger off cravings too, but not as strongly
- Fruit juices can trigger off cravings as well, but less so than drinks with added sugar
- I’m not sure if it classifies as a formal addiction, but the withdrawal symptoms from sweeteners and caffeine are very unpleasant
- It’s easier to control the sugar cravings than the sweetener cravings
- If I’m not sure whether something has sweeteners in it, it’s best to avoid it
- I’ve noticed that if I have some fruit juice, I’ll want to have another glass straight away. That’s diminished if I mix the fruit juice with water, and if I use carbonated water, it tastes nicer too.
- I’ve noticed that if I have a drink with added sugar, I’ll WANT to have another glass straight away, but that if I have a glass of water, then the WANT goes away
- I’ve noticed that if I have the second glass of sugary drink, whether fruit juice or added sugar stuff, then I’ll want to eat. Whether it’s sweet or savoury doesn’t matter at all – I just want to eat.
So what does that mean? Well it’s early days right now, but let me have a stab at some sort of conclusion:
I’ve always considered that the stuff that I’ve been drinking for my entire adult life had at worst a neutral impact on my weight, and probably helped keep it off. Put bluntly, I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t drinking diet drinks, I’d be even fatter. I’m starting to believe that there’s a fundamental lie in there, and that in ways that haven’t been properly explained, sweeteners can actually contribute to weight-gain. I was watching a UK TV programme last week called The Men Who Made Us Thin, which takes a four-part look at the diet industry. The third part discusses the impact of sweeteners on the brain, and suggests that it can trigger the desire to eat.
As for weight, I’ve been a lot less fussed about it recently – I’m cutting out sweeteners for health reasons rather than weight ones, and oddly enough, I’m losing weight. Not lots, but I’ve replaced the sweetener drinks with a mix of water and sugary drinks and I’ve lost a few pounds. What’s most impressive is that I feel a lot more in control of what I’m eating. I’m still having bad days and bad meals, but I’m starting to identify the patterns in what I consume that trigger them.
For now, that’s progress.
Have a good week.
The Shrinking Man