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Skinny Rule # 10

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones.

From "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper


The desire for sweetness is a powerful deeply rooted inclination with us. “We even have special tastebuds for it on our tongue.” It is so deeply rooted that Harper recommends getting away from ALL added sweeteners because we “don’t have the physiological ammo to ‘just have a little’.” We need to get out of the whole world of “hypersweetness.” What came with the rise of the eat-low-fat diet was increased sugar consumption. Low-fat foods have been pumped up with sugar for palatability. Refined grains act much like sugar on the body’s weight control. “Sugar stimulates the liver to make new fat cells. And once you have a fat cell, you’ve got it forever.”

Harper gives his response to the “Atkins-ism” way of eating and its drawbacks. Harper seeks to find a balance between “Atkins-ism and the low-fat doctrine.”

He stresses that he wants ALL added sweeteners banished including stevia and aspartame for the reason that they skew us to expect the hypersweet. If you continue to eat hypersweet, you will continue to expect it.

But take courage! “There is a time and a place for cake, even in a rules life.”

Harper encourages to “be your own sugar police.” He does confess that he has a heart as well as a brain, and although no added sweeteners is the goal, he offers a step down of “if you can really stick to a teaspoon of brown sugar or a cube of sugar . . . indulge, but NO MORE than twice a day.” Try sweetening cereal with berries.

My response?

I agree. Artificial sweeteners do condition me to expect and want hypersweetness. In addition, there are the health concerns surrounding artificial sweeteners. So, if I agree, how will I apply this?

Well, I guess I am in a step down area. I use very little added sugar or artificial sweeteners anymore, but cannot say that I have totally banished it. What are some changes I have made in the move away from sugar and artificial sweeteners?

Oatmeal – I am trying to learn to like my oatmeal with no sugar. I’ve been working on that for about 6 months. I’ve tried it savory and . . . uh . . . it’s okay, but not something I want to eat every morning. For the sweet version that I’ve learned to love over the years, I’m trying to learn to like it without sugar. I’ve learned to tolerate it – almost like it. And I haven’t had any sugar on my oatmeal for two weeks. Instead, I am adding some vanilla flavoring and fruit; sometimes beaten egg beat in at the last to make it custardy. Some brown sugar would still be really, really, really good, but . . .

Sweet tea – my very, very favorite beverage. I have not had a sweet tea in a very, very, very long time. That’s a lot of very’s. But just sayin’ how much I really, really, really miss it. I miss it very, very, very much. I just haven’t learned to like unsweetened tea. I can drink it, but don’t enjoy it. So I usually just choose water instead of tea.

Oh, and did I say I miss my sweet tea very much!

Home grown mint tea – another favorite. One full cup of sugar sweetened that tea. And I drank one or two glasses every day in the summer. Now it is sweetened with a mild 1/3 cup of sugar, and I might drink 1 glass per week, if that. I mean, really, until I drink my 8 – 10 cups of water a day, what room is left in my body for tea?

Crystal Light – A ½ gallon pitcher of it was a frequent visitor in my fridge. No sugar, but sweetened with Aspartame. Now, I purchase the individual serving packets and mix it on the spot for an occasional treat instead of a daily occurrence. I’ve also found Crystal Light Pure which is sweetened with Truvia, a better choice than the Aspartame in my book. Frequency on this? Maybe once a month.

Fruit – as a child, we had a great deal of fresh fruit in the summer, and berries, cherries, peaches and pears were always sliced up or crushed with a bit of sugar in them. I could not tell you when I have last added any sugar or sweetener to fruits for consumption in our home, except for canning. We eat the fruit fresh, no sugar or sweetener, and with the skin when possible.

Juices – I used to think that fruit juice was fruit juice. No longer! For starters, I rarely drink fruit juice, but my husband does. Now, I always check the ingredient list for sugar content, in whatever form it may be. If it has sugar or sweetener, it stays on the shelf, the exception being cranberry juices. I look for ones sweetened with Splenda. Wouldn’t pass this rule, but it’s my step down.

Cereals – Pre-sweetened cereals used to abound in my kitchen – boxes with labels like Corn Pops, Golden Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Blueberry Muffin Tops; even quasi healthy cereals with names like Golden Grahams and Frosted Shredded Wheat made me happy that I was injecting some whole grain into my diet; then one of the cereal companies started adding whole grain into all of their cereals – hooray for health (Ahem – clears throat – and smiles in sarcasm). What is in my cereal pantry now? Cheerios, oatmeal, sometimes bran flakes – for me. My husband’s selection is a bit different – although his cereals usually contain whole grain, they also contain more sugar. Each to his own step down!

Canned chunk tomatoes – okay, this one is probably weird. I have my home canned chunk tomatoes. We like to have a chilled bowl of them as a side dish. And yes, I added sugar to cut the tartness in the past, not a lot, but maybe a teaspoon. I stepped down to Splenda. And more recently have stepped down to no sugar, only salt and pepper.

Soda – Although I have never been a heavy soda drinker, I did frequently have a soda with sugar with my meal when I went out to eat, always with fast food, and usually with a burger or pizza. I rarely have a soda these days. When I go out to eat, it’s water. But once or twice a month, we have pizza or burgers, and yes, on these nights, I have a diet soda. It doesn’t make me crave more, it just satisfies my desire for something besides water. It wouldn’t pass this rule, but for now, I’m happy with it.

Coffees – I love, love, love flavored coffees. Although I drink my coffee at home black, flavored coffees high in sugar and cream when I was out and about were not an unusual treat, but not an everyday occurrence. My alternative is coffees sweetened with artificial sweetener, and when possible, whitened with skim milk instead of cream. This happens maybe once per month, two at the most. Would it pass this rule? No, but it’s my step down, and for now I can live with it.

I’m sure there are others that I don’t think of at the moment, but these are some changes that I have made over the past three years. I understand fully the concerns of these indulgences, but I’m looking for progress and not perfection. If I take away all of my eating pleasures, I will end up regressing back to my starting point. None of the departures from this rule that I have listed here are triggers for me that I am aware of, so I’m happy with my step down. As I continue this journey, maybe I can step down even further.

My biggest breakaway on this rule is the things that can sometimes be trigger foods for me – things that are “all out” sweets like cake, pie, Little Debbies, candy, etc. I rarely buy the sugar free items in these because frequently, they just up the fat content and exchange one trigger for another. Have I made changes regarding these on my journey? Absolutely. Instead of two packages of snack cakes per day, I might have one per week. Instead of unlimited amounts of candy, until I am uncomfortably full, I allow myself three pieces. Instead of half a pie over the course of two days, I have one piece and am finished (this is why my poor husband rarely gets pie anymore). Instead of a dozen cookies when baking, I might have three. Unlike some of my spark friends, I haven't learned the art of baking cookies and not eating any. Instead of three large scoops of ice cream, I have one – in a lovely little custard dish, and enjoy every bite. Does this mean I never overeat on these sweets? Far from it! I get off on the wide road with the best of them. But I know the way back!

Would I like be in full compliance with skinny rule # 10? Yes. Is it feasible for me right now? What would happen if I did? I think that I would end up as I always have in the past when I restricted myself too severely, and I would end up on a wide road binge that went on and on and on . . .

Really, when I look over the things I’ve just listed regarding downsizing portions of these foods, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve changed my eating. This was a good blog for me to write because it really highlighted for me how much my eating has changed. And I have to say that I have been thinking recently how fortunate I am for my health when I consider how I have abused my body with sugar over the years.

Blessed beyond what I deserve!

On skinny rule # 10? I agree with the premise; I’d like to be in 100%. But for now, I will be selective and judicious, and I'll take stepdown.

What about you?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    As a former and serious sugar addict, I
    take exception to this rule. I have learned
    to make peace with sugar and live with it
    quite nicely.

    I do enjoy one small sugar treat each day,
    usually only around 50 calories. This
    satisfies my sweet tooth and keeps me
    from feeling deprived. Feeling deprived
    is my number one reason for overeating!

    As I sit here, there is sugar all around me.
    Ice cream in the freezer and jams and
    syrups in the frig, halloween candies
    in the dinning room and other treats
    here and there.

    In the past, these foods would have
    called to me until I could not resist.
    Now I forget about them. They just do
    not hold that much interest any longer
    as I have rewired my brain to love
    healthier food choices with occasional

    One problem with hard and fast rules
    is they trigger perfectionism in us
    and when we miss the mark they
    take down our self-esteem. I have
    found a gentler approach works better,
    one in which I recognize the varying
    desires and needs of my separate
    selves. I honor each of these selves
    in a way that also honors my deepest
    values for health, pleasure, and joy.

    I think your approach to limit but
    not exclude these foods is actually
    more healthy and will help you
    achieve your desired goals, feel good
    about yourself and enjoy the process
    even more. I know it sure has
    worked for me.

    I have also found that small amounts
    of stevia do not trigger my sugar
    cravings, In fact, they satisfy them

    2077 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/15/2012 12:20:33 PM
    Thanks for posting. I also have tried to cut out *real* sugar and I don't want to even go toward artificial sweetener. I am a lover of sweet tea and we are talking syrup tea! I've been gradually cutting the amount. I'm down to 1/2 cup in a gallon of tea....any less is just blah. Thanks for the motivation!

    2077 days ago
    emoticon You are doing great to be able to eat just a few sweets! Keep at it, girlfriend! And keep up the blogs on the Skinny Rules! I really enjoy them!

    2077 days ago
    I love those little pink, blue, and yellow packets. I agree that using them increases my desire for more sweetness. I need to work on cutting them out.

    Thank you for sharing your strategies. emoticon emoticon
    2077 days ago
    I have a few planned sweets and for my tea, I use stevia since it is a natural no calorie sweetener.
    2078 days ago
    I like the idea of cutting back on sugar, but on a food by food basis. I first gave up soda, years ago. It was pretty hard. I almost always make my food at home, from scratch, so I don't get the "cereal" sugars or canned tomato sugars. I haven't had sugar in my oatmeal in years, usually I have a tablespoon of peanut butter in it and you don't really need anything else.

    But the all out sweets like pies and cookies, I don't know. Some days that is all I eat. I think I will eventually give these up entirely but not yet.
    2078 days ago
    I have no problem giving up artificial sweeteners. But to give up sugar altogether --- wish I could say I can, but I know this is highly unlikely. I like some sweet in my AM coffee, and I like an occasional dessert. But I do understand that sugar is addictive and that it would be much better for my overall health to give it up completely.
    2078 days ago
  • KITT52
    I am working on this but have come really far....reading your blog has given me hope that I am stepping in the right direction....
    I gave up soda back in 1986
    I never sweetened my tea----I don't do coffee ever
    I eat Kashi go Lean Cereal or fiber one
    I now eat Fage Greek yogurt with no added anything, I add my own fresh berries..
    last week I stopped eating my home made trail mix because of the dried cranberries in there, I craved the sweetness and found myself eating way more trail mix than I needed,,

    I'm realizing I love the sugar rush and now is the time to do something about it..

    2078 days ago
    Sugar is addictive and seems to be in just about everything. According to everything I have read, eliminating sugar from our diet is the absolutely best thing we can do for ourselves. As you have pointed out, it is not easy, but I think you have done an amazing job figuring what works for you in terms of cutting back and cutting out. When you write it down, you can actually see what a huge change you have already made. I no longer use any type of sweetener in my coffee and tea, and I am fine with that. Like you, though, I still need a little something in my oatmeal - but I do have it down to just a teaspoon of honey or sugar, so that is progress. I plan to half that this week and try your none-at-all approach the following week. Thanks for the inspiration!
    emoticon emoticon
    2078 days ago
  • MIZINA730
    Changing your beverages is a big step and an important one. I, for one, found that I'm not hungry on this plan simply because I drink water and a small amount of milk every day (enough for my oatmeal, etc). Before, I drank quite a bit of milk, thinking it is healthy, but it tipped me over to enough calories that it really added up.

    One thing I have to say about artificial sweeteners - when my daughter worked for a veterinarian, one thing that dogs could never have was any artificial sweeteners. At all. My daughter warned me about this when we got our dog. Once when he got into my purse and ate two half pieces of artificial gum, I called the office and they had me bring him ASAP to get his stomach emptied out. How does it hurt dogs? It tricks their pancreas into thinking they consumed large amounts of sugar. It then puts out so much insulin, they die of insulin shock (severe hypoglycemia).

    We humans don't die of low blood sugar from sugar free gum, but it shows that artificial sweeteners do have an effect that can increase appetite. I have read studies which concluded that diet sodas actually cause weight gain. That must be because they induce a person to eat because of perceived hunger. I avoid all of them except stevia, and that is in small amounts and rarely.

    Just thought you might find it interesting about artificial sweeteners. I don't think that dogs are so far removed from us humans in body makeup that it wouldn't apply.

    I liked your blog and I agree with you that you have made significant changes for the better. I also have learned to enjoy replacing fruit juice for a piece of fruit instead. Juices really just pure sugar going into our bodies.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2078 days ago
    emoticon as i was reading, i was thinking what wonderful compromises/step downs tailored to you that you've made, 1 of mine is no added sugar cocoa in my morning coffee, in lieu of eating choklit candy throughout the day. i'm not ready now to let go of my morning mocha i so enjoy, and i'm not sure it's necessary... perhaps someday in the future i will change this, should i get bored with it...

    but what i also noticed as i read your list is how your changes really added up, you have made huge changes! and daresay you will continue to explore and choose more that work for you :)

    i have found there is a kernel of truth in this rule... there is a bit of a tipping point where too many sources of sweeteners can work their way in and blammo, i'm triggered... so this as in all things, i think it is helpful to find the balance right for us personally ~ and sometimes, i know for me, that has meant releasing some things i didn't want to release... and then to my surprise, a few years later i found i didn't even want to go back... like to the sweetened cereals... who knew?

    the lesson in the process of change for me has been although i can't envision it and what lies ahead, it is in the sincere efforts to explore and try and experiment with new2me, healthful4me foods, that i have found better4me foods that are now my favorites & gold standard that i can no longer imagine returning to the old ones... who knew???

    & so i'm going to explore those durn eggs, lol ;)
    2078 days ago
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