Artificial is Artificial
In my quest for eating pure I decided to stop using all artificial sweeteners. Since I love iced tea, especially with spicy food, this was a big deal for me. A typical lunch or dinner would consist of five or six glasses of tea, each one getting about three of those little pink packets of the artificial stuff.
When I made this change, it wasn’t because of all the scientific studies on the possible harm that artificial sweeteners could cause; it was simply because eating pure food, the way God made it, and then adding a chemical to it just didn’t make sense to me. One thing I discovered pretty quickly is that when you eliminate artificial sweeteners you also eliminate a ton of their chemical buddies as well – just check out the label on a diet soft drink and you will know exactly what I mean!
At first this was a pretty tough change for me. Tea just didn’t taste the same. After the first week my tea was just barely tolerable. After the second week tea tasted “ok.” After the third week I was looking forward to tea again, and by the end of the fourth week I realized I would never go back. In fact, several times over the last year I have accidentally taken a sip of artificially sweetened tea and now I can’t stand it! It’s like my mind is screaming “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!” when the artificial stuff hits my tongue.
(As an additional note, I decided not to use sugar as a sweetener either. The fact that it is refined, has zero nutritional value, and is high calorie made this an easy choice for me. I have no problem at all eating sugar in its natural state, like in fruit or in unrefined Grade B Maple Syrup — which is my personal favorite, by the way.)
Two Unintended Amazing Benefits
I went cold turkey off the artificial sweeteners in July and by September it became my normal life. I didn’t really think much of it until Thanksgiving when we had a pot luck lunch at the office. My sister (thank you, Cindy) brought in baked sweet potatoes. I had never really liked sweet potatoes, so it had been several years since I had even tried one. For some reason I decided to try one. I had it dry – no butter, no sugar, nothing but a pure baked sweet potato. I have to tell you I thought I was in heaven when that first bite went into my mouth! It was so sweet I couldn’t believe it. It felt like I was eating ice cream or cake or pie!
That is when I realized that because I had cut out the artificial sweeteners my taste buds had come to life! All of a sudden it made perfect sense why fruit was tasting so much better and was so much more satisfying. All through my dieting life I had heard the word “satisfying” to describe what a good meal should be. Until that point I don’t think I ever really understood what satisfied really felt like.
Here is the second unintended benefit. This is not a scientific fact, but a theory I really believe. After that Thanksgiving meal I realized that my sweet tooth had gone away, and that when I had sweet food like fruit or that baked sweet potato, I felt extremely satisfied. I believe that artificial sweeteners “trick your brain” into thinking you are getting the real deal, and when the brain realizes it was tricked, it sends signals for more sweets and it usually sounds like this: “Give me something sweet, NOW!”
For years I thought picking an artificial sweetener was saving me calories and satisfying my cravings. Instead, they were just filling my body with junk, ruining my taste buds, and increasing my cravings for more junk! This reminds me of a great biblical illustration. I have heard it said that every person has a need for God that only God can fill. We don’t like that (because admitting it means we can’t fix our own problems), so we go through life filling that need with the artificial sweeteners of life – our work, more money, more stuff, alcohol and drugs, selfish relationships centered around lust, just to name a few. We crave more and more, we indulge more and more, and we are never satisfied.
Artificial is artificial – and NEVER satisfying.