My cup of warm coffee is the highlight of my morning. I wake up looking forward to it. The comforting taste in my mouth, the warm feeling in my body and the satisfaction knowing that my mind will slowly start to awaken, brings me incredible pleasure.
I feel like I deserve a treat for being up early, getting to work, and having so much under control (or at least looking like I do) so early in the day.
My coffee used to be more than a simple comfort in the morning, though. It was a creamy, sugary delight that helped satiate my sweet craving. I used to add one pack of Splenda and a low-fat (heavenly) vanilla creamer in my morning coffee.
“Can’t I just have a little sweetener in my coffee?” I would think. I felt like I was already giving up so much. I knew not to go overboard with brownies, cakes and cookies. There were so many times when I would resist a pastry at work or say no to a cupcake or donut.
I wondered if my sweetener would help me lose weight because it wasn’t officially sugar – it was a sugar substitute and didn’t have any calories.
Sweeteners are low-calorie substitutes for sugar – and many of them are not unsafe nor hazardous to our health in the typical amounts you would use.
“While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat.”
– Dr. Christopher Gardner, associate professor of medicine at Stanford
The biggest prevention to our weight-loss is not that artificial sweeteners have less calories than sugar.
I challenge you to think bigger than if your artificial sweetener will help you lose weight because it has less calories than sugar. . .
Sweeteners prevent weight-loss because of the effect they have on your brain.
Here are 3 major effects sweeteners have on your brain – and why they are preventing your weight-loss:
1. Your sweet craving drives overeating
From a Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine article:
“Experiments generally have found that sweet taste, whether delivered by sugar or artificial sweeteners, enhanced human appetite. Animals seek food to satisfy the inherent craving for sweetness, even in the absence of energy need.”
This means that even if your body does not need energy, or calories, from food, it is seeking to satisfy its sweet craving.
You may think, “Why not give your body its sweet fix though a no-calorie sweetener?”
Here’s my take – as a longer-term solution, why not reduce your dependence on sweetness so you don’t need any kind of fix?
It’s possible (I did it after being a sugar addict until I was in my thirties)
2. Sweeteners prevent enjoying the real taste of healthy, unsweetened foods
One of the biggest effects of adding sweeteners is that it “changes the way you taste food.” Sweeteners are more potent than sugar, and though you are using a lower quantity than you would of sugar, it over stimulates your sugar receptors – and as a result, may “limit tolerance for more complex tastes” says Dr. Ludwig, Weight-Loss Specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital.
“That means people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and non-sweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable” – Harvard Medical School article
Artificial sweeteners make it very difficult for you to eat healthy, filling foods because you don’t like their taste as much and crave food that is sweet.
3. Sweeteners reduce your brain’s association of sugar with high calories
Since artificial sweeteners are low in sugar, they can prevent your brain from associating sweetness with high-calorie intake. “As a result, we may crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight. Participants in the San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.”
Try cutting the amount of sweetener you use in half starting today, and slowly starting to take them out of your diet so that you can lose weight faster and easier. Some of the most popular sugar substitutes are Splenda, Stevia, Nutrasweet, honey and maple syrup, among many others.
Once you start the process of taking sugar out of your diet, your body will rapidly respond. Though you may feel some withdrawal symptoms like sharper cravings, these will fade if you stick with the plan. You will lose weight quickly, have shinier skin, and even start to look younger.
When you take time to actually taste real food and drinks, you’ll find they’re pretty damn good! Taking pleasure in them makes losing weight and having the body you dream of so much more attainable, no matter your genetics or busy lifestyle.
I still savor my morning cup of coffee. I just actually enjoy the taste of the coffee itself and the feeling it gives me – it’s no longer masked by the sugar and heavy sweet cream. I enjoy the real deal now as well as a healthy relationship with food and my own body. Care to join me?