When embarking on a weight-loss journey, it is nearly inevitable that a person is going to have to make sacrifices - especially when it comes to food - because, last time I checked, a large Mint Oreo Blizzard wasn't in most eating plans. There's cutting things out entirely, reducing portion size (though a mini Blizzard still clocks in at xxx calories) or finding innovative ways to enjoy the qualities of certain foods without the calories.
And we've all seen those innovative ways. "Guilt-Free" Hazelnut spread, black bean brownies, protein pudding. But those innovations can sometimes (or) introduce artificial sweeteners and ingredients.
When I was in the thick of Weight Watchers, I was an "innovation queen." I would whip up Pumpkin Fluff that had sugar-free pudding and low-fat whipped topping, each carrying a long list of ingredients. Low-fat ice cream was a favorite but some of he treats have high fructose corn syrup. I made oatmeal variation after oatmeal variation that included my new favorite ingredient, stevia. And, of course, there was the Diet Coke.
I thought that the swaps I was making were what I had to do - and it probably was - and in the beginning, didn't think much beyond that. As I became successful, I told myself and touted that they were healthy. They were such a part of my daily eating habits that I couldn't imagine giving them up.
And then, in November, a co-worker posted a link to Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Holiday Challenge. The 60 day challenge was a way for Eat to Live followers to reconnect with their lifestyle, which eschews oil, salt, white flour and sweeteners of all varieties among other things. For me, it was a way to disconnect from habits that I was beginning to think weren't so healthy and sever ties with Diet Coke.
I didn't make it the whole 60 days (hello, Christmas) but I did manage to kick my Diet Coke habit and rid my diet of artificial sweeteners. It is true. The girl who put stevia in everything has not touched a substitute intentionally since November (save for the diet soda I had when I had food poisoning).
I was eating sugar, though - and lots of it. But sugar had to be healthier, in moderation, than the substitutes, I reasoned.
Don't worry, the irony wasn't lost at me.
And so I found myself at a cross-roads. Just what kind of sweetener is OK? Honey and maple syrup are natural but still provide a sweet taste that I crave and pack some calories. Traditional sugared treats often send me into a tailspin of indulgence that leaves me feeling guilty. Stevia is "natural" but I find that people use it too frequently to make these faux desserts that are often not solving the need or addiction but putting a bandage on it.
Editor's note: This could be my own issues speaking and is merely my perception.
It's something I have been struggling with for the past couple months. I wanted to eat dessert but I wanted to eat clean and I wanted to control my weight. I thought I could do it with portion control but after a particularly bad bender last week, I found myself revisiting some of the foundations of Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live protocol. It's almost as if it's a cleanse, ridding the body of addictive, artificial ingredients and introducing control and willpower.
It's been nine days since I've intentionally eaten anything with added sugar and I plan to continue with it for at least the month of April as Laura at Mommy Run Fast posted a Sugar Detox Challenge for the month. Her initial post had some really interesting things to say about sugar and today she offers tips for overcoming sugar cravings. (I'm a big fan of the sweet vegetables as this weekend I added sweet potato and carrots to my wheat pancake mix, skipped the sugar and enjoyed every bite.)
I love the accountability of the challenge but, more importantly, I'm hoping to find a middle ground where I can eat a dessert here and there without a tail spin and find a definition for my healthy.
What is your relationship with sugar? Do you think certain sugar substitutes are OK? Do you think you are up for the challenge?