I have something to tell you and I am warning you that you are not going to like it. This is something I learned last summer and probably read about long before that, but I stuck my fingers in my ears while screaming “la, la, la – 1-2-3, not it!” Ok, so I did not literally scream out loud. My four year old who jumps, kicks and shrieks for a living would have looked at me like I was nuts, but you get the idea. I read it, I checked my results in the mirror and I smugly said to myself, nope, nope, nope.
Part of my lack of willingness to accept this truth was due to my outstanding results. The other part was I just didn’t want to accept it. I had already given up so much to live this low carb, high fat lifestyle. While all of the changes have been so beneficial and I have had amazing results for the first time in my life, mentally I did not want to give up one more thing, even if giving it up would make me feel even better. Especially one more thing that I used daily and did not seem to interfere with my goal in anyway. Still, I kept hearing the same advice over and over. Advice I denied over and over.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow:
After further research and self experimentation, I have finally come to the depressing realization that stevia is not my friend. Never has been, never will be.
I say depressing because the thought of a fat bomb never again touching my lips is almost unbearable. (This is that dramatic flair I mentioned in my last blog). Fat bombs have become essential in my life. I pop a few in for breakfast; have some as a snack; eat a few more as an after dinner mint. I am not me if I am not reaching for a fat bomb at any given point during the day. I’m the same girl that keeps trying to make #fatbombfriday a thing. Oh stevia, how have you done me so wrong?!?! (Again with the drama)
But you see, constantly reaching for a fat bomb throughout the day should have been my first clue that stevia really was causing problems in my high fat, low carb diet. I still firmly believe that many people can benefit from the healthy fats that make up most fat bomb recipes, but when you are constantly reaching for them, fat is not the only thing adding up. Most fat bombs also contain some carbs and protein. While one or two fat bombs in a day will not make much of a dent for most people, the carbs and protein can really add up when you start popping fat bomb after fat bomb all day long.
Not only were the carbs from fat bombs starting to add up for me, but so were the carb cravings. I would find myself sneaking bites of food from my kids plates here and there. Ever since I took the time to improve my digestion, I rarely had cravings for my former favorites like fries or chips. All of the sudden it was becoming harder to control myself when faced with these options. I even sometimes secretly tasted an Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snack. Gasp! The shock and horror of it all!
Between the fat bombs and occasional bunnies inexplicably hopping into my mouth, the scale started changing its mind. At the time I thought maybe the scale was on an upward trojectory because of some unwelcome stress in my life. I thought once that situation calmed down, life would get back to normal and I could resume occasionally peeling my off my momiform of yoga pants every now and then to slip into a pair of jeans without fear. Also, let’s face it – the holiday season, complete with traveling with small kids, is no help for anyone hoping to keep their muffin top minimized.
Not So Sweet After All:
I have not been a fan of most artificial sweeteners for some time. Once upon a time I had an addiction to Low Carb Monster drinks and occasionally sipped on Diet Coke; if you consider everyday as occasional use. Clearly in denial, I told myself that Diet Coke was an only every once in a while habit. The more I dug into other people’s research, the more I learned these sweeteners were having a big impact on my health, while also making sustainable weight loss much more difficult. I started reducing my use of artificially flavored drinks until I just did not need them any longer. If I attempt to drink a diet pop now (shout out Midwesterners), it actually burns going down. An esophagus lit ablaze is an excellent reason to stay far away from the fizzy stuff.
While giving up the sodas, the carbs and the chemicals, I wanted something in my life to make me feel normal. A lot of my favorite low carb experts said *some* artificial sweeteners are perfectly fine for everyday use. I trusted their word and I used these sweeteners daily. As I dug more into research, I settled on liquid stevia as my sweetener of choice. The powdered stuff had additives I didn’t want and I had bad personal experiences with Swerve. Most other artificial sweeteners have been shown to raise blood sugar, although I am sure you can find studies that also show the opposite. Some studies have sponsors. Sometimes nefarious sponsors who skew the results. Whether or not this was the case, I found it best to steer clear.
The negative Nancies persisted and continued to bash my precious savior liquid stevia. (Does anyone else instantly picture Jeffrey Dean Morgan swinging a barb wire baseball bat when you hear the word savior these days? Yes I watch The Real Housewives and The Walking Dead. I’m diverse like that)
In any case, I stopped using stevia while fasting long ago because I did notice a rise in hunger soon after using stevia in coffee. A rise in hunger while fasting most likely means an insulin spike. An insulin spike with no food coming in immediately welcomes your body into fat storing mode. Fat storing mode is not a welcome guest in my household.
But We Were On A Break!
In November I made the decision to cut back stevia a little to see how I would do. I started to add less stevia to the fat bomb recipes I was making. To be honest, I didn’t really notice a big difference in taste, even when cutting the amount used to half or even a fourth. My husband actually preferred the new recipes with less sweeteners.
Lets fast forward to January, because December was just a big old holiday mess of not sticking to anything much of the time, thanks in part to neighbors who bring trays of cookies and treats to make us fat for the holidays.
Does the Eating Fat is the New Skinny logo on my SUV mean nothing to them? I may need a Beware of Carbs sign on my door. Delivery men have laughed out loud at my Beware of Dog sign, you know, since my dog is full grown and weighs seven pounds. Not to mention she runs under my feet in the presence of strangers. A Beware of Carbs sign will probably be much more effective at keeping unwanted strangers out. I don’t imagine many masked robbers restrict their carbs, much less think they will find anything of value in a home warning them of the dangers of sugar and bread!
Completely unrelated tangents aside, in January I was a little worried about how I was going to get back on track. I decided getting back to an intermittent fasting routine would be the best thing to help Nissa get her groove back. (Shout out Angela Bassett movie I have never watched, yet love to reference) Damn those unrelated tangents. You would think I would just go back and edit them out.
It’s Like I Never Even Knew You:
While looking for inspiration on getting back to an intermittent fasting routine, I came across a book that absolutely forbid artificial sweeteners during the fasting window. Point noted, already followed. But this author also talked about not using artificial sweeteners while eating. She actually even sometimes drinks Coke – as in the real stuff. I’m talking actual liquid sugar, the most insulin spiking substance in the land. She wrote while she sometimes drinks Coke, she no longer uses artificial sweeteners in any capacity.
But come on, surely she did not mean stevia. Multiple studies have told me stevia is fine. All of my favorite health experts told me stevia is great. Not a single one would recommend Coke in place of Zevia. Who was this crazy loon and how did she even get a book deal?
To make matters worse, as I read further I found out she did in fact mean stevia. She said while she was able to make it to her goal weight with the use of stevia, she was struggling with dreaded weight regain. While I do not recall writing this diet book, I felt like I could have. Minus the Coke part, because Coke and I will never be on a first name basis like that.
Backing up to the mean name calling part – I never really considered her a crazy loon. I think I was just mad that what she was saying made sense and that meant I had to say goodbye to my beloved. I actually adored the fact that her long diet history mirrored mine and she finally found food freedom after decades of diet disasters. Sounds all too familiar. I continued to read her very well researched book and paid close attention.
It’s Not You, It’s Me. On Second Thought, It’s Totally You:
Most experts say stevia is ok because it does not spike blood glucose. Perhaps that is true. This author cites the reason to give up stevia is it has been shown to spike insulin. Holy fat bomb, now she is speaking my language. Less drastic insulin spikes lead to less weight gain and less cravings. The real kicker is she found this information in the exact book I found it in last summer. The one where I stuck my fingers in my ears before popping another stevia filled fat bomb. There the information was dangling in front of my face all along and I was too smug to listen.
This time around I paid more attention. I immediately stopped adding stevia to all of the recipes I made. I even went so far as to throw a few bags of fat bombs away. I know, blasphemy! Even more shock and horror! But if there was a chance they were working against me, I wanted to test and find out for myself. No more trusting random studies or even my favorite experts who say they are fine. The only way to know if these sweeteners were only sweet talking me to get into my pants was to test for myself. And by get into my pants, I mean making them tighter. Let it be known I am not attempting to add stevia to the #metoo movement. That would be weird. And unfair.
Now that I have spent an entire blog bashing what may be your last low carb hope, I bet you are wondering about the results I have experienced. Or you hate me. It could go either way at this point.
The good news is, I no longer see this as a depressing realization. Eliminating all artificial sweeteners from my diet this past month has been absolutely life changing for me. It has helped so much with appetite correction that I no longer am constantly reaching for more fat bombs throughout the day. In fact, there are days I do not even eat fat bombs because I am just not hungry. My body is doing an awesome job of craving real, whole foods that will help it function most optimally now that it is not dealing with constant artificially sweetened insulin spikes throughout the day.
In case you are wondering how I am still eating fat bombs but not stevia, well that’s easy. I just don’t add sweeteners to the recipes. In some cases it is easy to just leave them out completely, like with these Caramel Apple Fat Bombs. In other recipes I have switched to something with just a little sweetness like 88% dark chocolate, like with these Unsweetened Peanut Butter Fat Bombs. Once you give your body and taste buds ample time to adjust, these fat bombs are sweet enough to be considered a treat.
I am sure the keto police are suited up and ready to berate me for the little bit of sugar hiding out in the dark chocolate. Many are more than happy to spike insulin all day long with artificial sweeteners, but all holy hell will break loose at the mere mention of a natural added sugar to a recipe. Fingers will be pointed and recipes will be banned.
Everybody just calm down for a minute. By the time I melt down the two or so ounces over 24 fat bombs, there is more than enough taste with very little sugar per bomb. Plus I have come to the ultimate realization that my body knows how to process that sugar. My body is providing just enough insulin to process the real food source instead of being confused by sugar it thinks is coming, but never actually arrives.
The other good news – I went to a delicious steak dinner last week and buttoned my jeans with no unsightly muffin top hangover. That did not happen two weeks ago. And another stevia-free victory – I brought home my beloved bunless Bacon Bacon Burger from The Cheesecake Factory and did not steal even one of my son’s fries on the drive home. Previously I was all – huh, I don’t know what happened to the fries. I guess they don’t fill those bags the way they used to. Nope, don’t know anything about the salt all over my face.
Ha. Look at me ending this blog like I am all sciencey.
While I am not sciencey in the least, as proven by my choice of the word sciencey, I am a bona fide health geek. Not so much of a geek that I go back and read every interesting study I come across, but that’s mostly because ain’t nobody got time for that. Once a subject interests me, as “natural” artificial sweeteners currently does, I tend to read as much as I can as quickly as I can.
While reading up on how stevia affects insulin levels, I came across some articles that show not only can stevia raise insulin levels, but it can also increase abdominal fat, cravings and man boobs. That being said, there is also a plethora of articles out there touting the health benefits of stevia. While it is too early for me to notice any other positive health benefits beyond just feeling more in control, some of the articles I found are enough to make me quit the artificially sweet stuff for good. Only the future knows if I will finally be able to rid myself of a chunk of stubborn belly fat that previously promised to always be mine.
Am I telling you to never use artificial sweeteners in your diet? Nope, nope, nope. The truth is I am so excited about the results I have had thus far with removing all artificial sweeteners from my diet that I wanted to share my results with anyone else who may be questioning stevia . In fact, the only person I will tell not to use artificial sweeteners is myself because I simply feel better throughout the day without them. I realize that may not be the case for everyone reading this blog. Well, and also my husband, because you know, man boobs.
QUIT DIETING FOREVER!
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