I have something to tell you, and I’m giving fair warning that you won’t like it.
It’s something I learned last summer. Actually, I probably read about this long before last summer, but I stuck my fingers in my ears. In fact, I can almost recall screaming “la, la, la – 1-2-3, not it!”
Ok, so I didn’t literally scream out loud since my four-year-old who jumps, kicks, and shrieks for a living would’ve looked at me like I was nuts – but you get the idea.
I read this little tidbit about stevia and belly fat, checked my results in the mirror, and smugly said – nope, nope, nope.
Part of my unwillingness to accept the truth about Stevia sugar side effects was due to my outstanding weight loss results.
The other part was – I didn’t want to accept it.
When I heard others ask, “Does Stevia cause belly fat?” – I buried my head in the sand. If someone questioned, “Can Stevia cause weight gain?” – I didn’t want to know the truth since I’d already given up so much to live this keto lifestyle.
Since all of the changes I made so far were so beneficial, and I finally got amazing results for the first time – I didn’t want to give up one more thing. I was reluctant to make one more sacrifice, even if it meant feeling better.
I especially didn’t want to give up one more thing I used daily. Heck – I lost 100 pounds keeping the sweet stuff in my plan. Using stevia didn’t seem to interfere with my weight loss goal in any way.
But I kept hearing the same advice – the same advice I continued to deny. The same advice I pretended not to hear when someone else asked, “Is stevia bad for you?”
Dear Sweeteners – Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
After more research and self-experimentation, I came to the depressing realization that stevia isn’t my friend. Never has been – never will be.
I say depressing because the thought of a fat bomb never touching these lips is almost unbearable. (This is the same dramatic flair I mentioned in my last blog).
Fat bombs are an essential part of my keto lifestyle. After all, I pop in a few in for breakfast; then I have a couple as a snack; and I might even eat a few more like an after-dinner mint.
Basically, I’m not me if I’m not reaching for a fat bomb throughout the day. After all, I’m the same girl who keeps trying to make #fatbombfriday a thing.
Oh stevia, how have you done me so wrong?!?! (Again with the drama)
Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain
But you see, the urge to constantly reach for a fat bomb should have been my first clue. The addiction to these delicious treats meant stevia was leading to cravings in my low carb diet.
While I still firmly believe you can benefit from the healthy fats found in most fat bomb recipes, when you constantly reach for fat bomb after fat bomb – healthy fat isn’t the only thing adding up.
Most fat bombs also contain carbs and protein. While a few fat bombs each day won’t make a dent for most people, the carbs and protein can start to add up when you keep popping them in all day long.
Not only were carbs from fat bombs starting to add up, but so were the carb cravings. You know – the same carb cravings that lead even the best intentioned keto dieters down the path to weight gain.
Ever since I took the time to improve digestion, I rarely had cravings for my former high-carb favorites. Suddenly it became harder for me to control myself when faced with temptations. I secretly gobbled up a few of my kid’s Annie’s organic bunny fruit snacks – on more than one occasion,
Gasp! The shock and horror of it all!
The Scale Reversed Direction
At the time I thought the scale was on an upward trajectory due to added stress. I’ve been at this long enough to know stress can take its toll on weight loss, even when macros are perfect!
I thought once that situation calmed down, life would get back to normal. I thought I’d get right back to peeling off my momiform made up of yoga pants every now and then, while slipping into a pair of jeans without fear.
Let’s not forget stress from the holiday season, complete with traveling with small kids, is no help for any girl hoping to keep her muffin top minimized.
Can Artificial Sweeteners Cause Weight Gain?
I haven’t been a fan of most artificial sweeteners for some time, even though once upon a time I had an addiction to Low Carb Monster drinks. I also sipped on a Diet Coke on occasion – if you consider one can per day as occasional use.
Clearly in denial, I told myself Diet Coke was a once-in-a-while habit. The more I dug into the research, the more I learned the sweeteners used in diet sodas have a negative impact on health. They also make sustainable weight loss more difficult.
Slowly, I began reducing artificially flavored drinks in my diet. I weaned myself from sweeteners until I just didn’t need them any longer. After a long hiatus from the sweet stuff, I wanted to see if I could add an occasional diet soda back in.
That very first sip of diet pop (shout-out Midwesterners) burned going down. An esophagus lit ablaze is an excellent reason to stay far away from the fizzy stuff.
What About Keto-Friendly Sweeteners?
After giving up sodas, carbs, and chemicals, I wanted some semblance of normalcy. Many of my favorite low-carb experts said *some* artificial sweeteners are perfectly fine for daily use. I trusted their word and used “the safe” sweeteners daily.
After digging into more research, I settled on liquid stevia as my sweetener of choice since most of the powdered varieties had additives I didn’t want. I didn’t choose Swerve since every time I had it in the past, gas pains consumed me for hours after a small treat.
Most other artificial sweeteners have studies showing they raise blood sugar. Of course, you need to take all of these studies with a grain of salt since I’m pretty sure you can find studies that show the opposite is true too.
Some studies have sponsors. These may even be nefarious sponsors who skew the results. Whether or not this was the case, I found it best to steer clear.
Even after settling on my keto-friendly sugar substitute, negative Nancies persisted. These ambassadors of doom continued to bash my precious savior, liquid stevia.
Quick tangent – does anyone else picture Jeffrey Dean Morgan swinging a barbwire 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 already stopped using stevia while fasting long ago. I stopped using it because I noticed a rise in hunger soon after using stevia in black coffee. A rise in hunger while fasting means your insulin just spiked. An insulin spike without food welcomes your body back into fat-storing mode. Fat storing mode is never a welcomed guest in my household.
But We Were On A Break!
Last November I made the decision to cut back on stevia to see how I’d do. I began adding less stevia to my fat bomb recipes. To be honest – I didn’t notice a big difference in taste, even when cutting the amount to half, or even a fourth, of what I typically used. My husband said he preferred the new recipes with fewer sweeteners.
Let’s fast forward to January since December was a big old holiday mess of not sticking to any diet in particular. This is thanks in part to neighbors who gift huge trays of cookies and other delicious treats to make us fat for the holidays.
I mean, 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 instead since delivery men laugh 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.
In any case, I bet a Beware of Carbs sign will be more effective at keeping unwanted strangers out. I don’t imagine many masked robbers restrict their carbs, much less think they’ll find any valuables in a home warning them of the dangers of sugar and bread!
Completely unrelated tangents aside, in January I was worried about how I would manage to get back on track. I decided implementing an intermittent fasting routine would be the best thing to help Nissa get her groove back. (Shout out Angela Bassett movie I’ve never watched, yet love to reference).
Damn those unrelated tangents. You’d think I’d just go back and edit them out.
Keto Sweeteners – It’s Like I Never Even Knew You:
While looking for inspiration on restarting my intermittent fasting routine, I came across a book that forbids sweeteners during the fasting window. Point noted and already followed. When it came to Gin Stephens weight loss journey, she also mentioned not using artificial sweeteners while eating.
Wait, what? How’s a dieter supposed to survive on the cold, hard streets like that?
Gin even mentioned she drinks Coke – as in the real stuff. I’m talking liquid sugar – the most insulin spiking substance in the land. She wrote that while she sometimes drinks Coke, she doesn’t use artificial sweeteners in any capacity.
Come on, surely she didn’t mean stevia. Multiple studies told me stevia is fine. My favorite health experts said a stevia is a great option. Not a single one recommends Coke in place of Zevia.
Who was this crazy loon and how did she get a book deal?
To make matters worse, as I continued reading I found out she did in fact mean stevia. While Gin Stephens before and after photos were originally taken while still using stevia, she often mentions struggling with dreaded weight regain. While I don’t recall writing the diet book I was reading, I felt like I could have. Minus the Coke part – because Coke and I will never be on a first-name basis like that.
But wait – let’s back up to the mean name-calling part of this blog. I never considered Gin a crazy loon. After all, Gin Stephens intermittent fasting advice helped me get past many a weight loss stall. I suppose I was just mad that what she had to say about sweeteners made sense. Also, I was none too thrilled to say goodbye to my beloved keto-friendly sweeteners.
I adored the fact that her long diet history mirrored mine. It was so refreshing to hear she found food freedom after decades of diet disasters … a story that sounds all too familiar. I continued with 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 to use since it doesn’t spike blood glucose. While perhaps that’s true, the book that changed my mind cited the reason to give up stevia is it’s been shown to spike insulin.
Holy fat bomb, now she’s speaking my language!
Less drastic insulin spikes lead to less weight gain and fewer cravings. The real kicker is she found this information in the exact book I read last summer. You know, the one where I stuck my fingers in my ears right before popping another stevia-filled fat bomb. Well, not right before since I don’t believe ear wax would make a tasty fat bomb ingredient.
I Know I Read This Before…
The information was right there, dangling in front of my face all along. I was just too smug to listen.
This time around, I paid more attention and I quit adding stevia to my keto recipes. I even went so far as to throw a few bags of fat bombs away.
Keto blasphemy! Even more shock and horror!
If there was a chance my beloved fat bombs were working against me, I had to test this out. I was done trusting random studies. I no longer took the word of my favorite experts who said they’re perfectly fine, or that stevia and belly fat aren’t a thing. The only way to know if keto-friendly sweeteners were only sweet-talking me to get into my pants was to test for myself.
And by getting into my pants, I mean making them tighter. Let it be known I’m not attempting to add stevia to the #metoo movement. That would be weird. And unfair.
Now that I spent an entire blog bashing what may be your last low carb hope, I bet you’re wondering about the results I had since ditching sweeteners. Either that or you hate me. It could really go either way at this point.
The good news is, I no longer see this as a depressing realization. Eliminating most artificial sweeteners from my diet has been life-changing. It’s helped so much with appetite correction that I no longer constantly reach for another fat bomb. There are even days I don’t eat any fat bombs at all since I’m not that hungry.
My body is doing a better job of craving the real foods that help it function most optimally. Now that I no longer experience constant artificially sweetened insulin spikes throughout the day, keto is easier to stick with.
Sweetener-Free Fat Bombs
In case you want to know how I still eat fat bombs without stevia – well that’s easy. I just don’t add the sweeteners when I make new batches. In some recipes, it’s easy enough to leave sweeteners out completely. Caramel Apple Fat Bombs are a great example since the peanut butter and vanilla extract already provide a sweet flavor.
With other recipes, I use fat with a little sweetness – like swapping out cocoa powder for 85% dark chocolate. Unsweetened Peanut Butter Fat Bombs taste amazing, even without added sweeteners. Once you give your taste buds ample time to adjust, most fat bombs are sweet enough to be considered a treat.
What About Sugar in Dark Chocolate?
Is dark chocolate keto friendly? Welp, I’m sure the keto police will be rolling up any minute because of that little bit of sugar found in dark chocolate.
Too many people are more than happy to spike insulin all day long with artificial sweeteners. Watch as all holy hell breaks loose at the mere mention of a natural added sugar to a recipe. Fingers will be pointed and recipes will be banned.
Can everyone just calm down for a minute?
By the time you melt down the two ounces of dark chocolate over 24 fat bombs, there’s more than enough taste with very little sugar per bomb. Plus, your body understands how to process that sugar. Your body should provide just enough insulin to process a small real food source of sugar. If you continued to overdo artificial sweeteners, your body may be confused by the sugar it thinks is coming, but never arrives.
I bring more good news … I left the house for a fancy dinner last week and buttoned my jeans! There wasn’t even a hint of unsightly muffin top hangover. That miracle didn’t happen two weeks ago.
One more stevia-free victory – I brought home my beloved bun-less Bacon Bacon Burger from The Cheesecake Factory last weekend and I didn’t 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, I don’t know anything about the salt all over my face.
Why I Quit Stevia – The Conclusion
Ha. Look at me ending this blog like I’m all sciencey.
While I’m 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. But once a subject interests me, as “natural” artificial sweeteners currently do, I tend to read as much as I can as quickly as I can.
While reading how stevia affects insulin levels, I came across articles that show not only can stevia raise insulin levels, but some stevia side effects include an increase in abdominal fat, cravings, and man boobs.
I’m sure there’s also a plethora of articles that tout stevia health benefits. While it’s too early for me to notice any other positive health benefits beyond feeling more in control, many of the articles I found are enough to make me quit the artificial sweet stuff for good.
Only the future knows if I’ll ever rid myself of a chunk of stubborn belly fat that has promised to always be mine. I can’t blame stevia for everything, right?
Now am I telling you to never use artificial sweeteners in your diet? Nope, nope, nope.
The truth is, I’m so excited about the results I’ve had with removing all artificial sweeteners from my diet that I wanted to share with anyone else who questions does stevia cause weight gain.
The only person I will tell not to use artificial sweeteners is myself because I feel better without them. I realize that may not be the case for everyone reading this blog.
Well, and also my husband – because man boobs.
Stevia Good or Bad – FAQ’s:
Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener that contains little to no calories. This natural sweetener tastes 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar.
While stevia itself is considered a natural sweetener since it’s derived from a sweet tasting plant, there are several blends that use stevia in their names. Always check the nutrition label to ensure no other chemicals are added to the listed stevia ingredients.
While this is a controversial topic, with many studies showing positive and negative results, it’s been shown that overweight individuals who commonly use artificially sweeteners do gain more weight with the inclusion of artificial sweeteners.
While stevia is considered a natural sweetener, stevia’s intense sweetness with no nutrients following can cause it to act as an artificial sweetener in your body.
Stevia is classified as as zero calorie since the calories per serving are so low. For example, the stevia calories found in SweetLeaf stevia sugar substitute are only 2 per packet. Even though stevia is a low calorie food, you should pay attention to how many calories in stevia when you use stevia in large amounts, like in a fat bomb recipe.
Stevia headaches are a thing since some users have reported stevia as a migraine trigger.The only way to answer the question does stevia cause headaches for you is to remove it from your meal plan for a month. If your headaches subside, then stevia could be a headache trigger for you.
If you ever wondered, can stevia cause diarrhea – then you’re likely consuming a stevia blend that’s mixed with sugar alcohols. Digestive distress is more common with these stevia blends. Of course, there are more reasons you may experience diarrhea on a keto diet.
Large consumption of sugar substitutes may promote fat accumulation, especially around the belly. This is even more true in those who are already obese.
So, does stevia cause weight gain? While the jury is still out since some claim stevia helps with their weight loss woes, while others have sworn off of stevia for good – there is good evidence that consuming too much of any non-nutritive sweetener can lead to weight gain.
While you may not have to rid your diet of all sweeteners 100%, it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of sweeteners you use in your low carb lifestyle. We teach our Keto Decoded members how to gradually reduce sweeteners – and they’ve seen amazing results!
Stevia and Belly Fat
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