Tag Archives: Artificial Sweetener

Food, Glorious Food . . . ?

Obligatory Title Explanation: Food, Glorious Food from the musical Oliver, as performed at the “Hey Mr. Producer” concert

While digging through my underwear drawer this morning, I found something I wasn’t expecting. Get your mind out of the gutter right now. I’d forgotten about this secret stash, safely nestled between the A-cups of bras I don’t quite fit back into yet. (I’m not sure why, when I live alone, I feel the need to hide things, but a girl’s gotta have a little mystery . . . even if it’s only from herself). Ladies and gentlemen (do I have any gentlemen readers? If the “eating disorders” and “musical theatre” tags don’t bring them surfing in, maybe the “underwear drawer” one will . . . ), today I found my secret stash of Splenda.

I’ve mentioned once or twice (maybe more . . . sorry) that I gave up artificial sweeteners in pursuit of understanding “real food”. Forgive me for the repeats, but my brain is just getting back to normal . . . still a little bit in broken record mode. To understand just how big a decision this was, you need to understand just how much of a problem my sweetener use was.

  • I had a secret stash. (first red flag?)
  • I carried at least 10 packets of Splenda with me at all times, just in case Starbucks was out
  • I visited Starbucks at least once a day to *ahem* commandeer enough Splenda to get me through the next day
  • A venti coffee had both sugar-free hazelnut syrup (aspartame) AND 8 packets of Splenda
  • I argued regularly that Splenda was healthy, because it was not made from chemicals, like aspartame and the rest, but chemically altered from sugar
  • My very small bowl of breakfast shit sometimes had up to 30 packets of Splenda on it . . . you gotta do something to make shit taste good
  • Diet Dr. Pepper (aspartame) was considered a staple in my diet
  • I chewed at least a pack (15 pieces) of 5 Flare gum/day (aspartame)
  • Dinner’s bowl of shit was covered in sugar-free ketchup (made from Splenda)
  • Sometimes, for a “snack”, I would eat Splenda and cinnamon mixed together, “Fun Dip” style
  • My tongue had a permanent layer of chemical residue

Even though artificial sweetener isn’t as bad as, say, cocaine, its use has been linked to all kinds of health problems including headaches, depression, cancer, chest pains, anxiety, and there is even something called “Aspartame Disease“, which can mimic fibromyalgia, MS, and Parkinson’s. Not that I cared about any of that. I would have cared, however, had I learned that Splenda actually does have calories . . . they just package it in such small amounts that they can call it “zero calorie”. In reality, 1 cup of the stuff has nearly 100 calories! FML.

Anyhow, I hadn’t gone a day without artificial sweetener in more than 5 years . . . since the first month my last stint in treatment. It wasn’t allowed in our facility, but after the first month I started sneaking it back in. Small scale shit-disturbing, but shit-disturbing nonetheless.

My secret stash, carefully hidden in an empty pack of 5 Flare gum

When I decided this summer that I did NOT want to add another hospitalization to my list, I started allowing my therapist (I need a good code name for her . . . I’ll come up with that later) to add things to my meal plan. Quite frankly, I couldn’t remember how most foods tasted, so I had to trust her completely. (I also didn’t know the calorie content of most non-diet foods, because I point-blank didn’t eat them) Chick peas blew my mind. Quinoa was the best thing ever. Meanwhile, I was still holding onto my 30-calorie-for-100-g sugar-free fat-free yogurt. Mmmmmmmm. Then, I decided to brave Greek yogurt. HOLY FUCK!!!!!!! I had never had anything like it. It actually tasted like, well, something with flavor!

I started thinking back on my life growing up. Milk was always skim. Cheese was always light, and usually came in fat-free plastic-wrapped slices. Peanut butter, popcorn, juice, soda . . . everything was diet, light or “lite”. I didn’t get enough fat in my diet by at least half. While most kids are handed a stick of rhubarb to dip in sugar, my dipping cup was filled with Splenda. I realized I really didn’t know what “real food” tasted like. I made the decision: If I have to gain weight anyways, and will have to eat food to do that, I might as well learn what food is . . . not what Michael Pollan refers to as “food-like substances”.

I figured, as well, if I was going to eat real food, I should stop covering it with artificial flavoring. Nowadays I use honey, agave, maple syrup and the occasional packet of Stevia (low-calorie extract of a plant . . . all natural). Yes, they have calories, but because real food has flavor, it doesn’t need as much sweetener to make it palatable.

I can’t tell you if I feel better on this “real food” meal plan, because pretty much anything feels better than starvation. But food tastes pretty freaking awesome. I couldn’t get over how much better even an apple tasted when my tongue wasn’t numbed out by sweetener.

So now you know the story of my “real food movement” and ban on artificial sweetener. Now I can stop repeating it and I can stop repeating it.



Filed under Blatherings, History Lessons

Water, water, everywhere . . .

Non sequitur of the day: “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink” is one of the most misquoted lines of poetry out there. It comes from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Tayler Coleridge, and the quote ACTUALLY reads:

“Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink

It’s great to learn, ‘Cause knowledge is power! 

So there you go. Back to water. Never drank the stuff. As a kid, I only remember milk and juice (never Kool-Aid in my house). In later years, that shifted to coffee and diet soda. I would occasionally drink water at dance class or choir practice, but in time that too was replaced by Crystal Light singles packs. There was even a time when coffee and diet soda occupied the bulk of my meal plan: I used to take a 6-pack of 500mL bottles of Diet Pepsi to school in place of a lunch box. Basically, I’ve been dehydrated for 15 years.

This time around in recovery, I’m actually being encouraged to drink water. In the treatment centres I’ve been to, they pushed juice and milk. Oh, and Ensure. Plenty of Ensure, but never water (in one centre, they gave us Kool-Aid instead of juice, but I shit-disturbed until it got changed to actual juice). There was always the fear there of water loading before weigh-ins, using water to curb hunger signals, and just plain ol’ diluting of the digestive juices. Now, doing it “on my own”, I’m learning to self-regulate my way into a healthy lifestyle.

I decided, in an effort to learn about REAL food (more on that in a later post), to also give up artificial sweeteners. This pretty much meant that I was either drinking calories or water. While I’m feeling better about the calorie-drinking nowadays, early on I had to make peace with water.

I was super bloated at first because a) my body was so dehydrated for so long that it held onto any liquid I gave it, and b) because I was drinking water with meals. It turns out, especially if you have digestive issues (I do), drinking water slows the digestive process and bloats you out like nobody’s business. And you have NO idea how hard it is to find maternity clothes to encompass your food baby when you’re still wearing children’s sizes. So nowadays I stop drinking 20 minutes before meals and don’t start again until 40 minutes after. Much less bloat, much cuter clothes.

For a girl who used to wave away a waiter carrying a glass of water, this is a big change. But water really does make a big difference. My skin is better, I feel better, and my kidneys are getting a much-needed workout. Also, I’ve found that when I’m really upset because I’ve eaten everything on my meal plan but I’m STILL hungry, 9 times out of 10 I just haven’t had enough water that day. Who’d have thought that I, a begrudged water sign (Scorpio), would find water comforting? But I do.

I still don’t like water beds, though. I’m unsteady enough without riding waves in my sleep.

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Filed under Blatherings

Straight to your bones . . .

For those of you who read my blatherings and don’t live in Ontario, the title of this post won’t mean much to you. Just so everyone’s on the same page (mine) this is the commercial that may or may not have coined the phrase: “Milk Rap” by Dairy Farmers of Ontario That’s right. We be chillin.

While my posts tend to get a little bit off-topic now and then, this post is indeed about DAIRY.

I know that most people with eating disorders, and even most dieters, tremble a little at the mention of that word. It is still one of my biggest fear foods. It is also (she admits, cringing with the shame of it) probably my favorite food group. I like it all. Milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt . . . the only thing I can’t *ahem* stomach is the one dairy product embraced by the weight loss industry: cottage cheese. Ugh.

As part of my recovery, I’m trying to eat as much real food as possible. I’ve given up artificial sweeteners, I make things from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged and processed (partially motivated by my financial situation, but hey, my wallet’s gotta recover too, right?) and I try to eat foods “as found in nature” as much as possible.

If only all nutritional information looked like this!

Imagine my surprise when I learned that cows don’t spit out plastic-wrapped, fat-free, chemically produced cheese slices! This has been a tough one for me. Just about every “nutritionist” out there suggests consuming low-fat dairy products. The ones I trust (who, luckily, are in charge of healing me) only recommend full-fat dairy products, and consume the same themselves. I have been reading a lot, trying to understand “real food”. Unfortunately, those that recommend full-fat dairy products seldom say why (that I can find, anyway).

I have learned through experimentation (and a whole lot of trusting those who control my meal plan) that eating fat helps make me feel fuller longer. We’ve all read about the good fats and the brain and all that jazz (told you there’d be musical theatre references . . . insert Fosse walks here), but dairy fats don’t seem to fit in anywhere.This morning, I was watching The Nate Berkus Show. (Did I mention I have a lot of free time that I like to fill up with daytime TV? I did? Good. Just checking.) For those of you not familiar with Nate, just google his name. Even just getting to look at his face is reason enough . . . but back off, ladies. He’s aninterior designer. But I digress. Today was Nate’s 40th birthday show, and Dr. Oz was on to talk about how to eat to maintain your health as you age. It was all pretty standard stuff . . . fibre, etc. But then he got to DAIRY! (If you want to hear it straight from the horse’s good doctor’s mouth, start this video about halfway through).

“Forget about taking the fat out of yogurt. When you take the fat out of dairy products, all you’re left with is . . . SUGAR!” ~Dr. Oz

He recommends whole or 2% milk (which will actually help you lose weight, but we don’t care about that, right? RIGHT!?!), and the calcium in the dairy “sucks up the fat and takes it out of your body”. The “bad” fats, that is.

So now we’ve solved the mystery! I’m not gonna lie, dairy fat has been one of the things I’ve been dancing around in my meal plan. If I can’t figure out why I’m supposed to have something (besides “you need to restore weight”), it gives that fucker ED a toehold to tell me that I can’t have it. Knowing more about everything I eat and what it does for my body has really helped me feel safer with it. (It also doesn’t hurt that the person who sets my meal plan has a freaking hot body, and never asks me to eat anything she doesn’t eat on a regular basis).

I’m not going to say that “trust, reading, and understanding” is the magic formula to recovery, but it at least gives me an argument to throw back at ED, making it easier to make pro-recovery choices.


Filed under Fighting Fear