By Jamie Paramski
A couple of years ago, I felt like I had a good handle on the whole healthy-eating concept. However, there was one area that still bothered me. I was anxious about the fact that I was consuming artificial sweeteners on a daily basis. The jury is still out regarding whether or not these chemicals cause cancer, but I didn’t want to take my chances on this one. I wanted to get away from artificial sweeteners, but what was my alternative? Real sugar? I definitely didn’t want to go that route either. I decided once and for all, to just suck it up and get to work retraining my taste buds.
It all started with my coffee. I love coffee so much—I love the flavor, the rich color, the feeling of drinking a hot mug of it on a cold winter day—everything about it! So that one thing was certain— I was not giving up coffee. The problem was that I sweetened it with quite a bit of Equal or Splenda. I figured this was as good as anywhere to begin. I decided that I needed to retrain my taste buds to like coffee without the sweetener. There was a lot at stake here, my friends; Coffee is how I start each day! It wakes me up! It’s my little treat right upon waking! Needless to say, I was concerned.
I needed a plan—and a good one at that. I couldn’t just switch to black coffee cold turkey. Gross! That would be setting myself up for failure. So instead, I reduced the fake sugar by a little bit. Then the next week I reduced it some more. When I finally made the switch to black coffee after a few weeks, I used a light roast and made it weaker than I usually drank it. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the same initially. But over time, it became the norm. Now I get all the positive health aspects coffee has to offer without sabotaging it with unhealthy additives.
Next up: my morning bowl of oatmeal. I essentially went through the same process with my oatmeal, weaning myself off the fake stuff little by little. But I ran into a problem. Oatmeal without sweetener is kind of, well, boring. This is where I had to get creative. I found an awesome clean eating blog called The Gracious Pantry. The woman who writes the blog challenged herself to make a different bowl of oatmeal for 365 consecutive days. Discovering that blog was a lifesaver. I learned about other ways to sweeten my oatmeal, such as using fruit or honey. These are foods that do more than sweeten; they provided my body with nutrients.
Those were the two main areas in my day where I consumed fake sugar. So I went about my life for the next year or so, content with life without artificial sweetener. Then, one day (February 10, 2014 to be exact) there was a post on Habitude Fitness that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was called “Still Drinking Diet Soda?” Ummm…yes, I begrudgingly admitted to myself. There it was in black and white, seemingly speaking directly to me. I knew all along that there was fake sugar in pop. I realized that I needed to address the pop habit that I’d been ignoring for so long. While it’s good that I reduced the amount of fake sugar I was consuming, I really needed to make the full commitment. So right then and there, I stopped drinking diet pop.
At first I craved it, especially in the afternoons, or when I ate pizza. But over time, water became my go-to beverage. In addition, it’s cheaper than anything else, and it keeps me hydrated. Every once in a while if I’m bored with water, I’ll have a sparkling water, such as LaCroix, that doesn’t have any sugar or fake sugar. That usually takes the edge off when a super craving hits.
I will say that it take a few weeks for your taste buds to recalibrate and get used to the new way you’re eating. There’s a reason you eat certain foods—they taste good to you! There is a grace period where things won’t always taste the way you’re used to. But it’s only a matter of time before you get used to the taste and it becomes the new norm.
At the end of the day, what I know is that I don’t want to contaminate my food and beverages with a little packet of chemicals, and I’m grateful that I don’t rely on them any longer.
This is such an honest look at Jamie’s personal journey toward getting rid of the fake sugar in her life. My own story is very similar, and perhaps yours is too. The best way to make lasting changes in your life in regards to healthy, clean eating, is to do exactly what Jamie did; work on it little by little, making gradual changes until over time you have made a complete overhaul. This is how lasting habitudes are formed!
Your Friend and Trainer,