In my practice as a nutritionist and personal trainer, new clients are always coming to me telling me they are doing everything they are “supposed” to be doing, but still, do not lose weight. Of course, this is frustrating. Losing weight is hard enough, and to change your eating habits and still see no results, that’s even more frustrating.
Why do these people not lose weight? If I had to pick the most common reason why most people’s efforts have proved no results, I would say it is the deception of artificial sweeteners and processed diet foods. Yes, you heard right. It is the diet coke, diet snacks, processed foods and artificial sweetener in your coffee that is keeping you fat.
How is this so?
Artificial sweeteners overwhelm your liver
Your liver is your largest internal organ, and it’s responsible for an astonishing variety of life-sustaining and health-promoting tasks, including those that make healthy weight loss and weight management possible. Integral to countless metabolic processes, the liver supports the digestive system, controls blood sugar and regulates fat storage. One of your liver’s most important functions, and the most crucial to your weight loss, is chemically breaking down everything that enters your body, from healthy vegetables, to not so healthy fast food, from healthy water to not so healthy soda.
It’s your liver’s job to distinguish between the nutrients you need to absorb and the dangerous or unnecessary substances that must be filtered out of your bloodstream. But when the liver is clogged and overwhelmed with toxins, like artificial sweeteners, it can’t do a very effective job of processing nutrients and fats. If it cannot process the nutrients and fats that your body needs, this will cause you to gain weight or will prevent you from losing weight.
Your liver also produces bile, a crucial substance for detoxifying our bodies. It is the job of bile to help our bodies break down the fats we need and to assimilate fat-soluble vitamins. But when our bile becomes overly congested with the toxins it’s trying to filter out, it simply can’t function properly. It becomes thick, viscous and highly inefficient in breaking down fats.
Here’s the result: You are more likely to gain weight and to have a greater difficulty losing it. So the more toxic your body becomes, the more difficulty you’ll have losing weight and keeping it off because your liver just cannot work properly to break down fat.
Are artificial sweeteners considered a toxin?
What qualifies something as a “toxin”? A toxin is anything that your body does not recognize as a natural food source. The reason why artificial sweeteners have “zero” calories is because your body does not recognize them as a food source.
For example, the chemical process to make Splenda (sucralose) alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a completely different molecule than sugar. This type of “fake” sugar molecule does not occur in nature and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it.
This is how the makers of Splenda claim that it has zero calories, because in theory it should not be digested or metabolized by the body (Although it has been shown that some people’s body do absorb up to 15% of the artificial sweeteners they ingest). So the more artificial sweeteners that you consume in one day, the more you are overwhelming your liver with toxins and the less able it is to do its job of processing fat. And what happens if the liver can’t do its job? You can’t lose weight or worse yet, you gain weight.
What if you don’t use artificial sweeteners? Don’t be fooled. Almost every diet product on the market has some kind of artificial sweetener added to it. Even some children’s snacks are now being made with sucralose (Splenda) and most flavored waters contain sucralose or aspartame.
Now add up how many things you eat in one day that contains some form of artificial sweetener. The list may be very long. How overwhelmed do you think your liver is? Does it have the ability to work properly? Even if you keep your calories at bay and only drink Diet Coke with your meals, will you truly get down to the weight that you want, and stay there?
It has been in my experience that the answer is “no” and until you are ready to commit yourself to a healthy way of eating, weight loss will always be a constant struggle.
Here’s what else artificial sweeteners do…
Sweeteners increase appetite
Artificial sweeteners tell your taste buds that, “sweet stuff has arrived,” which to the brain means, “nutrition has arrived.” When artificial sweetened drink or food reaches the small intestine, the receptors find no nutrition. A message is then sent back to the brain saying, “We’ve been tricked-there’s no nutrition here.” The appestat (the part of your brain that triggers satiety) sends the message to “keep eating because we need nutrition to help process all this fake food and run your body.”
So even after you eat a good portioned healthy meal (along with your diet coke) you still feel like your starving all day, or you become very hungry soon after. Your healthy eating efforts may be sabotaged if you continue to feel hungry all day. No one likes to feel hungry so you continue to eat more food until you feel satisfied, which in your effort to lose weight, may just be too much.
Sweeteners Increase our Sweet Tooth
Saccharin (Sweet n Low) is 300 times sweeter than sugar, aspartame (Equal) is 200 times sweeter than sugar and sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Such sweeteners can only increase our sweet tooth and increase our taste of sweet things. If you can never get rid of your sugar cravings, any healthy eating plan will be difficult because you will constantly be craving “sweet”.
Artificial sweeteners have also shown to promote the same blood sugar fluctuations as regular sugar, which, again will bring on “sugar lows” which will increase appetite and cravings. This is not to say, that something sweet now and again is not ok, but it is those people who cannot control their sugar cravings that are being sabotaged by these artificial sweeteners.
What are some alternatives to sweeteners?
Giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners may be difficult, especially if you are accustomed to everything having such a sweet taste. A wonderful alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners is an herb called Stevia. Stevia is an extraordinarily sweet herb, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is almost calorie-free, so it is perfect for people who are watching their weight.
Unlike sugar, it does not trigger a rise in blood sugar so you will not get a sudden burst of energy followed by fatigue and a need for another “fix”. It increases energy and aids digestion by stimulating the pancreas. Stevia also presents great advantages over saccharine and other artificial sweeteners in that it is not toxic. Stevia is a plant that is found in nature and is not man-made in a laboratory.
Stevia can be found at almost all health food stores such as Whole Foods, and is listed under the “supplement” section. Stevia can be used exactly like sugar and artificial sweeteners to sweeten drinks and it can even be used in baking.
If weight loss or staying away from sweets has always been a problem for you, take notice of how much artificial sweetener you have been ingesting. That just may be the culprit. Make a resolution this year to give up the “fake” stuff and stick to natural alternatives like Stevia. You will not only be helping your weight loss efforts but you will also be benefiting your health.