Hi, this is Eve Mayer with Life in the Fasting Lane, and I'm going to tell you what it's really like to completely give up all sweeteners, artificial, natural and otherwise, including Stevia.
In a nutshell, it is wonderful and completely sucks. And that's as truthful as I can be about it.
So as many of you know, about six months ago my husband and I started eating Keto and it was an incredible journey. And when our weight loss slowed down after a few months, we also discovered The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and the Complete Guide to Fasting, and started incorporating intermittent fasting and extended fasting.
Even though I completed an 11-day fast, I struggled mentally and emotionally through all of it, and during that time the one thing I was doing that Dr. Fung said I should not do was I was having Stevia in my coffee and I was having two to three coffees a day.
I now think that a lot of my struggle during intermittent fasting was because of Stevia. Does that mean you'll have the same struggles? It doesn't for sure. I'm just telling you about my experience. I think everybody's health journey is very personal, and some people can have Stevia and do just fine.
I have had sweets every day of my life for my entire life. Sometimes more than one (OK, often more than one) and they weren't Stevia. They were sugar.
So, I really thought I had figured things out when I cut sugar out of my diet, and went Keto and found recipes that used Stevia baked goods where I used monk fruit, Stevia, Erythritol, things that really tasted delicious. But for me, it continued my cravings. Also I found that fruit continued my cravings and it made it more difficult for me to really actively do intermittent fasting and extended fasting.
So, as I participated in a lot of groups online, I hear some people who have Stevia all the time or have monk fruit or Erythritol and have no issues at all. I hear other people who can never have it, can never have any sweetener at all. Hopefully I'm not a person who will always not be able to have those things, but when I met with Megan Ramos and Dr. Jason Fung of the IDM Program, I really wanted to understand why the hell I couldn't have sweeteners in place of sugar.
I don't know about you but I guess I get into some of these angry modes when I feel like "Come on! I stopped eating pasta, I stopped eating potatoes, I stopped eating french fries, I stopped eating all these things. Surely, Stevia, or any natural sweetener with zero calories, surely I can have this!"
I've even read that it has a very small effect on your blood sugar level, so truly this makes sense.
What they explained to me is that although it has little effect on your blood sugar level, Stevia and natural sweeteners like Erythritol and monk fruit do have an effect on your insulin level, and a lot of people who struggle with weight, like myself, are insulin resistant. This causes them to with fasting at first. Even with a non-sugar, zero calorie, sweetener insulin is being stimulated.
Even after they told me that in person (because honestly just reading it wasn't enough for me) I was really resistant to give up Stevia because a) I didn't think I could and b) I thought I would hurt people if I did it.
Honestly I really wondered what would be the best part of my day. I know that's a terrible thing to say. I know I sound like someone who is really ungrateful. But as a person who has been addicted to food her entire life, as a person who loves the feeling that I get when I have something sweet and who feels like something sweet means like I'm treating myself, it was terrifying.
I have an incredible life. I have a healthy child. I have a loving husband. I have great friends and family, and enough resources to live a wonderful life. Home, clothes, food, shelter, love. All the things a person could want. I realized how sick it was that I still depended on sweets or even that bit of Stevia or baked good as being a reward to myself, and sometimes being the thing I looked forward to most in a day.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that to you.
So, when I decided I was going to stop eating sweets with the support of my husband and the support of Megan and Dr. Fung, I was really nervous.
The beginning of my surrendering of sweets would be during a very long vacation with my husband in a camper van to Canada and all over the U.S. Quite frankly, on past vacations one of the most exciting things that happens is eating. I'm not a skydiver, I'm not a bungee jumper, I'm not a hiker.
Who am I kidding? It's my number one activity on vacation.
I want to go to foreign lands and see how they eat. I want to go to other states and eat their food. Growing up in south Louisiana, I really learned to celebrate and socialize around the table, and food means family, friends, socialization, excitement. It means everything to me.
So the prospect of taking a vacation with no sweets, with no pasta, with no fries, sounded horrible. What am I going to do? And then we went on the vacation. It was a couple of weeks already into having given up Stevia, which was very difficult. Even during the 11-day fast, I had looked forward to that coffee with Stevia in it, which you really shouldn't do when you're fasting. You should only have a little bit of cream.
I was having a little bit of Stevia when I did extended fasts or intermittent fasts, and I always looked forward to it, but my cravings were rough. When I gave up Stevia, what happened at first was an extreme craving for sweets. I gave up fruit, and this is something I committed to doing until October. And then I will try and see if something sweet is something I can have every once in a while and see how it affects me.
So when I gave it up at first, I felt very angry. I felt like something was missing. I was really fearful that the most exciting, rewarding part of my day was gone. I understand how ridiculous that sounds. But it's the truth about how I felt. I didn't know if I could do it. I didn't know if I could sustain it, and I'm really grateful to my husband for helping me through all my feelings with it.
So, I did sustain it except for one day when I was alone at my Mom's house in Louisiana, and there was one lone doughnut and nobody could catch me eating it, as if anyone cared.
I ate the doughnut.
So, out of the 40 days, I have had a doughnut one day. Every time I go to the coffee stand at Starbucks or a coffee shop, and there are sweeteners available, I am tempted. I want to sneak and do it, as if anyone cares once again. But I have resisted and been successful at not having sweets for those 40 days.
I feel physically incredible. I went on vacation. I had just as good of a vacation as I had always had, which was honestly quite shocking to me. I felt like the mountains and the streams and Old Faithful and Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore, everything I saw, I could focus on it more.
There's been a change in my personality since I've given up sweetener, even though it was just Stevia and not sugar. I'm calmer. I'm a little quieter, I talk a little bit less and my ability to focus has increased.
If anyone else had told me this, I'd really think they were full of crap. So I wanted to tell you honestly what happened to me, a person who was addicted to sweets every day of their life. I looked forward to it as the pinnacle of my day. I truly feel much physically and emotionally better. I can't wait to see what I can write now without sweeteners in my life. I can't wait to see what kind of work I can accomplish, what kind of mom I can be, what kind of physical activity I can improve, what other things will become more exciting than that sweetener or sugar used to be.
I still really don't like people who walk by me, especially on vacation, with a giant-ass ice cream cone. I don't like them. I don't like them, especially when I look at them and they're skinny.
Do I judge them? I think I do.
I think, wow, how can you get away with eating that ice cream? Why can't I be like you? I have no idea of their story. I have no idea if they're healthy or unhealthy, or they're just lucking out with really great metabolism and great health, and honestly I do hope that they have great health and great metabolism. But at that moment, whether it's a child or a grown-up, I want that ice cream cone. So, I'm pretty imperfect and I'm still struggling with ice cream envy, because I really frigging like ice cream.
That's my story.
If you are trying intermittent fasting and extended fasting, and it's going great, I don't think this applies to you. If you're eating Stevia or you're eating monk fruit, and these things are going great, you're not struggling with your health, ignore this whole thing. But if you're doing everything else right and you're still having some kind of natural sweetener and you're actually struggling with your cravings, and your mind is really jacking with you, try it. Give it up and don't listen to what your body says for the first two weeks because you're going to really be frustrated and miss it like anything else that you give up at first.
So today I'm on a 24-hour fast. I did a 24-hour fast yesterday. So I didn't eat breakfast. I didn't eat lunch. I had coffee with cream, no sweetener (which, let me tell you tasted horrible when I first started drinking it, and now it tastes mildly okay). I enjoy the ritual of it, the heat of it, the cream in it, and it does seem filling. And now I understand that you can drink coffee not for the sweet taste of it, but for what it does for you which I did not really understand before.
I don't think I'll ever be able to drink black coffee. I tried it twice, and wow, to all of you that can do it, I'm really impressed. I just don't think I can do it. So, that's my story. If you're struggling with your fasting, if you're struggling with your health, consider that maybe those natural sweeteners you're using just should take a break and see how you feel. Try it. Ask me questions at lifeinthefastinglane.com, and I hope to talk with you more.
Hope your life is sweet without the sweetener.