I’m running an experiment on myself:
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Avoid glucose-fructose syrup
- Minimize refined sugar
I’m trying this because I love sweet foods and drinks too much. I’m not a coffee person, but I am a caffeine person, and for many years most of my caffeine consumption has been in the form of diet cola — usually between 1 and 2 litres per day, but often more. When I drink tea, I prefer it strong (“chewy”), milky, and very sweet. I love chocolate and sweets, and eat lots of them.
I’m not doing it because I think that artificial sweeteners are going to give me brain cancer, or that high-fructose corn syrup is going to give me heart disease. I don’t have enough medical and dietary knowledge to evaluate the evidence for myself, and the media sure as hell aren’t going to do it for me. Like climate change and nuclear power, this is a researchable matter, but there are too many entrenched interests willing to fund opposing studies, and lobby governments to torpedo any positive actions they might take.
But at some point I have to look at my own behaviour — regardless of what everyone else does and thinks — and ask myself if it makes sense to me. I hate saying “all this sweetness can’t possibly be good for me”, because it feels unscientific and irrational. But that’s kind of what it comes down to.
Since reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma last year I’ve been thinking more about the things I eat. I’ve got to the point now that my consumption of sweet things feels unbalanced. I worry about sweetness leading to more sweetness: the amount of diet cola I drink may not add anything to my calorie balance for the day (helping me keep my trim, youthful figure), but it may be habituating me to that amount of sweetness in my diet, and making it more likely that I will (for example) guzzle down an entire family pack of peanut M&Ms whenever I visit the cinema.
So: less sweetness. I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I find the lack of caffeine…disturbing, so I’ve taken to popping raw caffeine pills to supplement my increased intake of sparkling mineral water. I’m finding that I have fewer chocolate cravings, and that my overall appetite (“the prowling hunger”) seems to be less, but that might be down to the fact that it’s summertime and warm. I’m getting used to drinking plain tap water, and ignoring the habit to drink something flavourful to quench my thirst — this definitely feels like a good thing.
Longer term? We’ll see. It’s interesting, though.