Three days ago, I decided to embark upon a portion control and exercise program to get back in shape, have more energy and eat healthier. The program is pretty popular and is more about lifestyle change rather than functioning as a fad diet. We all know that if you eat good, nutritious foods and exercise, you can maybe lose a little weight and maintain a healthier you, RIGHT? Of course, those things are easier said than done. Over these three days I have actually enjoyed the nutrition part, felt fuller and even though the workouts have been kicking my out-of-shape butt, I feel so much stronger. Having said all that....my struggle with diet soda is FOR REAL.
This program, like so many others, requires that you cut out food and beverages that are filled with chemicals and preservatives and return to more clean eating. Of course that means no artificial sweeteners and NO DIET SODA for me. I thought this was a no brainer and it would be no problem. I was wrong.
While I was out shopping the other day, I realized my water bottle was empty and that I was going to have to refill it (especially since it was such a hot day here in sunny Florida). Wanting to get the beverage situation over with and get to the healthy lunch I had packed, I went through a drive through to get a bottle of water. The images of those refreshing fountain sodas with ice, that had been strategically placed to sell sodas, were absolutely calling my name. I'd like to say that I held my ground, remained strong enough to resist the temptation, but guess what? I bought the soda.
I didn't drink it at first. The soda sat in my cup holder, taunting me. I even pulled out my phone as I sat in the parking lot to search internet message boards for some type of justification that I could still get the weight loss results I wanted if I didn't cut out the soda. It was a DIET soda, right? It may not be totally healthy but no one would know, right? The justifications got louder and louder in my head. After I ate my perfectly balanced lunch of a spinach salad with grilled chicken, I went in to take that first drink of the soda that I was craving so badly. The straw met my lips and...YUCK! The soda was way too sweet and I didn't even want to drink it! It tasted so bad, I ended up pouring it out and getting the bottle of water I should have gotten in the first place.
So what had happened to me? Where was the delicious, refreshing soda that I had wished for and wanted so badly? I took to the internet to find out. Turns out that artificial sweeteners (like the sucralose that is found in diet sodas) actually make things taste sweeter. This I already knew (that's why you usually use less sweet-n-low, equal or splenda than real sugar). The amazing thing was that because I had cut out all the bad stuff and been eating clean for just 3 days, my "neutral level" or "baseline" taste for sweetness had reset and I was satisfied with the things that were healthy and not what I had previously perceived to be as sweet. Making a habit of eating healthy had actually made not eating healthy distasteful! This experience and new information was totally what I needed. I realized that I didn't need soda. Water or tea flavored with lemon or other fruits could be even more satisfying and good for me too.
Artificial sweeteners, full of their chemicals and man-made materials are similar to worldly temptations and distractions. The more you drink, the worse it is for you. Your baseline for "sweetness" can quickly stray from what you know to be healthy. Your relationship with God and spirituality, your discernment between what is right and what is wrong can quickly be compromised by those temptations that seem so sweet by the world's standards. The more we nourish our minds and hearts with the word of God, the happier and healthier we become. We find the temptations and questionable behaviors distasteful when we are focused on all that is true and right.
The bible gives us guidance on how to be in the world but not of it. We should feed ourselves with His truth, rather than things that are unhealthy in the spiritual sense:
1 John 2:15-17 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Matthew 4:4 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Galatians 5:16 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
So don't mess with your baseline for "sweetness" - get out there and eat right, both physically and spiritually. Your overall health will be better for it.
I'd love to hear your stories or thoughts on how this may apply to your life. Feel free to comment and share.