Day 9 on RRARF: Adieu, Le Sucre!

I've always had a sweet tooth. And although my days of regular sugar binges are behind me (thanks mostly to real food and good rest), up until now I still liked to have something sweet with my meals. A little dark chocolate, a small fruit smoothie, a spoonful of raw honey, or a beverage sweetened with stevia would complete my eating experience. Without something sweet, my meals felt rather... unfinished. Since it never added up to much (and stevia is a free food, right?), I told myself this wasn't a big deal. After all, I wasn't gobbling up a quart of ice cream several times a week like I'd been doing before (you know, back when I thought low-fat dieting and cardio was the path to health heaven). So no harm done, right?

Wrong. The simple flavor of sweetness is enough to alter the body's chemical response to what you're eating, which can raise the weight set point, increase appetite and fuel cravings. Why? Because it activates the pleasure centers in the brain. That's why Matt Stone calls this phenomena PCAT (Pleasure Center Activation Theory). The idea is that the flavor of our food affects how the body responds to it by triggering surges of brain chemicals like dopamine. That's why fast food--with its abundance of chemical additives like MSG and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup--is so addictive, and also why it appears to so strongly fuel obesity even beyond the individual metabolic effects these refined ingredients have on the body.

Matt wrote a post about PCAT here, where he says:
"In terms of promoting a rise in weight set point, which increases the appetite to metabolism ratio (AM Ratio – kinda like AM Radio), the most powerful promoters seem to be substances that are the most sweet. Saccharine, Aspartame, and Sucralose (Splenda) cause much greater increase in the AM Ratio than plain ol’ sugar. Of course, throwing caffeine into the mix activates those pleasure centers even more. Diet drinks are the perfect obesigenic substances when paired with a calorie-dense meal. Say what you want about Stevia, but that is another dime-a-dozen sweetener for raising your weight set point – it just comes without so much of the neurotoxicity of aspartame, or the bowel destruction of sucralose."

Sweetness appears to illicit a particularly strong response from our brain chemicals. This is indepenent of blood sugar and insulin, which is why non-caloric sweeteners can still activate the pleasure centers of the brain and thus cause problems with metabolism, moods, weight, appetite, etc. Listening to Matt's audio seminar on addictive eating really cemented the idea in my head. After all, if stevia can satisfy a sugar craving, then it is obviously capable of performing some function in the body similar to sugar. That function is presumably the release of brain chemicals like dopamine.

Adieu, Le Sucre!

My top goal while on RRARF is to allow my body to completely self-regulate. If sweetness interferes with the body's natural biochemical response, then it has to go. So, for the duration of RRARF (and hopefully beyond), I'm eliminating sweetness from the menu. No honey, no maple syrup, no fermented ketchup, no dark chocolate, and no stevia. I'm also not having any fruit for the time being, though I'm not bothering to eliminate some of the sweeter vegetables like yams, carrots and onions.

I've even gone so far as to eliminating milk during RRARF, because it is both liquid and sugar, and therefore may have some metabolic side effects when you drink it with every meal (which is basically what I've been doing). And though I don't believe that milk is inherently bad for metabolic health, with my individual pursuits being what they are, giving it the boot for a few weeks seems reasonable. (Okay, I'll be honest, this was Matt's suggestion when I asked him about milk... I'm very slow to voluntarily give up my milk!) In any case, I haven't had milk since last Thursday morning. Congratulate me. That takes willpower, at least for me. Take the cake, but for Pete's sake, give me my milk!

But in all seriousness, I have felt a slight longing for something sweet on a daily basis since starting RRARF, but no outright cravings. I honestly seem to be doing pretty well considering the sweets habit I was getting into. Nine days without anything sweet is officially the longest I have ever gone.

After RRARF? I can't imagine giving up sweets forever (though I may consider it after 30 days of this). But I'm considering eliminating daily sweets, and certainly not having them with every single meal. A weekly splurge might be forgivable (that is, if it doesn't lead to cravings). It's the daily stuff that has the most influence on our metabolic health, after all, rather than what we do every once in a while.

Matt Stone has done some truly remarkable research on the subject of metabolic health. If you have not yet had the chance, I highly recommend you download the complete RRARF e-book for free and find out a little more about the science behind these recommendations. And you can also see what Matt has to say concerning the truth about dieting in this video presentation.

Other RRARF Posts:

Day 1 on RRARF: What is RRARF?
Day 2 on RRARF: Why I'm Doing It
Day 3 on RRARF: Rest and Relaxation  
Day 7 on RRARF: Benefits Already!
Day 8 on RRARF: Eat the Food!
Day 9 on RRARF: Adieu, Le Sucre!  
Day 21 on RRARF: Deprivation is Dieting 
Day 23 on RRARF: Life Without the Scale

RRARF vs. The Milk Diet

This post is part of Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade.

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