Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I was leaving Dunkin Donuts the other day, as the woman behind me ordered her coffee with Splenda. I began to think how our behavior sends constant messages to ourselves (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) and how these frequent messages add up.

Choosing Splenda or Sweet & Low or NutraSweet over sugar translates to, “I don’t deserve what I want, what I like, or what is available to me. I will settle for second best.”

Refusing to bring certain food items into your home (especially those you crave), or to have just a couple of cookies (because that would mean you wouldn’t stop) communicates, “I don’t trust myself.”

And exercising to the point of discomfort, pushing yourself when you’re tired, sick, or plain, just don’t want to, communicates, “I deserve to be uncomfortable and to be punished.”

Now, I know some people may prefer sugar substitutes, either for taste or the fact that they preserve their caloric intakes and their teeth. But, I’d argue that the taste is conditioned, the long-term carcinogenic properties of these substances still largely unknown, and the message that you’re sending to yourself the most dangerous of all. And I know that access to certain foods can lead to overeating—but doesn’t that just raise the need to address why that’s happening? And, finally, I know that sometimes, exercise can be enjoyable, but not when you’re tired or weak or pushing yourself beyond what your body is willing to give.

I don’t deserve what I want. I can’t trust myself. I need to be punished.

Repeat over and over—your self-esteem doesn’t stand a chance.

So, choose regular over diet, invite a bag of potato chips into your home, and skip the gym. In the long-run, I think you’ll end up eating less, enjoying more—because you’ll believe you’re worth it.


Haley-O (Cheaty) said...

GREAT post....Thanks. I'm ditching the nutritionist....

PTC said...

Wow, that was an eye-opening post. I fall into the "going to the gym when I don't want to and pushing myself even if I am sick or injured" category. Sometimes I just don't want to be there at all, or my body doesn't feel like moving. But, if I don't go to the gym, or burn "enough" calories I an off all day.

I never take a day off. I ran 11.5 miles on Sunday and my knee killed me and my legs were shot, but I still went to the gym Monday morning because I "had to."

Makes ya think, but unfortunately, thinking isn't enough to change the way I do things.

Thanks for that post!

PTC said...

I guess it's (thinking) a start.

drstaceyny said...

That's right!

ab said...

I'm trying to implement that train of thought, but I am having trouble.

Old habits die hard.

margaux said...

excellent post. and i'm officially giving up artificial sweeteners TODAY.

Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is sista!

Anonymous said...

You know what? About the Cheetos and the cookies.

I think there's something to the possibility that there IS such a thing as a refined carbohydrate addiction. I've read that there is a relationship between simple carbohydrate ingestion and serotonin (neurotransmitter) levels. And based on what I've read about depression and PMS and emotional eating, and because I used to be able to get rid of the whole bag of Cheetos or box of Entenmann's with the quickness before I changed my eating habits (and now with more protein and EFAs I don't miss them at all), I believe it.

But just because I believe my body's reaction to a chemical ('cause that's what foods are) might be somewhat violent doesn't mean there aren't other reasons for keeping that poison out of my house (have you read the ingredients on a bag of Cheetos? I can't even pronounce some of those ingredients), and it doesn't mean I don't trust myself. On the contrary, I think it means that I DO trust myself to know what's best for my physical and mental well-being.

Now that doesn't mean I've become some Spartan and am going to give up all birthday cake and champagne. (Like, never.) I just think that there are more factors to this eating disorder stuff, food choices, and what foods we have to make our choices from (I think good old Corporate Food is less than guiltless in these matters, but that's a really long rant) than meets the eye, and more than one way to deal with the situation.


Thank you, Dr. Stacey, for offering a space to clarify something I've been thinking about for a long time, but couldn't quite verbalize.

Anonymous said...

Choosing Splenda or Sweet & Low or NutraSweet over sugar translates to, “I don’t deserve what I want, what I like, or what is available to me. I will settle for second best.

Or possibly... diabetic?

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, so glad i always insist on sugar, please. :)

Unknown said...

i think that's quite stupid. having a donut and then sweetener in your coffee might be kind of pathetic, but telling people to ditch the gym is even more ridiculous. exercise is great.

Unknown said...

I've thought alot about it...

Why would I order a bacon cheeseburger and fries and than get a diet coke?

why would a get a whooop-dee-doo starbucks drink but hold the whip cream....or get the whooop-dee-doo with fat free milk and ADD the whip cream.

Why do I bother buying fat-free, sugar free cookies that are (surprise, surprise!) taste-free too? And have such a low satisfaction level that I only know I've eaten them after I have consumed an entire box?

What would it take for me to not prefer the taste of diet soda anymore - my taste buds are so twisted at this point I honestly like it better.

When you have never, and I mean never, been allowed to learn your likes and dislikes... and follow them... how do find the courage?

Anonymous said...

(I just found your blog, I'm reading through the archives...)

Perhaps the woman was a diabetic, indulging her sweet tooth in a once-a-month treat but feeling that putting sugar in her coffee was an unnecessary addition?

Happens to me. I'm a Type 1 diabetic. When I get fast food (an infrequent occasion), I get it with a diet soda. Sure, the fries aren't great for my blood sugar, but there's no reason to completely throw in the towel glucose control-wise with a full-sugar Coke.

I'm sure people have judged me. It's annoying. Please stop.

Anonymous said...

I think that the big post here should not be, go for the sugar and ditch the gym. It's, make the choice that is right for you rather than the choice that you feel you "should" or "must" make. I like diet soda. I don't like Cheetos. I like going to the gym but I hate running. I eat healthy foods because they make me feel healthier. I eat too much of them, so it doesn't make me thin... but I can, mostly, live with that. Other people live well with Cheetos... or whatever. It's *your* call, not anyone else's.

Anonymous said...

I was loving this post, but you lost me at the very end: "So, choose regular over diet, invite a bag of Cheetos into your home, and skip the gym. In the long-run, I think you’ll end up eating less, enjoying more—because you’ll believe you’re worth it." That's absolutely terrible advice. Exercise and eating right are very healthy, and advising people to not exercise and eat cheetos instead is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...


I think this post was written in the wrong context. Only because every woman's situation is different. There are some women that cannot eat certain foods for certain reasons. Having an eating disorder is a mental disease. There are different types of eating disorders and someone who has a compulsive eating disorder will eat something they love until there is nothing left. So in order for someone to be able to stop the compulsive eating it is best that it is not in thier reach. So much junk is put into our food in this day in time that people are becoming more and more sick easily. I go to the gym to work out but I will NOT go to the gym if I am tired or sick. The reason those who go no matter what have an eating disorder and it is a form of Anorexia which they eat very little but overly exercise in order to burn the calories taken and more. It is wrong to tell those who might have a problem its ok to eat the cheetos because maybe they can't. I do under stand the point you are trying to make and that is to be smart when it comes to exercising and eating. I hope this helps.

RollingStone said...

The "long-term carcinogenic properties" of artificial sweeteners are "still largely unknown"?

This simply isn't true. Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades and the people who use them aren't dropping dead everywhere. In order to be used in food, all substances have to be approved as safe by the FDA, and this includes artificial sweeteners.

You might be thinking of the warning that appears on products containing saccharine. This warning is an excellent example of bad science. It does not say that saccharine has been found to cause cancer in humans, they say that it has been linked with cancer in some laboratory animals. Scientists phrased the warning this way because they did NOT find evidence that it causes cancer in humans but still thought that people might be concerned.

Since then, the theory that saccharine is dangerous for humans has been abandoned. Subsequent studies showed that it only caused cancer in rats when it made up 90% of their diet! This is, of course, far more than any human would ever consume.

While I understand the overall message of this post - "don't punish yourself" - I think that the isolated examples you chose were inaccurate. The statement "Never consume artificial sweeteners" is just as flawed as "Never eat cookies." There are no absolutes when it comes to food and health; the whole diet must be taken into account. I don't know what the woman who ordered a doughnut and Splenda at the same time was thinking, but since none of us know her or know anything about her overall diet, we have no right to judge her.

Furthermore, not everyone hates artificial sweeteners. I actually prefer the taste of diet soda over regular, and so do some other people I know. We should respect each other's preferences.