Opinion of a Fit Girl Part 2: Fake Sugar, Fasting, and Low Carb Diets

There are a lot of diet trends that are big in the media right now. As someone who’s been working out since high school and eating a clean diet forever (thanks Mom!), I’ve tried many things. I’ve been lucky to learn what works best for me and have managed to stay super fit through some insanely busy times ( Opinion of a Fit Girl Part 1 talks about my thoughts on some of the latest fitness trends ). Like this week for example – whew! While everyone is different, I feel like I have good insights into the sustainability and effectiveness of some of these diet trends.

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The hype: intermittent fasting (IF)

This is a technique to make cutting overall calorie intake less painful. Instead of eating when you’re hungry through out the day, you can only eat within a 8-24 hour period. You then fast or slash calories drastically for the next 8-24 hours (more details here) and repeat. Studies have shown that IF is as effective for weight loss as regular diet plans (probably simply because it cuts calories), and that less frequent meals can increase the lifespan of lab rats (!).

Opinion of a fit girl:

I can see the appeal, but I’m not good at starving myself. I’d rather eat clean, low calorie food (veggies, lean protein, and oatmeal etc.) and treats once in a while versus starve for a pizza binge several times per week.  I think IF can deter people from forming a taste for healthy food (the importance of which I discussed here) since it’s easier to avoid eating clean and still maintain an overall calorie deficit with this plan. If you can’t sustain IF, this doesn’t help your long term diet success.

I also think IF can exacerbate disordered eating in people who have issues with restricting and bingeing and I’ve heard that many people who can sustain IF consume a ton of caffeine, which I don’t think is good for anyone in excess (see my post on coffee and fitness here).

The bottom line? I think this method paired with moderate coffee intake could work for some people in the short term. Sometimes I will go for 16 hours without food after a large dinner because I feel full the next morning, but I would never consciously use IF as a long term fitness tool.

The hype: fake sugar = give me donuts

You’ve probably read that artificial sweeteners can make people crave real sugar (i.e. this article). Basically, artificial sweeteners can condition taste buds to crave intense levels of sweetness while making your brain expect a boost in blood sugar. When it doesn’t register a quick uptick in glucose from artificial sugar, it can leave you craving real sweets.

Opinion of a fit girl:

I’ve noticed that the more sweetener I use, the more immune to it I get (that’s backed up by studies too!). I use stevia to sweeten everything and while I need a lot more than when I first started to enjoy the taste, I haven’t found that it leaves me craving real sugar.

I don’t feel bad about using stevia since it’s plant based and hasn’t been associated with potential side effects like chemical sweeteners. There are other options for calorie free natural sweeteners including xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol, but these can cause stomach trouble (they are considered high FODMAP). So, I’m going to embrace my calorie free stevia sweet tooth rather than weaning myself off the sweetness (as some experts recommend for those addicted to real sugar). Occasionally, I have an aspartame filled diet soda too. Everything in moderation!

“If you repeatedly eat a food, your affinity toward it will increase” – Psychology Today, “How To Get Over Your Sugar Addiction”

The hype: low carb

This has been a fad since the dawn of Atkins diet in the 1970’s. There is plenty of research to back it up (Google it!) and many a celebrity has hawked it, including Renee Zelweger. Again, like IF, any time you avoid an entire food group you often end up cutting calories. Not everyone eats more to compensate for skipping the bread!

Opinion of a fit girl:

Not for me. Carbs make me feel satisfied after meals, and give me energy to workout. I need a high fiber, complex carb with almost every meal and I strongly believe there is a place for these carbs in almost every diet. In surveying my girlfriends, it’s pretty clear that none of us have ever been able to sustain a true low carb diet. Lots people I know who’ve tried them end up bingeing on carbs after a few days and developing a belief that carbs are evil, even though they can’t quite explain the scientific reason behind as to why.

Overall take-away?

I’m going to keep putting lots of stevia in my big bowl of oatmeal that that I eat twice a day, at anytime during my waking hours that I feel  an urge. Hurray!

A Note on the Perfect Headphones:

I’m on foot ALL the time in San Francisco, which is part of why I love the city so much. While I’m all about my noise cancelling headphones when I’m working in a loud area or on a flight, I do a lot of walking on roads and need to be alert, so I don’t like them for my commute. The Apple ear buds are the wrong shape for my ears and fall out all the time, causing the opposite issue of letting too much outside noise. Enter the Audio-Technica earbud. They come with several sizes of ear bud to custom fit to your ear, and while not noise cancelling, they do a great job of filtering out unnecessary outside noise and are perfect for commuting and the gym. Check them out at the link below!

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Jacket – Levi’s

Top – c/o RYU

Tights – Adidas

Shoes – Adidas

Headphones – c/o Audio-Technica

Photo credit: Michael Moore

What do you think of these trends? What works best for you?

xx Jill

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35 thoughts on “Opinion of a Fit Girl Part 2: Fake Sugar, Fasting, and Low Carb Diets

  1. Jill, this is one of my favourite series that you do, and I hope you continue with it. I very much value your opinion, so much, that I constantly text you about it lol! I used to be a diehard IF’er, but then, as you know, it all caught up with me hard. I thought pressing restart was so crucial every Monday, when the true way to do it is just eating clean. I appreciate all the knowledge you share, and you are dead on. I also agree 100% with the fake sugars. Fake anything is never good!! I’ve found the more fruit I consume, the more my sugar cravings decrease, interestingly enough. PS this outfit is adorable! I love the tights! xx

    • Thanks Shannon! I’m glad that I can be a positive influence – it’s definitely all about what is sustainable long term!

  2. I really love these series too because I know that you know what you’re talking about and I like that you keep it honest and healthy while not going for the fads. I had never heard of the fasting one, but that sounds really bad, like it couldn’t be good for anyone’s metabolism either. PS — Love your work out gear and the Adidas are so cute. Now I need to get them! 🙂

    xoDale
    Dale Janée (@Savvy_Spice) recently posted…Feeling French in SFMy Profile

    • Thanks Dale!!! I am really happy you like them 🙂 These Adidas are SUCH a must and so so comfy!!! I’ve had a pair like this forever. I don’t know why I ever stopped wearing them (probably NYC haha). xoxo

  3. Hi! Really love and appreciate these series that you post about!! In my mind I’m always thinking about going Uber low carb & cutting sugar all at once… But can’t seem to rid 2 of my favorite things 😉 All in all, I appreciate your posts & info you provide! Xo

  4. Hi Jill! I think we agree on all points here. Something about IF doesn’t seem healthy to me. Not to mention, how are going to work out and recover during that time-frame when you aren’t supposed to be eating? I also like stevia, and I cannot get enough healthy carbs. Fads? Not good. Eating healthy clean foods most of the time and working out regularly are the only things that will always work. Right? 🙂
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Hearty and nutty quinoa breakfast bowl recipeMy Profile

    • I totally agree! I would have to completely stop working out if I was going to attempt IF. It might work for some people who don’t mind going to extremes and experimenting with these things, but I sure don’t think it’s a good strategy for most people!

  5. Jill, such a great article. I agree with you all around! Carbs just work for me…my husband does the low/no carb thing and it works for him…everyone’s different! I love the way you presented the information here.

    Catherine

    • Thanks Catherine!! Totally, I know a few men who are big fans of the low carb/no carb and are able to do it. I also find they can go a lot longer without food and not feel the side effects. To each their own 🙂

  6. This post is awesome!! I am constantly doing crash diets and regretting it, or not doing diets because I don’t understand the effects of them so I feel like it’s not worth it. This is such a good debrief! Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information. P.S., those tights remind me of galaxy prints that were trending- love it! <3
    allygong.com

    • Hi doll, I’m glad to hear that this was useful – crash diets just never work! It really is about overall moderation and eating healthy food in my opinion. Loving these tights! hope you are doing well xox

  7. Omg love all of this. use stevia and eat more oatmeal than I would admit to normal people. i dont’ think I would be good at IF because all I would do is think about not eating, or when the next time to eat is (not healthy). However, I recognize that everyone is different. But seriously, I don’t know why people don’t use more stevia, I don’t even notice the taste anymore, it’s awesome!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Pineapple ColeslawMy Profile

    • Sam, you are a girl after my own heart!! Sometimes I will eat oatmeal 3x per day with vegan protein powder and berries in it. In my opinion, it’s a total super food! Carbs, protein, fiver, what is not to love? Agreed on the stevia. I think it’s like anything, people just have to get over the hump and accept it might be weird at first, but you totally get used to it!! Have a great weekend 🙂

    • Thanks Jessica!! I have been through it all as someone super into health and fitness so I always want to share what worked and didn’t work for me. I’m so glad you found it helpful 🙂

  8. You look so fantastic in these photos, and it’s nice to hear your take on diet trends. I was just talking to my mom today, who is about to do a week-long juice cleanse and is thinking about Paleo. I want her to pick something sustainable, like clean eating and moderation! Maybe I should send her your way!

    xoxo- Lisa
    http://www.hauteashbury.com

    • Hey Lisa!! Oh man I know, I feel for her because she probably just wants to get healthy and get results ASAP. At the end of the day the clean eating and moderation will be what pays off…I learned that the hard way after being a little too unhealthy in college and having to get rid of the freshman 15!

    • I’m so glad you agree!! Sometimes we fall off the wagon, but it’s all about getting back on and being moderate again. Let’s hear it for whole food!! xx

  9. Girl I loved this post! I just started reading your blog, and I first, respect the ‘fit girl’ opinion because I can really relate to all of this, and in general all the noise there is out there.

    Fake sugars I think affect some more than others, and as far as the fasting goes, I’ve tried it both ways and I’m not sure.

    Carbs tho! I’ll never give up 🙂

    Can’t wait to read more.

    x Krista

    http://www.hundredblog.com

    • Hey Krista, that really means so much to me!! I’m so happy that you appreciate my opinion, and that it resonates. I totally agree on the fake sugars, I do find that artificial ones (rather than the stevia) taste weird to me now that I’m not used to them anymore! 🙂

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