Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's a girl to do

So, I casually mentioned a couple of blogs ago that I was trying to lose weight. I did. It has been staying off.
But going on a 'diet' goes against what I truly believe about what what mothers should do, especially mothers of daughters. Especially mothers of daughters, both of whom live in France and are surrounded by ridiculously thin women... and a cosmetic/beauty industry that blow your mind.
So I figured I couldn't diet, I had to change the way I (we?) eat. I had had inklings of it for years. The book my well-meaning friend bought me called, "The truth about beauty" which espouses, among other things, a healthy diet and kicking artificial sweetners. I can't go into all the details about all of what I read, researched and then came up with in terms of changing how we eat. Suffice to say there was some carbohydrate rationing, followed by their reintegration in only healthy forms (low GI...), there was an interest in integrating loads of healthy vegetables, there is now food combining alive and well in our house, a "Vita Mix" has taken up residence in the kitchen to provide a 'healthy alternative to ice cream'... and much more. All of it has made me feel loads better, have more energy, and yes, lose weight.
But it has also made me confront so many paradoxes. I already blogged about giving up aspartame, but it didn't end there. Diet Dr Pepper hasn't passed my lips since early May, when I gave it up. But I didn't give up sweet things. Before refining my diet by getting rid of refined sugar, I attempted some alternative to aspartame ("Splenda") but found out almost immediately it was just as bad (not well tested, not particularly safe...). I had read about Stevia, an alternative that is and herbally-based supplement. And I found some powdered stevia plant in France (miracle of miracles). And it tasted great in my green ice tea. But then I started looking into it. And that is where I felt like Alice through the looking glass.
Aspartame is considered 'safe' yet the American FDA has numerous reports of its questionable nature. It isn't considered unsafe during pregnancy, but words are measured about its use in some camps. Stevia isn't considered 'safe', and loads of sites tell you about its safety or lack therof. Some sites ponder the political climate and how Monsanto (manufacturer of aspartame as "Nutra Sweet") might be behind this. And there is no data about whether Stevia is safe in pregnancy.
(I am not pregnant, but having been pregnant several times, I do consider now what I put into my body, and if a pregnant woman shouldn't eat it, I often wonder if anyone should. So that is a bell-weather for me.)
But then one fact emerges, and re-emerges, that the Japanese have used Stevia for over 30 years in loads of things, and no serious disadvantages have been noted. Is this for real? Am I hearing right? Yes, one major nation uses Stevia to replace sugar (a group of people, btw, who are known for their excellent health...) but it isn't considered 'safe' in the USA? Or in many countries in Europe for that matter. It can be bought as a 'food supplement', but because it is considered a bit 'fringe' we don't know the safety of it.
And then the real kicker is that Cargill and Coca-Cola have just teamed up to manufacture their own Stevia-based sweetner (Truvia), and it had a big kick-off in NYC last month. So, was the waiting on Stevia to make it possible for the big industries to jump in while there was time?
And yet, loads of people say don't take Stevia during pregnancy, but not Nutra Sweet, yet all information points to the fact that Stevia might be safer than Nutra Sweet, but no one would dare come out and say that. So, what is a girl to do? Eat the 'safe' aspartame, or dare to have the "unsafe" but patently safer Stevia?

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