Artificial Sweeteners – The Not-So-Empty Calorie



Artificial sweeteners – like those found in sugar-free and diet drinks, packaged foods, jams, candies, and gums – don’t contain calories, so they are safe for diabetes, insulin levels, and weight loss, right

The American Diabetes Association says so, but the realities that several wellness coaches, personal trainers, nutrition counselors, and holistic practitioners have known for years is finally being proven by hard scientific data. Data that suggests otherwise.

Diet drinks are usually the last thing my nutrition and fitness clients are willing to give up, but usually the only thing standing between the body they have and the body and health they desire. Inevitably, whenever the ditch the “diet ___,” they see noticeable improvements in body composition, usually within days (especially around the belly and hips, but who’s counting?) 😉

PLUS, something so physically and mentally addicting – intuitively – cannot be good for you, right? Take it from a former addict who has cold turkey quit cigarettes, cocaine, and meth… I know!

But artificial sweeteners aren’t only implicated in weight loss resistance. Studies have shown artificial sweeteners, especially sucralose (i.e., Splenda), to:

Check out this nice summarized article for “Short & Friendly Version” on how sucralose contributes to diabetes!

Blood sugar regulation is at the heart of healthy weight management and disease prevention (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and related disorders, Parkinson’s, etc.), so the fact that artificial sweeteners aren’t so care-free should cause some pause in how we approach our food and what we choose to put into our bodies.

Blood sugar regulation is at the core of living with diabetes. So it’s no surprise that so many people have issues controlling blood sugars when they are consuming known food toxins – i.e., artificial sweeteners – that they unfortunately believe are completely safe.

Give me a client who cannot give up artificial sweeteners and I’ll give you a client who suffers from IBS or digestive distress of some type. No, I don’t have ESP. They go together so often though, they are two sides of the same coin.

A healthy digestion is also fundamental to a healthy weight, mood, and disease prevention. Since artificial sweeteners may alter the cool critters in your gut that manage this process, it’s probably not something anyone interested in vibrant health, a fit body, or living till they are 90 is interested in.

Gas, bloating, constipation, the runnnnns, pain, and acid reflux all go together and are common problems of a diet rich in preservatives, processed foods, and low nutrition. Are artificial sweeteners the only thing? No, not usually, but they are main contributor.

If artificial sweeteners do indeed raise blood glucose levels, slow insulin clearing time from the blood, and disturb gut flora in the process, these synthetic sweeteners are not so “empty” after all. And it’s time to take it into consideration in our long-term health plan.  

It’s Time for a Re-Frame



In our therapeutic culture, we want what we want without the consequences. Which is how artificial sweeteners came into widespread use in the first place. 100+ times sweeter than sugar, artificial sweeteners were all the rage to reduce sugar consumption while tasting just as sweet…

Except that it hasn’t worked.

And “artificial sweeteners” just point to the real issue that plagues us, the way we do life.

If we are known for anything, it’s our experiential culture. Live for the moment, the experience, the taste, the NOW, the instant gratification of the moment, with no thought for next hour, tomorrow, next week, or next year. We’ll deal with that then.

No discipline. No delayed gratification. No putting off what you want now for long-term important goals later.  Just fake look-a-likes, substitutes, tricks, methods, techniques to get what we want without depriving ourselves of anything. Artificial sweeteners are a fake promise of a politician that wins your vote, gets elected, and then proceeds to stab you in the back later.

But here’s the truth: you cannot keep doing the same things you are doing and yield different results. 

You cannot keep pretending and achieve a better body.

You cannot technique your way healthy. 

You cannot age gracefully if you treat your body like trash.

You cannot make a significant impact in the world if you cannot develop discipline in your own life.

The taste of discipline is satisfying. The satisfaction of results you worked for is delicious! The experience of learning that this choice produces that consequence is priceless. And real food – from God’s good, nourishing earth, and from sustainably raised animals – is the tastiest thing on the planet!

Artificial sweeteners are not empty but they won’t fill you.

Artificial sweeteners have turned out to not be empty calories, but they still fail to fill us. They do not take the place of real sugar. They do not fill the void that most are trying to cover up with empty… calories…

They do not satisfy, but only leave us wanting more.

And we all have things in our life that we try to cover up, glaze over, escape, stuff, suppress, and fill. Perhaps we’ve gone through an intense healing process in the past or perhaps we’re just beginning, but at some point more fake doesn’t cut it. 

While we pretend the fake works for a time, there will be a tipping point where we are faced with reality and the way we do things – while it was protective in the past – no longer serves us for our long-term goals.



So can I ask you a question?

What are the artificial sweeteners in your life? Maybe or maybe not literal artificial sweeteners, but perhaps things like romance novels to fill the lack of deep intimacy in your life, or constant exercise to avoid responsibility, or watching your “shows” to replace real-life adventure, or gossip to cover up insecurity and hurt.

And as we wrap our heads around what we are using as artificial sweeteners, we can begin to increase awareness of the deeper reason why we think we need these thingsAnd as we get to the core of the truth, we can begin healing the root issue instead of treating symptoms with diets, programs, and more techniques.

TIP: The deeper issue beneath your “artificial sweetener” is usually the flip of the thing itself. It has a “form” of the real version but denies its power (II Tim. 3:5).

I know this is heavy stuff, so thank you for reading this far. Lasting change – be it weight loss, health improvements, or new habits – comes from within. Vibrant health flows outward from work we do within.

So I encourage to you take some time this week without distractions to honestly assess this question. Take it to God in prayer. Ask for guidance to see yourself clearly, without denial. And know that this is a safe place! We are all in this journey of life together and here to support one another in any way possible.

Just like artificial sweeteners can never replace the flavor, sensation, and feel of real sugar, neither can one ever fully understand why they waited so long to change when they taste the fullness of the results they really want! 


What’s your biggest tip for helping someone begin change in their lives? Whether it’s getting off artificial sweeteners or starting an exercise program, list your top strategy in the comments below. I can’t wait to see and learn from your comment! 🙂 



Gerilyn Burnett helps women achieve the body, energy, and impact they desire by implementing healthy lifestyles they love! She specializes in helping Christian women cultivate health to the glory of God. Her own journey from miserable, fat, stuck, and tired to fit, confident, vibrant, and delicious make her uniquely suited for this mission! She has a knack for creating contagious healthy experiences and providing the needed support and accountability that turn diets into lifestyles and dreams into realities. Get started on your journey to vibrant vitality for life here


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