One of the most important lessons to teach anyone trying to lose weight is to avoid any foods labelled 'sugar free' or 'fat free.' These are key words that simply mean these foods are full of lots of chemicals, most of which you probably can't even pronounce. The misconception that fat free foods are actually better for you and will help you lose weight has spurred a billion dollar industry. It is a genius marketing plan for stores to sell an abundance of unhealthy 'healthy' food.
When the fat is removed from foods they need to add things to the food to make it taste better (since fat is what normally makes foods taste good and make you feel satisfied). Usually sugar and other chemicals are then added. This is why it is important to read the full labels on foods. In addition to calories, you should also look at the fat content, protein, carbohydrate and sugar content. Also read the ingredient list. My rule of thumb with patients is always, if you can't read it, don't eat it! I actually encourage my patients to eat foods with the full fat content and utilize portion control. I tell them to add healthy fats to their diets. These include omega 3 fats found in foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil and salmon. This will ensure that they are getting the fats that they need to support nerve cell health, boost metabolism and produce hormones, to say the least. These fats also make us feel satisfied so we don't feel the need to keep eating or crave unhealthy foods.
When foods are labelled sugar free, this means that sugar has been replaced with some sort of a substitute and usually and unfortunately, this is aspartame. Brand names of aspartame that you may be more familiar with are NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. Aspartame has been labelled one of the most dangerous substances that has been added to food. It not only is broken down into formaldehyde in the body (the process is complicated, but well studied, to read more about it check out this link ), but it also confuses our body and actually causes weight gain. This is not good since most people attracted to sugar free products are diabetics and those with obesity issues. When you consume an artificial sweetener the body does not know how to metabolize it and gets very confused. Normally when we eat something sweet our body releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good by activating our reward center in the brain. Once the sugar is consumed and calories come in, another hormone called leptin is also released and this is a signal that tells our body when we are full and satisfied. The problem is when we consume artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, the release of dopamine occurs but then the calories (sugar) don't actually come so the reward center is never turned off and your body continues to signal that it needs more sugar. This then leads to more carbohydrate cravings in order to reach a point of satisfaction and satiety. This is a very dangerous game to play with our bodies and often can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes.
In conclusion, beware of sugar free, fat free or zero calorie drinks and foods such as yogurts, diet pop, Crystal light, sugar free gum, sour cream and juices just to name a few. The more chemicals the food contains the more likely you are to store it as fat. Our body is not wired to process chemicals synthesized in a lab and if it can't recognize what it is or what to do with it, it will take the easy way out and just store it as fat. Once I help patients recognize what they are eating and how to read labels and cut out the offending foods, we almost always begin to get the weight loss results they have been trying so hard to achieve.