Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maltitol and My Big Mistake

The cookie aisle worked its magic on me a few months back, and I'm only now able to write about the experience. It's embarrassing.

I happened to be craving something sweet. Something familiar. Something that would take me back to my carefree days of youth. I found myself face to face with wafer cookies. The rectangular shaped, flaky cookies filled with cream that just melt in your mouth instantly. They are like chips in that you can never eat just one. I wanted to abandon myself to that feeling of eating sweets carelessly so I made the first mistake of pausing in the cookie aisle.....all the while knowing EXACTLY what I was doing.....what I was going to do. I knew I would walk out the door with a package of sugar-free cookies. In the moment of tension and temptation, I gave myself over to my instincts: The sweeter, the better--take advantage of the now.

I picked up dozens of packages of "sugar-free" cookies, knowing exactly what I would be facing: artificial ingredients and a world of guilt for eating them. I decided on a package of vanilla wafer cookies. On the front of the package "Splenda" greeted my eyes, printed in royal blue font. I was suspicious because Splenda wasn't the only artificial ingredient in the cookies. I didn't care. I wanted to get home and devour. I had not abandoned myself to anything like this in a very long time. I was ready to sit down on the couch and throw down. I decided this was an excellent idea because I could still be sugar-free. I was not happy to be ingesting artificial ingredients, but I would deal with that guilt later. There was something about that week, that day, that moment that ultimately led me to let myself eat this crap. I still can't pinpoint what it was, but it will never happen again--here's why:

Even though I read the ingredients and wasn't happy about eating maltitol and Splenda, I needed these cookies. So, okay, a few won't hurt. After all, the asterisk next to "maltitol*" told me only that "Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect." Easy! I did not need to consume an excessive amount...just three light little wafers.

I got sick. Bubbles formed and pressure and instense stabbing pains dominated my abdomen. The next morning after I felt better, I decided that three must be excessive, so I decided to have two. That must be excessive also, because the pains from the night before were re-created so I threw out the rest of the cookies.

What in the world does "excessive" mean? It happens to be a subjective term, deemed appropriate for food manufacturer's to use on their labels as a justification for putting a terrible ingredient in our food supply. The dictionary's definition of excessive is: "exceeding what is usual, proper, necessary or normal." How is that for vague?

Not to mention I didn't feel like I was abandoning myself at all when I was eating them. I am much too aware of ingredients and consequences to just let myself go. The taste was nothing memorable, and I know I won't be buying them ever again.

Do you have an interesting story about this ingredient? I've heard that some people are extra sensitive to maltitol, but I've always taken pride in having a stomach-of-steel. I didn't think I had anything to worry about. Now I know I will never recommend any food with maltitol. I'm pretty sure sugar is a better option!


anastasia_wolf said...

Sometimes when I'm grocery shopping I want chocolate. And I stand in front of those "sugar free" chocs and just wish I could do it. I read the ingredients and back slowly away. I tend to think that yes, if you have a tiny bit of sugar once in a blue moon that is probably better than consuming the artificial stuff. Although sugar alcohols proclaim their superiority as sweeteners... NOT artificial and NOT sugar! Something better! Hmmm.

I admit that as my goal for going sugar free was to break my sugar addiction... well I have been having the occasional sugary thing lately. It's very rare but I'm mindful of turning sugar into a forbidden food (and while I am a vego, that's an ethical thing so not forbidden, but I'm not desirous of it). The few times I have had something sugary, mostly I've been disappointed. I've thought "I could have made something nicer with honey! Something sweeter and more decadent even!" Only a couple of times have I thought "yep, I enjoyed that". So I'm finding it easier now to resist temptation (always in a social setting) because I know it's just not worth it. But I have a feeling that every now and then I'll partake, just so it doesn't feel forbidden. I had a huge internal struggle over it, even going so far as to liken myself to an alcoholic and while addiction is addiction, I also don't want to create eating issues in myself and my daughters. Such a tricky line to walk!

Meach said...

I allow myself the occasional treat - which means real sugar treats. While I've only had natural sugars for months now - I still crave sweets all the time. My "sweets" have become fruits, or a cup of cider. BUT while visiting Cincinnati last weekend - I was in a group that was treated to Graters - the famous (infamous?) ice cream.

It was fabulous- so fantastic - tasted exactly as a "decadent treat" should! Within 15 minutes, however, my stomach was in full seizure mode. It HURTS when I eat sugar now. My body can't handle it. But it tasted great. . . I guess that's the price I have to pay for the "indulgence".

All this is to say- it's not just malitol!

My Year Without said...

Anastasia-Thanks for sharing. That about covers my issue....not wanting to be a freak but trying so hard to remain steadfast to my goal. I value what you've chosen to do. It is certainly a tough line to walk, especially with kids in the picture.
Do you find that when you DO partake in the real thing, you are able to keep it in moderation? My problem is I'm pretty sure once that Oreo is in my mouth, I'm going to want more and more and then I'm back to where I started.

Meach-Again, that's great that you can mostly go without sugar...allowing ourselves the occasional treat is the key, I think. Sorry your belly reacted as it did....I guess in the long-run a negative reinforcement after eating sugar is better than a positive one, right? Either way, thanks for sharing.

anastasia_wolf said...

Sorry I didn't see your reply! I can partake in moderation. I don't know how?! But yes, it really seems like it doesn't have a hold over me. I find my sweetness quota being filled incredibly quickly, and then I stop.

I'm trying to weigh up the pros and cons of rapadura sugar at the moment. It seems at least as unrefined as something like maple sugar. I am trying to find evidence that it is baaad but the consensus seems to be that it is far better than normal cane sugar.

My Year Without said...

Anastasia-In that rapadura offers nutrients or is lower on the glycemic index? I don't know, myself, but it would be nice to add another sweetener to my list of okays.

Maple sugar looks interesting, but it's the MOST expensive sweetener I've come across. I simply won't spend $12 on a little package of it, as that is not sustainable for me. When I lived on the west coast, I could get date sugar at a somewhat decent price, but out here on the east coast it is almost as costly as maple sugar.

I truly wish I didn't need sweeteners at all--that fruit and vegetables would sustain me. But my darn sweet tooth still seems to have this quota....

anastasia_wolf said...

LOL I am the same! I also can't drink unsweetened tea.

Yes rapadura purports to have a lower GI, plus isn't associated with a high blood sugar spike. And since it is not pure fructose it's good for people who are sensitive to fructose (I have friends who get heart palpitations from honey and agave!) And yes it has retained nutrients. But I keep thinking it's still cane sugar, but surely if I'm realistic it shouldn't be so much the source but the process and the end product.

I've never seen maple sugar but I know it's available, but it would cost a fortune. I've recently discovered coconut sugar (I think it's also called jaggery) and it was so exciting to find something granulated!