In my mind, artificial sweeteners were part of my disordered eating habits. They allowed me to overeat certain things and "get away with it." If I were to eat real food in appropriate portions (novel concept) I wouldn't need the fake stuff. It's the difference between fully enjoying one real thing versus "needing" six fake things. One spoonful of real sugar wasn't sweet enough for me. I wanted six spoonfuls of Splenda. Why eat one cookie (bad! shame!) when I could have 8 artificially sweetened protein cookies and feel virtuous? That kind of thing. I was a diet soda addict. 2 liters plus 4 cans per day at the worst. I got that down to one real, cane sugar soda per day before I let go of the daily soda thing altogether. But then I started drinking bitter, unsweetened instant tea all day long. I realized that was getting out of hand and switched to one special brewed tea every afternoon.
I relate to the situation where you consume a lot of one diet thing, then switch to a lot of another, and it's really not about what you're consuming, it's about the ritual of consuming a lot while still being safe and virtuous. Now I'm a "bad" one cookie, rich chocolate, real sugar rebel and I love it. :-)
I had a strange moment at the grocery store. I was pushing my heavy cart, so loaded with all kinds of yummy real food it was hard to turn, and I passed an alarmingly thin woman, not sort of thin, skeletal thin. I looked at her cart (can't help it). She had 2 pints of Haagen-Dazs (score!) but the whole rest of her cart was loaded with no-calorie things, lots of sugar-free gum, probably 5-10 boxes of different kinds of tea and a dozen of those weird little artificially colored and sweetened flavor drops you put in water. Because I've been there done that to some degree, I have a feeling the no-calorie items were a ritual replacement for food.
This freaked me out. Completely. There was nothing I could say or do, and it wasn't my place to say or do anything. I don't generally rush up to strangers, assume they have an eating disorder, and try to bond. Awkward! But it solidified my opinion about artificial sweeteners being much closer to my disorder days than to happy healthy eating. That's where I was going with that story.