Friday, March 11, 2011

The Diet Soda Debacle

This is one of those subjects that it seems like everyone has an extremely strong opinion on. I realize this could get ugly, but nonetheless I will give you what information I've gathered, and you can do with it what you will...Here goes.

To drink or not to drink. That is the question.

While you may scoff at something that seems so simple and meaningless, it should be realized that there are a lot of peeps out there who live and die by their diet soda. This is a subject that I have had people ask me ALL. THE. TIME. I will admit that my opinion on this has changed over time. I grew up never drinking pop at all, it wasn't even something that crossed my mind. I've been an advocate for diet soda. I've been against it. I've been indifferent. With that being said, there are a few things that I know to be true. These things DON'T change with my opinion.

1. You can find studies/material/information on the web to support the side you take on this subject whether you are for it or against it. This goes for just about any health topic. 

2. Diet Soda is a processed food. It is becoming more and more apparent that processed foods aren't always that great for us.

3. Diet Soda is calorie free. Ice cream, caramel popcorn, chocolate, milkshakes, candy bars, and chocolate covered cinnamon bears are not.

4. Water is also calorie free. It is not processed. We need to drink it.

5. Diet Soda contains Aspartame, sodium, and caffeine in some cases.

6. Regular soda contains a LOT of sugar and calories. Yikes.

So what do we do with all of this information? Well...

The Science of It all:
When I was in my Senior Year at BYU I did a lot of research on the subject. Does it cause cancer? What are the effects of caffeine? How does it effect weight loss? How does it effect weight gain? What are the negative effects? Etc. Etc. Etc. I found studies saying it will give you cancer. I found studies saying it was harmless. I found studies showing that the chemicals that are put into diet soda are dangerous. The results were all over the board.
I decided to take this matter to a professor of mine, a professor I trusted and respected a great deal. She told me that she had also done a lot of research on the subject, specifically on artificial sweeteners. She told me that the studies that showed that it caused cancer were performed on lab rats. They were giving the rats the equivalent what would be us consuming 3 TONS in one sitting. Absolutely, physically impossible. Now, my professor did say that she wouldn't recommend basting, dredging, and glazing your foods in artificial sweeteners. Mainly, because they aren't a natural food and because they are a newly created food item we haven't had the time to see the long term effects of what they do health-wise.

This past July I read Jillian Michaels Book, Losing It. There was a LOT of really great information in there that I agree with, appreciated, and took to heart. It's a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good read dealing with the food connection to the hormones in our bodies. Her main takeaway is...our body wasn't made to process chemicals, and so many of the foods we eat are processed or made with chemicals we don't need. I one hundred percent agree with that. It just makes sense. In fact, I would definitely say that my mantra of eating is a "whole foods" approach. I sincerely believe that we are eating our healthiest when we are eating foods closest to their natural form. It is pretty clear that diet soda has nothing natural about it. It is a conglomeration of different ingredients that somehow combine a beverage.

I was talking to a friend about this very subject a few weeks ago, and she said..."What's not to love about Diet Coke? It's a food and a beverage." I know many, many, many people who feel this same way. There are a lot of individuals who use it as an appetite suppressant and a diet aid, replacing foods that are high in calories. I'm not stating this to promote this idea, just stating the facts. I'm sure you know people who have done the same, and maybe you are one of those people.
My diet beverage of choice is Diet Dr. Pepper. I think it's absolutely delicious. After I read Jillian's book I wanted to experiment and see how I did without drinking diet soda, and how not drinking it would effect my body. I stopped drinking it in the beginning of July 2010. I wouldn't say that I was ever an addict of any sort, but I think it's delicious. I missed it when I stopped drinking it, and this was my assessment.

- I felt more condensed. I really did love this aspect. I think diet soda can sometimes give us a bloated feeling.
- I drank a lot more water.
- My energy levels were about the same.
- My ability to exercise was the same.
- I gained 5 lbs...wait what? Yeah. True story.

This is why...As many of you know I don't eat sugar. I stay away from candy, cake, cookies...all of that. (With the exception of frozen yogurt.) Because I have a MAJOR sweet tooth, thanks mom, I have used diet soda as my, "treat." When I am really wanting something sweet and everyone I am with is eating ice cream or getting dessert at dinner I will usually get a diet soda instead and I'm satiated and satisfied. When I stopped drinking diet soda I didn't have any sort of go to. So I found myself snacking more. I ate more carbohydrates...handfuls of cereal, another handful of almonds, extra dips in the PB jar for some sweetness, more frozen yogurt, you get it. Nothing "bad" per say, just more. All those extra calories added up for me.

When I started my weight loss challenge for work in January I was EXTREMELY strict with my diet. I cut out all the extras and ate VERY VERY VERY clean. Lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fresh produce like what. Because I wanted to have something to treat myself to I decided that I was going to drink diet soda again. Nothing excessive, just something to keep my sweet tooth at bay. With this diet regimen and a lot of sweatin' in the gym I lost over ten pounds.

So, as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and weight loss coach what do I recommend to you?
I think it is definitely a situation that is different for everyone. If you don't drink any sort of soda I would say you are better off. Drink lots of water it is so good for you! Do I think diet soda is the worst thing in the world? No, I actually don't. If you have the choice between eating a candy bar or drinking a diet soda I would pick the diet soda. If you are addicted and it runs your life, I'd say giving it up might be a good thing for you. If having that sweetness only increases your cravings for sweets, as some studies suggest, then kicking the habit is probably going to be beneficial. It all goes back to what I say about just about everything...moderation. Having to have an IV of diet coke to your veins at all time doesn't seem healthy for any reason AT ALL, but I really don't think drinking some every now and again is going to kill you. If you can go with out. DO IT. If not, moderation.

Regular soda on the other hand...kick the habit. Drinking your calories is a waste of time. Promise.

So, what do you think? Do you drink diet soda? I won't judge I promise. I'd love to hear your opinion, even if you tell me you think I'm crazy. What is your reasoning behind what you do or don't do?


Carin said...

Interesting that you GAINED weight when you went off diet soda.

Diet dr. pepper (cherry!) is my poison of choice, and i probably only drink it once a week. My problem with fake sugars (gum, diet soda), is that I really feel like they rev up my appetite.

I've been keeping track of my appetite and diet soda consumption the last few weeks, and i noticed something interesting: last friday i had a 20 oz diet dr pepper and was fine. no binge eating, no huge appetite spike. saturday i was carsick and so got a 44 oz diet mt. dew. this was probably 6 at night (a bad time for me to drink caffeine anyways). the next day i was HUNGRY all day long and ate WAY too much. so maybe for me there's a sweet spot as to how much I can drink and be ok? i just thought it was interesting.

Stephanie said...

I LOVE this post. I too have done A TON of research on this topic. I avoid aspartame and all artificial sweeteners. (except for the few diet sodas I allow myself each week or month...I know...hypocrite, right?) Sometimes I'm great at going without and fill up on herbal tea and water and other times I just want a damn Diet Dr. Pepper. :) My law professor last night kept using an analogy of being home and comfy in our pj's ready to study with a Diet Dr. Pepper in hand and i knew what she meant about that moment of bliss. It's another moderation thing for I think it's awesome or that I'm invincible to the chemicals?...not I think it's causing me to die?...probably not either. (the only complaint that I have about this post is that the type font is somewhat smallish. I had to squint. Maybe my eyeballs are just shot though!) xoxo Great post!!!!

HowdyFromNYC said...

I definitely drink diet soda instead of eating. It does make you bloated though, AND supposedly the aspartame makes you feel hungrier. Hmm...

Chloé said...

i am a diet soda drinker. i just can give up on diet dr. pepper :) it's the best. i love sweets soo much. i am afraid if i went off diet dr. pepper i would eat even more sweets than i already do. it definitely helps curb my sweet tooth... a little bit :) loved this post!

Kristin said...

Love Love this topic!!! (coming from the girl that is pretty addicted)

I love your approach because you are right. What is good or right for one is not good or right for all.

I personally go with you on this one, a treat or a diet coke... give me the diet coke.

Benita said...

This subject is so fascinating to me. You really do look at things objectively which is great to see from several angles. I am with you... moderation in all things. I just drank a diet mt dew while reading this post. It saved me from eating the Twix that keeps staring at me from the snack table.

Rochelle said...

Such a wonderful topic. I love your post. I do drink Diet soda...I quit drinking regular soda (for the most part) in July and it feels so much better. Everytime I try to give up diet - I do just what you did - I snack a lot more often. So I figure while I am doing weightloss and getting in shape -I'll continue the soda habit..but ultimately it will be ideal to not drink any soda at all. Baby steps...LOL

Anonymous said...

wow. this is such an excellent post. very informed and non-biased.

i agree with you (and i guess jillian) that the body isn't meant to handle processed foods. that said, i do enjoy diet drinks and consider the fact that i've gone from 6+ a day to ~1-2 a day (or every other day as the case is currently mostly due to cost haha!) a good thing.

+1 on diet dr. pepper. i used to be hardcore diet coke with lime but after visiting texas i'm almost 100% converted to the doc

OneLoveSarah said...

great post! I'm glad you did a lot of research. My last year of school was spent researching a lot of topics like this. There is no right or wrong answer. Its frustrating since you want someone to tell you whether what you are eating/drinking is good or bad. In the end I always end up coming back to moderation...and h2o is awesome!

Korin Lopez said...

I am so happy to read this! I love diet dr pepper too! This post totally alleviates my guilt! Moderation is the key!

Unprofessional said...

I Looooooove Diet Dr Pepper. And diet root beer! I love the way it fizzles with something salty....For me, it's an occasional treat-maybe 1 or 2 a week.

Allie said...

It's no secret I love me some pepsi max. However, I've definitely been trying to keep it to 2-3x a week- I don't think it will kill me by any means, but you're right that it's not natural and I always feel somewhat guilty when drinking any kind of soda!

Stefanie D. said...

You already know this...But I love some Diet Dr. Pepper! Thank you for posting this. I have acutally been thinking a lot about soda, and how it can or can't effect you. This is really good information. THANKS!

Jaeme + Randy said...

Thanks for the info and for your personal experience. I stopped drinking Dr. Pepper in high school because I got my teeth whitened and I didn't want to stain them...haha funny but true. I didn't drink any soda for years. Like I'm talking until last year and we both know how long that is :). Now that I work full time and long shifts at the hospital (12 hours) I drink Diet Coke when my 4pm munchies kick in and I get tired. I really try to limit soda to just one can and only on my 3 days a week at work. My mom is a D.C. lover though so at her house I often share a can with her :). I just don't like to drink it very much. I don't know why but I just don't feel healthy when I'm sucking down soda. Even when it is diet!

Rene said...

I am truly addicted to diet DP (ok, the caffiene but diet DP is my delivery mechanism of choice). I usually have two 16 oz bottles a day plus a Rt 44 from Sonic. It's a catch 22 for me: I drink it to satisfy my sweet cravings but my cravings never go away. I've kicked the soda habit several times over the years, only to go back. I need a substitue beverage that has flavor so I can get off of soda once and for all.

Cynthia said...

Great post!
I used to drink regular soda pretty much 5 days a week. Horrible! I stopped for a while but always craved it. Then I switched to diet. I sometimes used it as a meal replacement while at the work place cause I didn't have time to take a lunch or whatever. Worst thing I could ever do. I started to drink it only on the weekends (only time we ever go out to eat usually). When I started my marathon training I stopped drinking it a few weeks before my marathon. I craved it at first and had a sip of my sons soda every now and then but I felt SOOO much better. I actually lost a few pounds. And I didn't feel as bloated all the time. I don't crave ti anymore and now when I try to drink it my stomach starts to hurt. Though Diet Dr Pepper was my fav! And I do like the idea of having that instead of a candy bar. I have a realllyyyyy bad sweet tooth and no will power, it's sad. But I'm afraid if I kept it in the house I would want to start drinking it everyday again.

kay.tee. said...

I gave it up this year, but it wasn't really an effort. I've had a couple of sips, but haven't really missed it. I was drinking one at work almost every day, so I feel good about it.

Ps, heading to the Pizza Factory tonight per your recommendation. My sister said she'd share a bite of her breadstick!

Jody, RD said...

I completely agree with you on ALMOST all your points. The research on diet soda is definitely all over the place. It is definitely better to drink water and I also believe it can have individual benefits or detriments, depending on the person.

The ONE thing that I disagree with you on is siting Jillian Michaels as a source. I know that she can be inspirational and I actually really like her DVDs but she has NO credibility when it comes to medical interpretation of hormones. She so often plays the role of doctor, psychologist, dietitian, etc and she's none of those. In fact, her credentials as a personal trainer have been questioned. Just my two cents ;)

ShortSkirts said...

So I agree with you, I drink one or two diet sodas a day (they are provided free at work) but the rest of the day i drink water and green tea. Infact I go through 32-64 oz of water a day so i'm staying hydrated.

I feel like it satisfies my sweets craving, not propelling it like some studies suggest. But i do agree with moderation. I think drinking a 12 pack of diet soda a day is probably not the best idea.
But I'm not going to guilt trip myself over 1 or 2 when I eat pretty healthy the rest of the time

Shannon said...

I do, occasionally, drink diet sodas. I have to say, I love rum (or malibu) can coke. However, I don't drink it very often at all. If I want a rum and coke I'll drink it, if I feel I need caffeine and just don't feel like drinking coffee I'll drink it, and sometimes it just sounds good. But I mostly drink water... and coffee.

However, I do use a lot of Splenda. It's pretty shameful how much I use. Mostly in oatmeal, and I'll also use it to sweeten greek yogurt.

Mara... said...

I never drank soda growing up, my parents never bought it or drank it, so the kids didn't either. When I went to college, I would binge drink 44 oz mountain dew big gulps. It was insane. Then I went off it for about 10 years. Now i'm back to having a diet soda every once in a while. I have a super bad sweet tooth and figured a diet coke was way better than having a candy bar. But now i'm trying to cut it out again. I've been reading alot about clean eating and trying to clean it up. It's NOT easy.

Sorry for the novel comment!!!!

Nichole said...

I love all the comments and I love that everyone loves Diet DP. It is so refreshing sometimes and I feel so much less guilty indulging in that over a bunch of caloric junk! I loved this post!

ashley & sundance said...

this is SO interesting. I love Diet Coke and Diet DP and they totally are my "treats" when I'm craving sweets. I drink a TON of crystal light too. So if aspartame is really as bad as some of the research says, I'm screwed. lol.

p.s. you are freakin' gorgeous. I felt like a troll in my grody work scrubs. lol. so glad we got to chat and get to know each other!

Julia said...

Thanks for sharing all of this information...I enjoyed reading it! It has always been hard for me to get into diet coke...I just dont like it as much and would rather have the sugar in regular coke. So this fall I just gave it up all together and I think that I lost weight and felt healthier. Now I just "treat" myself to a regular coke every once in a while and it seems to be enough for now.

I LOVED meeting you today! You are amazingly fabulous and I hope we can meet up again soon :)

Edible Art said...

ive got an award for you, i hope you can drop by my blog and pick it up & see the little message i wrote for you as well~~ (:

Clare @ said...

I read this post in the morning and thought about it constantly through the day. I'm not a huge lover of diet soda however I will have it if I'm out and use it as an alternative to drinking.

Really interesting that you gained weight, I can completely understand that though! I am a grazer as well. I can't imagine using it as a meal replacement though! I too, get hungrier after drinking.

Thanks for the post =)

Lauren said...

This is a great review! Diet soda can definitely count as a treat, but it should be treated with moderation even if it's calorie free. I don't drink regular or diet soda because I've just never liked it. I was a weird child, I just decided I didn't like soda or red meat when I was 11 or 12ish, and that was that. Sometimes, I'll have a soda with a mixed drink, but I don't think a few a year is going to kill me, especially since the rest of my diet is pretty clean.

Jenn said...

This is an excellent post! Very informative-GOOD stuff:)

I hardly ever drink diet soda. I'm also not a preacher to those who do (except maybe in excess-ha) I used to drink it ALL the time. I really stay away from most artificial sweeteners and also sugar for many of the reasons you've listed, but it took me awhile to kick it. I think, in moderation and especially with weight loss, diet soda could perhaps be a useful tool for some-like you said viewing it as a "treat".

Your advice is really solid, well researched. You put a lot of time into these posts and I thoroughly enjoy reading them:) Thankyou

Anonymous said...

i say no to diet soda- i used to be A HUGE drinker-- but i got such bad headaches all the time-i feel so much better without it! but of course in moderation i dont see why not for a treat!

Mara... said...

Hi Megan! I just wanted to let you know I tried your banana pancake recipe (with some added mix-ins) this morning and they were awesome!! Thanks for the great recipe!!

Anonymous said...

I quit regular sides about 5 years ago. I quit diet about 6 months ago, mostly because it wasn't doing my tummy problems any favors.

I have a coworker who drinks at least 6 coke zeros per work day.

Candi said...

I have complety quit all soda before for a year at a time, and I would have to say that im much more healthier now than I was then, and I usually drink about one a day. It dont kill me to go with out and sometimes I forget to get my daily diet coke. I use it as a treat it helps me get through my afternoon "snacky" time with out plowing through 500 or more calories. I do love though when smokers tell me that my diet coke is going to kill me !!! ha ha seriously makes my day !!! In the words of an old coworker Ive done worse than dietcoke. !!! Great post I really enjoyed it.

hellomily said...

great post! I feel like I am pretty healthy eater-- except for my diet soda consumption (diet dr. pepper is my drink of choice). While I do want to cut it out of my diet eventually, I just don't feel ready to tackle the challenge yet.

Stephanie said...

This is a great subject! I am not for it or against diet soda consumption. I personally do not drink it EVER. I prefer to eat clean. But I know that some people may need it to control their sugar and dessert intake.

As far as sugar substitutes go, I have consumed a good amount of it in the past when I was pretty much addicted to chewing gum. It has less sugar alcohols than the soda, but I found the amount that I consumed did have negative effects on me. It seemed as though my appetite and intuitive feelings of hunger were out of whack. Also, sugar substitutes leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, where in order to get rid of it I either had to chew MORE gum, or eat some more- its a vicious cycle.

Now I don't consume any sugar substitutes and I'm working on eating clean and eating intuitively. I'm hoping the process does not lead to weight gain as well.

Dmarie said...

I am not tempted by sodas...they seem absolutely too sweet to me (unless I'm stopped up or sick). I could probably eat an entire cake, so it's strange that I think a soda is too sweet!

Jenna said...

Awesome post Megs!

Have you ever thought about substituting herbal tea for your pop?

I'm drinking some rose tea from Poland right now and I *love* it. It doesn't have the bite that fruit teas have, but it has a little bit of sweetness. I drink three times as much water when I keep it on hand too (which I know because my pee goes from electric yellow to almost clear!)

Maybe you'd like it, and then you can cut out the chemicals altogether?

I don't know if you're drinking caffeinated stuff, but I do urge everyone to also think about what the Word of Wisdom is trying to tell us about introducing addictive things into our body and what it does to us.

Thanks for being an inspiration to me!

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