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.
- 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?