You’ve heard it before: If you want to lose weight, stop drinking soda. But what about diet soda? I used to love Diet Coke — no, I mean, REALLY love Diet Coke. I was known to consume 2 liters a day. But I’ve since learned that it was harming my ability to be a healthier person and feel good in my own body.
Simply feeling healthier was important to me, and the bloating that carbonation caused did not help me with that at all. Each time I drank a diet soda, even just one, I felt as if a balloon was trapped in my stomach. I was in denial for some time — refusing to admit that it was my beloved Diet Coke that made me feel this way — but I eventually had to face the facts. When I drank water or unsweetened tea, I felt lighter, my face didn’t feel or look as swollen, and my stomach felt much flatter.
But the major reason for giving up diet soda, for me, is it was affecting something many Americans — myself included — are working hard at: weight loss. According to a 2008 study by the University of Minnesota, people who consume diet soda have a 34 percent increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This is something my doctor diagnosed me with in January 2010. It basically means that, because of my increased weight around my mid-section, and being insulin-resistant, I have a greater risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes.
I was already taking steps to combat metabolic syndrome by eating healthy, exercising more, and dropping pounds. Little did I know the diet soda was a factor in it all.
According to a study at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, aspartame — an artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke — was shown to not only increase waist size in humans, but also glucose levels in laboratory mice. Studies have also shown that as the population increased its intake of artificial sweeteners, the rate of obesity was simultaneously on the rise.
One reason it may be so difficult to kick the diet soda habit is experts believe the brain may be "tricked" into thinking it is being fed sugar, and then it begins depending on that artificial sweetener, thus creating cravings and making you hungrier. This was definitely the case for me, as I always felt ravenous in the late afternoon, after having consumed at least two diet sodas by that time. Once I stopped drinking the diet sodas, it was much easier to control my appetite.
For me, the solution was simple: Stop drinking Diet Coke. Cold turkey. I won’t say it was easy; I certainly experienced my fair share of headaches. But I can say it’s been worth it. Since then, I have consistently lost at least half a pound each week as I continue my weight-loss efforts and strive to eat a healthy diet and exercise.
Giving up diet soda is difficult, but it is possible and the benefits are numerous. Can you say goodbye to the Diet Coke?
— Jennifer Dome, HellaWella
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