QUESTION: Could drinking diet soda be keeping me from losing weight? I drink two to three cans a day. — Cheryl
DEAR CHERYL: Are you sure it’s not regular soda you’re drinking, Cheryl? I mean, it is possible to mistake regular for diet—I did it myself. A few months ago, I tried some newfangled natural soda thinking it was sugar free, only to find out (after sipping it liberally for a couple weeks) that it was loaded with calories. Burst my bubble, let me tell you. Non-diet sodas (even natural ones) run from 130 to 155 calories for a 12-ounce can, and when you get into Big Gulp sizes, you’re talking over 450 calories. That’s one reason why health experts are pushing parents to limit soda-drinking as a strategy to combat the growing obesity rate in kids.
But let’s assume you are drinking diet soda. Could it be sabotaging your efforts to drop the pounds? Hmmm. Some research suggests that using artificial sweeteners (like those in diet soda) may stimulate your appetite for sweets in general. While you might think you would know whether sugary treats are adding a bigger proportion of calories to your intake than they should, study after study shows that we often underestimate our caloric intake. To tell if you’re overdoing it on sweets—and other things–I would start by keeping a food journal for a week, noting everything (and I mean every bite) you put in your mouth. If you find that sweets are pushing up your daily calorie count, you may want to try weaning yourself off sodas to see if your sugar cravings are affected. You also want to look at what you’re eating while you drink those diet sodas. For instance, I love to snack on salty stuff when I’m drinking soda—it’s one of my triggers. So I portion out a single serving of pretzels or whatever into a small bowl instead of eating them straight from the bag, so I know when to stop. If you’re honest with it—and I mean brutally honest—a food journal can help reveal where extra calories are coming from, so you know what to cut back on.