Beauties, have you been reaching for diet sodas to lose weight and cut back on sugar? Newsflash! These drinks can actually pack on the pounds, and can even cause a sugar addiction. We spoke with Washington, D.C.-based nutritionist JJ Smith, author of Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out, to get the scoop on why these popular beverages are a Beauty’s worst nightmare.
A big problem with diet drinks is the assumption that they contribute to weight loss. Consumers also think that because of the "low sugar" or "low fat" label, they can drink as many as they want. While sugar-free drinks may not have sugar listed on the packaging, sugar is still the main ingredient in them—even when the bottle says “sugar-free!” "Diet drinks are packed full of preservatives and artificial sweeteners—which are essentially sugar—labelled under different names that most people don't know or understand," warns JJ. The misconception that there is no sugar is what causes people to overindulge, and too much of this sweet substance triggers an unhealthy response in the brain.
"When the brain craves sugar and doesn't receive it, it will continue to crave it," explains JJ. "So while these diet drinks do contain sugar—in the forms of preservatives and artificial sweeteners—it's not the type of natural sugar that will end your body's craving." This results in your body begging for more sweetness, causing you to consume more. Before you know it, you become addicted to these bad-for-you beverages.
Many diet drinks also contain caffeine, which is another addictive substance. "The combination of chemical sugars and caffeine causes a vicious cycle," explains JJ. "By consuming so much sugar, your body experiences a high, then drops into a severe low when you don't feed it enough sweetness. When you're in that low, all you can think about is getting more sugar so that you feel good again."
Another ingredient that has harmful effects is the artificial sweetener aspartame. "Studies have proven that aspartame raises your insulin levels, which causes fat storage," says JJ. So not only is your body craving more sugar, which makes you drink more diet soda, it doesn't burn the consumed sugar into energy. Preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and chemical ingredients (such as aspartame) are extremely hard for the body to process, so they build up in your system, turning into fat. This fat is also extremely hard to work off. Over-consumption of sugar wreaks havoc on your hormones, making it easier to put on weight in stubborn places, such as your thighs and hips. "The only way to remove this fat is by changing your entire diet and lifestyle," says JJ. "You need to correct your hormones before you can expect any real weight loss."
So, Beauties, it’s time to put down the diet soda can! While it may be hard to resist your body’s cravings at first, it’s an important step in changing your lifestyle (and your health!).