A recent health post at the Los Angeles Times looked at brand new research about the causal role that diet pop may have in obesity. It’s very interesting stuff, because it reminds me of another phenomenon: How exercise can lead to weight gain.
There has been much ballyhoo (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written that word) about the diet pop-weight gain “phenomenon,” and I think they’ve finally hit the nail on the head about what the real connection is.
It’s what you think about.
See, I’ll admit that I drink the stuff. I’m not proud of it — I try my best to eat and drink a healthy diet, and my semi-regular Diet Cokes don’t really factor into this (although I’m not one of those people who believes that aspartame is toxic). From an anecdotal perspective, it hasn’t affected my very healthy weight one bit.
This is because I understand calories.
As the LA Times article points out, diet pop consumption can create a mentality of “because I did this, I get to do this.” Or, because I drank diet pop instead of sugared pop, I get to eat potato chips.
People do this. It happens. The majority of people just don’t understand calories, and it’s causing them weight gain. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff wrote about this same phenomenon taking place with exercise. Essentially, people can do something like burn off 300 calories on a treadmill, and then think this has earned them a 500 calorie piece of cheesecake. That’s just bad math.
Still, when I drink Diet Coke I do it mindfully, not thinking that it gives me carte blanche to pig out on something else. I drink it every once in a while because I like the taste (yes, I know I’m weird), but it doesn’t factor into my caloric budget for the day. It doesn’t give me the right to eat extra food because I drank something with no calories. By that mentality, drinking water should give you the right to eat more.
What I’m saying is, it seems that drinking some diet pop isn’t going to cause weight gain as long as you don’t go thinking it gives you the right to eat more later.