Artificial Sweeteners & Weight Loss

Trying to lose weight?  You may be damaging your efforts with sugar-free products and diet soda.  Evidence shows that the use of no-calorie sweeteners may actually make it harder for people to control their food intake and inevitably sabotage your weight loss goals.

Research done by Davidson and Swithers, members of the Ingestive Behavior Research department at Purdue University, shows that the use of saccharin actually changes the body's ability to regulate food intake. Very early in life, we learn that sweet flavors signal high calories. "The body's natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight may be weakened when this natural relationship is impaired by artificial sweeteners," said Davidson, who is an expert in behavioral neuroscience.

When we prepare to eat under normal circumstances, our metabolic rate begins to speed up. According to the experiments conducted by Davidson and Swithers, rats that had been consuming saccharin (a no-calorie sweetener) showed a smaller rise in their core body temperature after eating a sweet-tasting, high calorie meal relative to rats consuming glucose (the simplest form of regular sugar). The researchers attribute that the slower metabolic response led to overeating and made it harder for the saccharin rats to burn off excess calories. The conclusion of their research indicated that consuming food sweetened with a no-calorie sugar substitute can lead to greater body-weight gain and the increased production of fat tissue than simply consuming food sweetened with regular sugar. (Journal article: "A Role for Sweet Taste: Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats," Susan E. Swithers, Ph.D. and Terry L. Davidson, Ph.D.; Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1.)

Yikes! Although this research was done on rats and not on humans it’s hard to deny that their evidence matches emerging reports that show people who consume diet drinks are at a higher risk for obesity and a collection of other medical problems such as increased abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance which contributes to the onset of diabetes.

The bottom line is this. If you are trying to lose weight, you should be trying to trade your bad eating habits for good ones. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, water should be your #1 source for liquid. This is can seem a bit unrealistic if you are used to consuming everything "but" when you grab a drink, so instead of swapping your regular soda for diet, just start by cutting back. Instead of having a soda every day, try knocking it back to 3 cans per week and keep a large bottle of water with you at all times to keep you quenched.

I always advocate starting with easy wins when trying to make changes, no matter what your goal may be. You are less likely to give up when you can achieve results quickly. Just remember to give yourself time, and for goodness sake…stay away from the diet soda!

Exercise: Myth vs. Fact

When it comes to talking about healthy living, the topic of exercise always comes up.  If you’re doing it, it’s all you want to talk about.  If you’re not, it never comes up in conversation.  The bottom line is this, as human beings we need to keep moving.  Our bodies were designed to work and without some kind of regular physical exertion we don’t function properly, much like a car that just sits in a garage.  The trouble with exercise is that there are a lot of myths about how often you need to break a sweat and how strenuous your workouts need to be.  Today I’d like to clear up some of the common misconceptions and let you know that incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle is not as daunting as it may seem.

Myth #1: It’s hard to exercise when you are trying to lose weight because exercising increases your appetite.
The opposite is actually true.  Studies have shown that regular exercise actually works to reduce your appetite and can help to keep you more focused on a healthy eating plan.  It is easier to stick with a healthy eating plan when you combine it with even moderate exercise.  And although you can still be successful losing fat without a rigorous fitness routine, regular exercise will excelerate your progress.  

Myth #2: To effectively lose weight you need to engage in a vigorous exercise routine.   
The fact is that any form of exercise, whether vigorous or not, will support your weight loss goals.  Walking is the single most effective form of exercise you can participate in.  The reason the health club won’t tell you this is because it could put them out of business.  Why do you think Europeans and New Yorkers are so slim?  They walk everywhere.  Instead of succumbing to the couch every night after dinner, download a new playlist to your ipod and take a walk around the neighborhood. Do this 5 days a week and you’ll notice an improvement in how you feel, both physically and mentally.

Myth #3: You can eat as much as you want as long as you exercise on a regular basis.
WRONG!  If you are eating healthy and exercising regularly you will require more nutrition than someone who sits on their butt all day.  But, no amount of exercise is going to protect you from a pot belly if you’re drinking beer and eating a bag of Cheetos every night before bed.  If the energy you consume outweighs the energy you expend you can’t realistically expect to lose weight…that’s just basic math. 

The benefits of regular exercise go beyond helping you to lose extra pounds and look better.  The trick is to find something that you enjoy doing and just stick with it!