Think you aren't addicted? Think again. When French researchers hooked rats on cocaine and then gave the critters a choice between a cocaine fix or a nibble of saccharine (a popular diet drink sweetener), most went for the saccharine. And the drug of choice comes with its own set of side effects: In a 2011 study from the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, participants who averaged two diet sodas a day over about nine years experienced an increase in waist circumference five times greater than those who didn't drink diet sodas. Why? To your body, consuming artificial sweeteners is like hitting the accelerator with no gas. Your brain gets let down when the sweet stuff has zero energy to offer, and makes you crave -- and eat -- more food (especially sweets) throughout the day, says Grotto.
The Plan: "If you are going to give up diet soda, have something to turn to," Grotto advises. Find another drink you like, like seltzer or flavored water. Tea can also be a great option. It packs antioxidants to help keep your weight -- and health -- in check, while also offering up some of that caffeine you might be craving. And if you absolutely have to have soda every now and then, you might consider going calorie-filled route. If it satisfies you and you are able to lick your lips and walk away from the soda fountain, it might not be as bad as gulping down a six-pack of diet soda.
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