Q: I use diet soda to cut down on daily calorie intake. Good or bad idea?
A: Bad idea. Most people who drink diet soda are drinking it as a replacement for water and water is always the best hydrator. Water can actually help boost metabolism. There’s some evidence that suggests that diet drinks can even have a negative effect on weight loss. A recent study found that study animals who ate yogurt sweetened with saccharine versus those who ate it sweetened with sugar experienced weight gain. How’s that for depressing? They’re not certain why this would happen. It could be some metabolic change stimulated by the artificial sweetener or it could be a behavioral change (I’m eating low-cal yogurt so I can have the cupcake.) Some researchers speculate that the artificial sweetener actually triggers your insulin levels and if your insulin levels are triggered you will crave and therefore eat more carbohydrates and more calories overall. In my experience, clients who drink diet soda aren’t drinking water. Despite the fact that some research indicates that water is not important for weight loss, I have seen over and over again clients who are perfect eaters/exercisers but drink no water and can’t seem to lose an ounce. When I insist they up their water intake they lose weight. There is no better research then 10 years of experience! If you are a diet soda addict, try to reduce your intake if you can’t cut it out entirely and make it your goal to get in 6-8 cups of water before drinking your diet soda (this trick always works because there is only so much fluid you can fit into your body : ) . Also try to get in 1 liter by lunch…busy people always wait until the end of the day and there is no way to cram it all in after 6 without having your sleep suffer from the constant bathroom trips. I give a host of tips on water in The Wall Street Diet including recommended daily amounts and how water intake affects weight loss. (You can find a hot tip on the dangers of “diet” mixers on page 134 of The Wall Street Diet.) Bottom line…less diet soda and more water is the way to go to reach your goal.
Q: I really, truly can't exercise. Is my diet doomed?
A: I’m so glad to have a chance to answer this question. If I had a dime for everyone who tells me that they can’t diet because they can’t exercise! My response: Don’t! Exercise, that is. If no time to exercise is keeping you from dieting then you should cross exercise off your to-do list for now. It does take time to exercise; it doesn’t take time to eat well. In my experience roughly 80 percent of weight loss is the result of food intake not calories spent in exercise. I myself am an avid exerciser and depend on it to reduce stress as well as for heart and whole body health. But for busy people, adding exercise can become a stress in itself and a barrier to weight loss because it’s an excuse not to eat well. If you’re already exercising, great; continue. But if you can’t find time to exercise now, don’t worry. Focus on eating well - rely on the Wall Street strategies for busy people - and you’ll ultimately reach your goal. For lots of details on how to think about exercise so you won’t be discouraged, as well as countless suggestions, see The Wall Street Diet. (Page 199 gives my famous “twenty minute rule”.)
Q: My spring calendar is filled with celebrations and parties. How do I control myself when I'm standing next to the mixed nuts and they're handing out wedding cake?
A: First, observe the arm’s length rule. Always stay an arm’s length of pickable, poppable, unstoppable food. You know what I’m talking about – cheese, nuts, hummus dip… It may sound simple but it’s a tip that’s saved my clients thousands of calories. Be strategic about where you sit and you’ll have less to sit on!
Second, have a plan. Think ahead about your food intake on celebration day. Don’t go anywhere hungry. Pack a protein bar if you’ve got a long stretch between meals. Make a decision in advance about what treats you’re going to enjoy. One piece of wedding cake is fine if you’ve decided in advance that it will be your treat for the day.
A few other tips include: keep a seltzer with lemon or lime in your hands at all times to keep your hands busy. Wear form-fitting clothes (it’s amazing what a snug waistband will do for your willpower!) Be the talker, not the eater. Focus on the celebration – the people, the event – not the food. For a full selection of very specific, very helpful tips on how to handle celebrations, including top cocktail party food picks (page 226), see The Wall Street Diet.
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