Having to purchase a pair of 40-inch-waist jeans was one of the most disheartening developments of my life. It came at a culmination of a long downward spiral in my health which coincided with thyroid cancer, so it wasn’t so much that I was fat but a representation of everything that was wrong with my health which, in spite of my best efforts of dieting and exercise, seemed to only ever get worse.
Eventually I would get well, and though that’s a different story, I learned from that journey the real truth about fat — that it is our friend which protects us against death during challenges to our metabolic health. During times when our body cannot maintain a robust metabolic rate, fat protects our bodies from heat loss. People who are unable to store extra body fat during metabolic crises are more likely to die suddenly. So be grateful for that spare tire around your waist — it has probably saved your life.
But the same factors which stimulate weight gain are also liabilities to the long-term health of our cardiovascular system, the renal system, and even the function of our mind, and left unaddressed will eventually cause worse problems for our health than a few extra pounds.
The mechanism of fat storage on the body is not actually caused by fat (nor calories ingested) but instead by water. Water is the basic physical medium by which all processes in the body are executed. It regulates the conductivity of cells and whether they run fast or cold or whether they divide or grow. Water itself is regulated in the body by hormones and minerals through a complex ballet of synchronicity. Inflammation is an example of water function in the body which has complicated origins and functions. Sometimes inflammation is healthy and necessary, such as after working out when the resultant strain on muscle tissues stimulate inflammation which in turn stimulates muscle growth. Interestingly, taking ibuprofen or Tylenol after workouts will halt muscle gains because they are overly powerful inhibitors of inflammation, indiscriminately including those from which we benefit. There are many origins of inflammation which will stimulate extra fat deposition. One of the largest of these occurs when our gut microbiome goes out of whack and unhelpful species of microbes generate excessive metabolic waste called endotoxin, which enters the blood stream, and endotoxin and other bacterial metabolic products such as ammonia are powerful stimulants for inflammation, water retention, and weight gain.
Diet sodas are the complex result of centuries of misunderstanding about the nature of fat retention and its role in health. Because ignorant and asinine social pressures about appearance and weight status are often vicious and destructive, most people are understandably upset when they begin to see their body’s metabolic health decline, and because so many people are able to use methods of inducing stress to lose weight, such as dieting or exercise, it has long been believed that calorie expenditure is a process that can be leveraged to support weight loss. As any of the millions of overweight people can attest, this is not really the case, and weight gain is, it turns out, a natural biological process that is far more powerful than our mental faculties and willpower. We can, however, understand the physical process which underlie our physiology — and the reason that diet soda not only does nothing to help shed fat but actively promotes it has everything to do with the nature of water and the electrolytes which help our body manage it.
Whenever a person drinks caffeine it always increase the metabolic rate. In a healthy person this is not a problem, and caffeine can often be used therapeutically to increase the metabolic rate, which is one of the reasons why caffeine is one of the most widely used drugs, precisely because of this therapeutic value. But again, caffeine will always increase the metabolic rate, so that can also be a liability, especially for those who wake up in the morning and have a coffee (or soda) without any carbohydrates or protein in their system. When caffeine stimulates the metabolic rate it will even do so in those who haven’t eaten — and when that happens your body has not forfeited its caloric requirement for living, so it will release powerful stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to turn your fat and muscle tissue into useable nutrients, without which we would instantly die. This is the process which people who diet and exercise don’t understand — when you don’t have sufficient nutrients the body still requires them in order to survive, so when there is insufficient food the body will then eat itself, because it doesn’t fucking run on air, and the cycles of weight gain and strenuous effort never cease as the body continually struggles to overcome the very metabolic stresses you put it through.
Because these hormones are those of the “flight or fight” reflex they also prep the body for “flight or fight” by stimulating spontaneous weight loss through increased bowel movements and water loss in the form of urine. To many people this diuretic effect of caffeine is evidence that it is doing them good — by shedding excess water weight — but this is extremely detrimental to the body and exactly why long-term health nor weight loss never improves in those using caffeine incorrectly. The kind of water loss which occurs here is not coming from your tissue or your “water retention,” but from the bloodstream. When stress hormones rise water leaves the bloodstream into surrounding tissues in order to supply them with water for the needed exertion (as well as for sweat). But these stress hormones also stimulate the renal system to dump water, and it does this by also losing the electrolytes which help to keep water in the body, such as sodium and potassium, if there are not enough calories or other hormones which oppose the loss. An average person can have as much as nine pounds of water just in their blood stream, so the body can easily shed significant amounts of weight simply by dumping water during periods when it thinks its very survival depends on how fast it can run away. Because they can stimulate severe loss of electrolytes due to caffeine and lack of calories, diet sodas can destroy a person’s ability to manage water, and because diet sodas fool the body into believing that calories are coming when they are not, the body continues craving those calories and so a person will drink copious amounts of diet soda and thus huge amounts of water volume which the body can now no longer manage due to insufficient electrolytes, and so this water soaks up into tissues like a sponge while still promoting deficient blood volume, and the water influx rushing into surrounding tissues then stimulates fat synthesis and promotes fat retention.
It is impossible for anyone struggling with weight issues to lose weight while manually flushing their electrolytes through the use of products like diet soda, but it’s not just your weight which is a casualty, as the cardiovascular system becomes compromised by low blood volume it eventually results in conditions like angina, stroke, and heart attack as the body struggles to maintain adequate blood pressure. But don’t worry—these problems are easily remedied. If you are someone who has been consuming diet soda and struggles with these issues, you must immediately stop drinking these kinds of beverages and instead choose ones which contain calories in order to prevent your body from losing necessary electrolytes (and preferably better ingredients), as well as replenishing minerals through healthy dietary practices and not other artificial products. You only crave and enjoy these products because of a general lack of calories and nutrients, and once you start eating properly and take care of your blood sugar with foods and beverages you enjoy with equal satisfaction your cravings for diet soda will vanish without effort. If you are already in this state, especially if you have health problems like angina or other cardiovascular issues, it is best to take a break from using caffeine and focus instead on the replenishment of your electrolytes with a healthy, delicious, calorie-abundant diet as calories help our body retain minerals and repair the metabolic processes which contribute to our poor health in the first place. Drinking caffeine can be therapeutic if your body is able to handle it — but should always be accompanied with or preceded by sufficient consumption of both carbohydrate and protein. If you don’t, your body will catabolize your own, which will prevent gains in health, muscle mass, or any other measure of metabolic wellness which you so desire. At the least, just stop drinking diet soda. It tastes like crap anyway.
For more reading on how to lose weight easily and naturally, which is dependent on exposure to sunlight and our levels of natural vitamin D, and improve your metabolic health through easy and accessible therapies including the regrowth of lost hair, erectile dysfunction, or resolution of thyroid disease and cancer you can get a copy of my book, Fuck Portion Control.