Two months ago, I quit sugary cola cold turkey and switched to diet drinks. That saves me hundreds of calories per day, so I thought the pounds would fall off. But I haven’t lost an ounce—instead, I’ve gained five pounds! Why is this happening?

Although reducing sugar intake does help shed pounds, diet drinks often contain artificial sweeteners that can cause weight gain despite being calorie-free. In fact, one study discovered a 41 percent increase in the risk of being overweight for every 12 ounces of diet soda consumed each day. While researchers don’t yet know why, it seems the body responds to all sweeteners (artificial or not) with a surge of insulin, a hormone that triggers cravings for more sweets and leads to overeating. To avoid the trap, skip diet drinks and opt instead for flavored sparkling mineral water. Then, offset insulin surges brought on by sweets you consume by adding blood sugar—balancing spices, like cinnamon, anise and fennel, to meals or beverages.

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