In the last year I’ve lost I’ve lost 32 lbs. It’s not the most I’ve ever lost nor the fastest I’ve lost it, but it is the easiest weight loss I’ve ever experienced.

About a year ago I started applying Lean Startup experimentation techniques to my health. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I had been teaching churches and students how to do it so much that it was seeping into my daily life. The crux of Lean Startup is coming up with efficient tests to quickly validate a hypothesis. It is what internet startups use to manage risk in the unpredictable world of tech.

At first, I was messing with my medications (under doctor supervision). Then I started experimenting with my sleep. Finally, I started tweaking my diet. After all of this experimentation I had learned a lot but not seen any real improvement in my health. The monster in the closet with my nutrition was always diet pop, mainly Diet Coke. There were days when I would drink 100 ounces of the stuff! That’s 8 cans, or three big gulps.

This tweet from our president was crass, but it rang true to me. I didn’t really know any healthy people that drank “Diet” pop, and had seen a lot of evidence to the contrary, starting with myself.

Three times for Lent I had tried to give up diet pop unsuccessfully. If God couldn’t convince me, then who could?

In the midst of my Lean Startup experimentation, I decided to try a smaller test. I went down to one Diet Pop a day of any size. I almost always drank it during lunch. Surprisingly, it stuck. I credit this partially to my Clinical Pastoral Education training which taught me to be more self-aware. Thus, I was making less impulsive decisions.

After about six months of drinking just one Diet Coke a day, while doing other experimentation, a truth became aware to me. I would drink one with lunch and then after lunch, I got immediately tired. Even if I ate healthy food for lunch and had a good night’s sleep, I would be suddenly tired. The only variable left was the pop. Wait a second, despite all the caffeine in this stuff, my high is gone in 20 minutes? My high? Right after these slumps was when I craved another Diet Coke the most. It was an addiction. 

The second I named my addiction was the second I was able to drop Diet Pop for good. The was six months ago. Not only did I give up Diet Pop, I gave up all artificial sweeteners. Concluding that the sweeteners were the ingredient I was addicted to.

A week after giving up the sweeteners, I decided to start a diet. To my surprise, in the six months that I had just been drinking one pop a day, I had lost six pounds without even trying!  Six months later and I’ve lost 32 total pounds. It was the easiest weight I ever lost. I hardly ever feel hungry after giving up the sweeteners, which were powering my cravings.

“Diet” pop, my ass.

But the benefits didn’t stop there. I continued my experiments with more success:

My sleep improved. I had been flushing my sinuses and had installed a serious air filter in my room, but it wasn’t until I gave up Diet Pop that I saw the benefits from these other changes. Now I don’t even flush unless I actually have congestion.

I was able to decrease my medications. I dropped one completely and halved the dose of another. It’s now the only one I’m on. I never thought I would need such little medication to manage my health.

My focus and drive have increased. I used to have few hours each day where I was completely ineffective. Usually after lunch. Sometimes, I wouldn’t rebound at all. Now I’m down an hour at most, most days.

I get sick less often. Which is saying a lot considering that I have a four-year-old in daycare and preschool.

My relationships have improved. I’m not kidding. I’ve been able to focus more on the people around me then my next food/pop fix.

I’m a more thoughtful eater. We belong to a co-op now and I cook fresh farm-to-table food with lots of veggies. With pop, I did a lot of impulse eating.

My experimentation isn’t done. In the beginning I said I had lost more weight, more quickly in previous diets. This is true when I was younger and had different motivations, but after I reached my goal it never lasted. This time is different. I decided to lose 12 more pounds and I feel zero fatigue from six months of dieting. Also, you should know there is nothing complicated about my diet. I use an app called Lose It to track my daily calories and I just eat less. It adjusts my limit based on my goal and my current weight. Currently, I aim to lose one to one-and-a-half pounds a week, which means I get just over 1700 calories a day, and I rarely feel hungry. I eat whatever I want, just smaller portions. I haven’t increased my exercise, either.

So I don’t know if dropping Diet Coke and artificial sweeteners will have the same effect on everybody, but if you consume a lot of the stuff, I hope you’ll at least experiment with dropping them. In my experience, they are poison.  

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