By Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC

I earned it. I deserve it. It’s my reward. One more rep, one more mile, one more minute and it’s mine. That scoop of ice cream, piece of pie, plate of cookies, bag of chips, or bottle of ice-cold soda is rightfully yours. Who’s to say you don’t deserve it?

At least that’s what the Coca-Cola company is trying to push at us these days. They would whole-heartedly agree that if you worked your tail off, be happy and don’t feel bad about grabbing a can of pop later on. In fact, Coco-Cola is a global corporate founding partner of EIM (Exercise is Medicine), which is committed to the belief that physical activity is essential for optimum health and integral in the prevention and treatment of diseases. Coca- Cola has even given a $1 million unrestricted grant to the EPODE International Network (an international nongovernmental organization, operating in 29 countries, with a global mission to reduce childhood obesity and its associated health risks) for a new project that will advance community-based initiatives in Europe, where one in three 11-year-olds is overweight or obese. Is this starting to sound absurd to you at all?! I mean, come on, people! Aren’t they just fighting against themselves?

Coca-Cola is quietly funding a group of scientists that emphasize the role of exercise, as opposed to diet, in fighting obesity. They are suggesting to the public, quite blatantly, that “mixing lazy days with something light (to eat), following sweaty workouts with whatever you’re craving—encouraging the idea that when you’re active, you can afford to eat or drink whatever you like.” Why you might ask are soda companies now so concerned about our health these days? Deep down part of me really wants to believe that it is truly about the health of our society, but it isn’t. Sales of carbonated beverages have hit a 20-year low. People are buying less soda because they know it’s not beneficial to their health. Therefore, companies like Coca-Cola are finding ways to make their products more appealing to those who might have given up their sugary drinks by supporting companies that help fight obesity (seems like a never ending battle to me!) and advertising one-sided research to show that exercise alone is enough to stay healthy. We know this to be false. You can’t just exercise, eat whatever you want, and expect to see results. Our body reacts differently to processed foods and high amounts of sugar. The idea of just working off the calories you eat doesn’t capture all the hormonal and metabolic chances that occur in the body when we eat different foods. Even if it was as simple as calories in, calories out, most of us couldn’t afford the extra calories and sugar a bottle of Coke has to offer anyway. You would have to run for about 50 minutes (or spend even longer for a less intense form of exercise) to burn off just one 250-calorie can of soda.

Be honest with yourself. You know 44 grams of sugar (plus all the other junk) in one 8-oz. can of Coke isn’t good for you… ever! Keep eating real, whole foods. Reward your body’s hard work with something that will continue to benefit you. Don’t throw away what you’ve already worked so hard to earn.

– Adapted from Time magazine, August 2015