Is Diet Soda The Villain, Scapegoat, or Neither?

What comes to mind when you hear "diet soda"?
 
Artificial.  Not as good as the real stuff.  Obesity.  Weight loss?
 
Negative connotations have been drilled into our heads about diet soda for years.  Some people might input C6 on the vending machine for a Diet Coke to avoid the high-fructose corn syrup or sugar in a regular can of Coke, but sometimes, you can't help but feel guilty because it is the forbidden diet soda after all (but it's not like the Beygency is coming for you, so relax).  
 
But now a new study published in the journal Obesity is causing some confusion.  In this new study, Dr. James O. Hill found that between his two groups, one going cold-turkey on diet soda and drinking water and the other drinking diet soda, the diet soda group lost on average 4 more pounds after 12 weeks compared to the water drinking group.  Does this mean the "diet" in diet soda is actually true, and Taylor Swift (Diet Coke's celebrity face) is actually ahead of the curve since she apparently loves Diet Coke?
 
 
Not necessarily.  The study was only 12 weeks after all, and they did not track calorie consumption but instead had weight loss coaching.  Hill says that artificial sweeteners do not contribute to weight loss, but maintains that people who favor the non-caloric sweeteners (like aspartame, sucralose, and stevia) have shed pounds more successfully in his clinical experience.  It should be mentioned that the funding for this study came from the American Beverage Association - think Coca Cola and Pepsi.  I'm not proposing any conspiracy theories here, but as with many things in life, take these findings with a grain of salt.
 
Perhaps his study served to prove that willpower has more to do with weight loss because while one group only had to cut calories and exercise, the other had to cut calories, exercise, AND give up diet soda.  If it was me, I would have been tempted to irrationally reason that because I cut out the soda, I could sneak a sweet here or there.  However, I could easily also spin the tale that because I'm drinking diet soda with no calories, I can afford to indulge in ice cream. 
 
 
Basically, no one is going to come after you if you have a Diet Dr. Pepper with your lunch.  Just be smart about your lifestyle choices, because at the end of the day, a healthy lifestyle is what actually leads to a healthy life.  (Mine just happens to include the casual slice of cake, but that's our secret).
 
Tell us, collegiettes, do you have a "diet soda" in your life you've learned to balance? Have you given up (or tried to give up) diet soda because of studies on them in the past? Sound off below!