Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Diet Coke

Hello, my name is Teal and I'm a Diet Coke-aholic.

It started in college. I wasn't allowed soda as a child, except on special occasions. While I think this is a great rule (and one I'd like to establish with my own kids someday), it backfired slightly in college, the same way American laws about drinking backfire. Europeans grow up enjoying a glass of wine at dinner, and then don't go completely off the wall when they get to college. Americans, on the other hand, have been strictly forbidden all their lives and can't control themselves when alcohol is ubiquitous. Many go overboard and end up abusing it. When I realized I could have soda whenever I wanted, moderation went out the window. I hadn't really ever been a fan of diet drinks, but my friend drank Diet Coke constantly and always offered me one so I quickly developed the taste for diet over regular. (Later, post-freshmen 15, it would become more logical to grab a Diet.) My friend was like my dealer, and I was hooked. I found out later the same friend (a very religious person) has a prayer word for people. When she sees a particular object that reminds her of a particular person, she says a prayer for that person. Mine was a can of Diet Coke. Every can reminded her of me. It's safe to say our roles reversed. 

Even after college I was so hooked I would carry cases home from the grocery store. I know that doesn't sound particularly stunning, but I'm a girl with no upper body strength who lives in a city with no car, and so I'd have to walk a few blocks lugging my case of soda. Sometimes I'd try to carry two cases at once, precariously stacking them on top of each other, only to curse myself and my habit a few blocks later. I'd have to sacrifice other grocery items (like actual food) just so I could carry it all. I drank a soda with lunch, a soda with dinner, maybe one for an afternoon snack. I was comforted by the fact that a friend of mine went through a case of 12 a day (!!) and so I wasn't that bad. Right?

At one point, I decided I needed to be drinking more water, if not for my health, but for my running. I seriously didn't like the taste of water (people say it has no taste, but if that's true, why do some people prefer Evian and some Fiji?) and so I would get my fluid from juice and tea in the morning and Diet Coke the rest of the day. I finally figured you can't be a great runner if you don't drink water. To encourage myself, I bought a huge water bottle and slapped a 26.2 sticker on the side to remind myself why I should be drinking it. Then I proceeded to carry it around with me wherever I went. 

The marathon bottle helped enormously. I started actually drinking water throughout the day and realized if I drank water with a meal, I didn't need a soda. (Genius, right?) But it took one more event to really crack my habit. At the end of my first year of grad school, while studying for our comprehensive exams, I drank liters and liters of diet soda. (I don't like coffee, so the only way to stay awake was tea or soda.) Weeks of nothing but stress, studying, and soda left me feeling seriously ill. After the exam I went cold turkey. I can't remember how long I lasted (more than a month) but it broke my habit. I can go weeks without a soda, when before I couldn't go a full day. I give in to one now and then, particularly when they are free (why is free food so hard to resist?), but I haven't lugged a 12 pack home since. And when I recently got a new water bottle, I stuck another 26.2 sticker on it to keep me on the road to recovery. 

Dream big and drink water, 
Recovering Diet Coke-aholic


  1. You are not alone. I bartend now and then for a caterer and often hand out more Diet Cokes than beers (these are often company parties so their boss is there). Then small clusters of people stand in front of the bar sharing their stories of how they have cut down the number of Diet Cokes they drink, or how much they wish they could. Maybe on a Science Friday you could tell us what's actually in that stuff.

    1. I remember reading somewhere that Diet Coke can actually be worse that regular Coke in terms of the psychology of people thinking they can eat more because they have the Diet and also because of the substitutes for Sugar in the Coke.

      If you do decide to do a Science Friday special on it, it would be cool to also discuss the pros and cons of the different types of artifical sweetners... How healthy are they and how do they compare to the real deal (sugar)?

    2. Yea, I've read the same studies about diet drinks. The fake sugar tricks your stomach into thinking calories are coming; when they don't, you feel hungrier. Other studies have questioned that, and personally I didn't really feel that. I usually had a soda instead of an afternoon snack, and felt like that was a treat enough to hold me over until dinner.

      As for different sweeteners, they are all bad. There have been some studies linking our increase in regular sugar intake to increased cancer risk. And of course, with the obesity epidemic, regular sugar isn't great. But the risks of artificial sweeteners aren't entirely understood. Basically, any soda is bad. Either option (diet or regular) has risks involved. Go for the water!

  2. Runner Teal,

    I look forward to future Science Friday discussions of what's in Diet Coke and why everyone should avoid sweeteners of all kinds (apparently, but:

    The answer to the dilemma -- how should people best rehydrate? -- is obvious: coffee, black, and the more of it, the better.

    The last I heard on the Internet, each cup of coffee you drink extends your life expectancy a month... or maybe they said it was a year... hard to remember the details now.

    Whichever it is, drinking the wonderful elixir as much as I do means I'll live to be older than Methuselah or Whistler's Mother, whoever died later.

    Plus, it's not addicting. I've now gone 32 and 1/2 minutes since my last drag... I mean sip. And I'm sure I can make it another...oh, let's say five more minutes...four... three...

    Sorry, gotta go now ..hear a pot boiling out in the kitchen!