Itzy Ramirez

“You know, I’d feel a lot better if you stopped drinking Diet Coke.” 

Sitting on the examination table, I wasn’t exactly thunderstruck by my doctor’s pronouncement: She and I had discussed this on previous visits, but the subject came up again during this appointment, twisted neatly into a conversation about how my cholesterol is high and how she’d like me to lose weight.

“Diet Coke was my daily source of caffeine, starting first thing in the morning and lasting well into the evening.”

I’ve never been a coffee or tea drinker; Diet Coke was my daily source of caffeine, starting first thing in the morning and lasting well into the evening. I had kicked the diet soda habit eight years ago, with great results, until work and other stresses caused an epic backslide into bad habits. Therefore, I was only half-joking when I replied to my doctor, “Sure, you’ll feel better, but what about me?”

Making Healthy Changes
The timing was ideal, though. How often have you experienced those internal conversations about making lifestyle changes, but you didn’t do anything about them until they grew louder and more insistent? Well, that’s the moment I was at: the nagging thought rolling around inside my head but, likely out of laziness or denial, I couldn’t make the leap from passive thought to determined action. So when my doctor brought it up, I took it as a sign to make some changes, starting with the one that would be the most difficult: giving up my beloved Diet Coke.

A Diet Coke billboard that perfectly summed up this writer’s soda habits.
diet coke billboard

Why You Need to Ditch Diet Soda
From the artificial sweeteners (in the case of Diet Coke, aspartame) to the other chemicals and additives, including phosphoric acid, which erodes tooth enamel and blocks absorption of bone-building calcium, make no mistake: Diet soda is not your friend. Likely, you’ve watched the stories on the morning talk shows, about the studies concluding that diet sodas actually cause weight gain and that they’re a heart health hazard. I viewed those same reports, typically with an icy glass of diet soda in my hand—yes, at 7:30 a.m., almost defiantly.

“‘Hey, cheekbones, where have you been?’ That’s the thought that occurred when I looked in the mirror one day last week.”

But thanks to my doctor’s wake-up call, about one month ago I put down the glass. OK, the truth is, I finished the 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke sitting in my refrigerator, and then haven’t bought another one. I have cheated exactly once when I ordered a Diet Coke at the movies. That’s been it, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Admittedly, the past month hasn’t been as difficult as I had imagined. The first time around I was struck by raging headaches, a byproduct of caffeine withdrawal. But this time, I’ve been headache-free—and chugging lots of sparkling water. Although choosing a caffeine substitute, such as chilled green tea, can help with those caffeine-withdrawal headaches, for now, I’m pretty satisfied with this caffeine-free life.

And I’m enjoying several benefits from kicking my Diet Coke habit:

My clothes fit better. Until I get to a point where I can truly be excited about it, I’m not stepping on a scale. But in the meantime, I’m loving how a pair of jeans that felt tight a month ago now fit just fine. Along with my plan of introducing healthier foods and a steady exercise regimen, I’m looking forward to discarding them completely for a smaller size.

My face is less bloated. Hey, cheekbones, where have you been? That’s the thought that occurred when I looked in the mirror one day last week. If that’s not an incentive to avoid diet sodas, I don’t know what is.

I’m sleeping at night. Sure, coffee drinkers know not to consume a cup of joe in the evening, but tell that to someone who’s used to reaching for a diet soda while sitting down to watch “Scandal” at 10 p.m. My caffeine-free body is now actually feeling sleepy by 11 p.m. And as someone who considered herself a chronic insomniac, that’s a pretty wonderful thing.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she’s having a similar adventure in ditching Diet Coke, and she remarked that when she drank one recently, all she could taste were the chemicals, and it reinforced the fact that she was right in her decision to give it up.

Two months ago I might not have agreed with such an idea—and make no mistake, the craving still exists. But thanks to my doctor, the nagging little voice in my head to make a healthy change, and the reappearance of my cheekbones, I now view that “ick” moment as utterly possible.