Diet Coke + Me: The Love Story, The Break Up

I know, I know. You may be thinking, "Um aren't you a yoga instructor? Aren't you supposed to write about your love for vegetables and how sprouted grains changed your life? Why are you writing about your unhealthy addiction to a chemical laden syrup?"

Well folks, because I like to keep it real. I know the internet is full of yoga instructors who seem to have their lives together, and only eat food they've harvested from their own gardens, whose biggest vice is the extra date they throw in their smoothies. While I am happy for those yoga instructors, I am not them. I am not perfect and today I've decided to shine a light on one of the biggest vices I've finally overcome - my addiction to Diet Coke.

Have you struggled with an unhealthy obsession with Diet Coke too? Keep reading to learn how I finally let it go. 

Yes, it was an addiction. Some may think I was really just addicted to the caffeine. I honestly wish that would have been the case, but it wasn't. I loved Diet Coke. Even today when I see a Diet Coke billboard, or happen to smell a Diet Coke if someone is drinking it in front of me, I think about how much I absolutely loved drinking Diet Coke. 

Growing up I wasn't allowed to drink pop. My neighbors weren't allowed to drink pop so in solidarity my mom wouldn't have pop in our house. As I grew up my mother became more vocal on her distaste for Diet Coke, so I wonder if perhaps the neighbor story was a convenient excuse. None the less, pop was not around for the majority of my early childhood experience. 

Then we moved. 

I still have a visceral memory of going to a friend's house in sixth grade and opening up her fridge. Her mother was a Diet Coke connoisseur of sorts. Her fridge, was her masterpiece. Upon opening the door I discovered Diet Coke cans perfectly displayed neatly in multiple rows. Next to those rows were two or three more rows of Caffeine Free Diet Coke cans, just in case she didn't need a pick me up I guess. 

This wasn't an anomaly either. I made another friend after our move whose family also drank pop. They had TWO refrigerators in their house, two! The upstairs fridge also had an entire section solely for pop cans, and they used the downstairs fridge as back up. When the pop in the upstairs fridge ran low, all you had to do was go downstairs and grab some more to fill it up. It was like a never ending supply of caffeine and bubbles.

As someone who didn't grow up with cans of pop in my fridge, I never realized this was an option. That you could just buy as much pop as you wanted and keep it around. No one told me!

Middle school was also the time when my mom started giving me money for lunch. Being the enterprising pre-teen I was, I would pocket any extra change left over and soon had enough to buy Diet Coke from the school vending machines everyday! The pop was just sitting there, anyone could buy it, so I did.

I'm not sure when my mom first realized I was drinking Diet Coke, but I remember it being made very clear that she would not buy Diet Coke for me at home. She told me how awful the stuff was and if I wanted to spend my own money on it I could, but she wouldn't spend a dime on it for me. 

My addiction only grew from there. Conveniently, my closest friends also loved Diet Coke as much as I did. My addiction was not only unchecked, it was celebrated. People would buy me Diet Coke throw pillows, t-shirts and cups. It became something to be known for. 

In high school my best friend and I actually convinced the science department to let us bring a mini fridge to school and keep it in their office for our Diet Cokes. You see, going downstairs to the vending machines and back upstairs took much longer than our five minute passing period allowed. The teachers would benefit from the fridge too obviously, they could store their lunches, or science experiments or whatever. Of course we would let them have some of our Diet Coke too if they wanted it, the whole thing was a a win win. 

That same best friend and I would take a whole day to drive up and down Route 14 buying as many large Diet Coke's as possible in an attempt to win McDonald's Monopoly. Priorities. 

After high school I continued drinking Diet Coke without thinking twice. When social media started to grow I would have well meaning friends post articles about the danger of Diet Coke and Aspartame, but I wouldn't listen. I was not interested in hearing their "conspiracy theories" as I called them.

A funny thing happened as my friends and I grew up though. Some of them stopped drinking Diet Coke. They said they stopped because, "It is so bad for you." They started drinking La Croix, a sparkling water that tastes absolutely awful in my opinion. I didn't care. I made excuses that the bubbles in Diet Coke helped me digest my food. Yes, I actually told people that. 

We had all started to make healthier decisions with age, I think everyone does. I started actually eating vegetables and drinking water, but I couldn't give up my Diet Coke. 

I mean it too, I literally couldn't give it up. I tried to just not buy Diet Coke from the grocery store any more, but then I would find any and every reason to go get one. I'd run to the post office instead of using our own mail box so I could buy a McDonald's Diet Coke, light ice in a styrofoam cup of course. Basically anytime we left the house in the car, we would drive thru McDonald's first for a Diet Coke. There were employees who knew me by name, it was mortifying. 

I had tried to quit multiple times, but it was always awful. If you've never been through it, your head basically feels like it is being crushed on the outside while simultaneously exploding from the inside. Diet Coke withdrawal is unlike any other headache I've ever had in my life. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons for that, but I'll let you do a deep dive of the internet to figure out why.  

What started my final desire to quit was when I began to notice that the days I drank a lot of Diet Coke, my patience level would be nonexistent. I would snap at my husband or children and five minutes later think back and wonder why I reacted so harshly.  I also couldn't control myself in the car, I would be late to appointments because I just had to get a diet coke. As someone who practices mindfulness, meditation and intention,  I became increasingly frustrated that I would allow some outside substance to control my mind and body.

So how did I eventually quit? I found my window, and I jumped through it.

You see, I got sick. January 2016 there was a horrible flu that went around and our family caught it. I spent two days in bed, which meant two days of no Diet Coke. When I finally emerged and starting eating and drinking again I knew I had a choice. I could either go back to my dependency or I could start fresh, with no Diet Coke. 

It didn't transform my life overnight though, I still needed a little caffeine jolt in the mornings. Now I am personally not a coffee drinker, never have been never will be. I do love tea though, so I started drinking unsweetened Matcha Lattes with almond milk. The caffeine content in Matcha is a bit higher than regular Green Tea, so I thought it was a healthier replacement compared to Diet Coke. For a couple of months I would buy one from Starbucks almost every day! Realizing I was gaining weight and losing money, I decided to google what Starbucks uses to make their Matcha powder. Well, it is 50% Matcha, 50% Sugar. Yes, even if you get it unsweetened, you are still drinking 50% sugar. Ugh. Luckily it was easier for me to transition to regular tea vs the Matcha tea. I think going from Diet Coke to regular tea would have been a lot harder.

I haven't had any Diet Coke since that flu spell in January. While I'm not suggesting you get the flu to quit Diet Coke, I believe we can all see the windows, or opportunities, presented to us to help us get healthy. Whether it's a group of friends or a significant other wanting to make a healthy change together, or looking forward to your schedule and realizing you have a few weeks of no big events and maybe you could make a change now. When you see that window, try to go for it. I also believe when we really commit to something, the Universe (or God/the Angels/Spirit/whatever you believe) conspires to support us on that commitment. 

Only a little over nine months out on my no Diet Coke journey, I have to say it feels a lot better. Some days I drink only Green Tea, some days I need to add Black Tea into the mix. I can definitely tell my patience level drops on the days with Black Tea . Maybe it is my own sensitivity to caffeine, but I feel much less on edge and angry than I felt on Diet Coke. 

AND I've saved so much money! I don't drive thru McDonalds or Starbucks anymore. I don't need any special drink to get me through the day, I brew my own tea. It feels so nice to not be trapped in a mindless drive thru daze. 

I've also come to realize that one healthy choice often leads to other healthy choices. I'm not going to drive thrus for drinks anymore, so I'm not adding on the occasional small fry or chocolate chip cookie. I'm making my own tea everyday, so now I'm making my own lunches and snacks everyday. My mornings are less rushed. I sit and drink my tea at the table instead of on the run. It feels really, really good.

If you're on the other end of this, debating on whether you should drop a vice or let go of a Diet Coke addiction, look for your window. If you see a window but don't feel ready to take it, that is okay too. 

Give yourself grace, be patient. You will know when you are ready and I promise you another window will come.