I Gave Up Diet Coke...Now Give Me A Goddam Trophy

Diet Coke used to be a grocery store staple for me. I'd buy 5 packs at a time if there was a deal. I'd drink it before I'd drink water. Sometimes I'd drink it instead of water. I would rather run out of toilet paper than be out of Diet Cokes in the fridge.

I used to work on the Coca-Cola account in college, and I learned people like me are called "Super Dailies"--the term for customers who are obsessed and consume more than one can a day. Cool.

On July 1st, I gave up Diet Coke. Or, more specifically, I gave up buying Diet Coke and stocking it in my fridge constantly. I've had it twice this month: once on birthday with my Jimmy John's, and once at a lunch with my agent (her treat). As a Super Daily, I can honestly say I never thought there'd be a time that I could go without it. It was my one "vice"--I barely drink alcohol or coffee, I don't smoke or do drugs. So what if I started my day with a Diet Coke so I could focus on my work and feel alive? Plus, everything tastes better with Diet Coke and there's no greater DC than the one from the fountain at McDonald's. Fight me.

So why would I give up that goodness? I had an unexplained pain near my groin that freaked me out. I had a hairdresser who told me she had a client who had a pain in similar spot and it ended up being Stage 4 cancer and that story always stuck with me. I knew that wasn't likely what I had, but it still scared me enough to bring my sorry self to a doctor. With all the press about "Diet Coke" causing this, that, and the other thing (read: stroke, cancer, dimentia)...I wondered if there was any connection between the weird way my body was feeling and all the soda I was drinking. So, I cut it out and the lingering pain went away like magic.

The first few days were not hard at all. Not to be dramatic, but my will to live was fueling my decision to go cold turkey. But later on in that first week, I had serious withdrawal symptoms--fatigue, irritability (just ask my husband!), and most of all a headache that settled in everyday around 1pm on the dot and stayed for the rest of the day despite taking Tylenol. It felt as if an ice pick was lodged in my head and there was no way around it.

About a month in, and all of that has gone away. I'm drinking more water than ever in my life (and I feel like my body is thanking me for that) and when I want flavor, I drink tea, lemonade, Arnold Palmers, and the occasional $5 latte. These things may have more calories than a Diet Coke, but I am very active and try not to obsess about ~100 calories here or there.

Other than generally feeling healthier because I know I'm not putting chemicals and food coloring into my body, my skin looks smoother, I'm less bloated, and my bathroom habits (which used to be comical) have chilled out since removing all the bubbles and caffeine. I'm also not eating as many junk foods as I used to like chips, fries, etc. because the soda made them taste better. I mean, who wants to wash down an entire bag of chips with a glass of sink water? A few crunches with my sandwich is all I need now.

I'm not the kind of person who is going to say: "I'll never drink Diet Coke again!" because I don't have to be the kind of person who never drinks Diet Coke again. In fact, the next time I have lunch with my mom at Cheesecake Factory (next week), I'll order one and probably have two refills while I'm at it. But I also know that'll be the only time that week I'll drink it because while it tastes good as hell, I simply just don't need it anymore. It's just “a want” like any other treat, but treats aren’t an everyday thing.

What I am most proud of is getting my mind to a place where it doesn’t think my body needs it. It doesn't have to be in my fridge for me to function. I don't have to spend $7 for a 12 pack that I'll blow through in a week. I don't need to have an existential crisis if a place only serves Pepsi (the devil). I just don't really care, which is sometimes the definition of self-care.

Suffice to say, if you find yourself thinking "Man, I drink a lot of soda," or are ever wondering if you could break your daily/super daily habit, take me as an example of someone who was flat-out addicted and was able to almost eliminate it and live to tell you about it.