Did you know that women who drink more than two diet sodas a day may experience kidney decline at twice the rate of women who don’t? Me neither. At least, not until I happened across that information on the internet last week and decided that I was finally going to kick my Coke Zero addiction. I mean it this time.
Being a perpetual diet soda guzzler comes with a whole basket-load of irritants. First of all, it’s considered an adolescent beverage and weak as far as bad habits go. At the risk of sounding very much like a junior high kiss-ass, people tend to be judgmental about soda-drinkers without registering any of the “cool” points that may come with being a smoker or the “tortured artist” cred that comes with being a heavy drinker.
Both those vices attract their own brand of Dudley Do-Right pontificators, but there’s something about seeing some poor schlub clutching a sweaty can of Coke that acts as a siren call for smarmy health nuts. It’s like they thrive on telling as many people as possible that you should be drinking your weight in ounces of water and that so-and-so is steeping their own sun tea and loooooving it.
An aspect of caffeine that’s often debated is whether or not it’s an addictive substance. It is my untrained, non-medically licensed opinion that it is. Sure, it’s no meth and no one ever opined about what “a hell of a drug” it is, but giving up caffeine can still induce headaches and nausea. Every time I’ve tried going a few days without a can of Coke or a bottle of second-favorite Diet Dr. Pepper (the Harold to my Maude, the Shirley to my Laverne), I get these tense little knots of pain in my temples and, yes, I feel pissy and unfocused.
Probably the most irritating aspect about drinking Coke Zero, to my cheapskate self anyway, is how expensive it is. If you go through two twelve-packs a week, that can be the equivalent of smoking three packs of cheap cigarettes a week. Spending $50 or more a month on soda just seems foolish, in light of my budget anyway.
My Coke-drinking runs in cycles of binging and abstaining, so it’s hard to say what my average daily intake looks like. It can be as high as 5 or 6 cans, especially if I go out to dinner or lunch somewhere and wind up getting a side of Coke, hold the ice.
I picked up the habit in college, where we had a Diet Pepsi (my least favorite diet beverage, but acceptable in a pinch) fountain in the cafeteria and I discovered the nervous rush of energy caffeine gives you, which actually decreases productivity, but is comforting nevertheless during late-night study sessions.
After all of this rationalization and list-making and deploring of my own stupid habit, I’ve decided it’s time to give up soda for good. Is it the worst habit ever? Are artificial sweeteners significantly worse for one’s health than regular sugar? Jury’s out. But it’s something I could do without and abstaining from syrupy cans-o’-chemicals will probably improve my quality of life in the long run, so here goes.
I finished my last drink around approximately midnight EST yesterday. To bolster my spirits (and achey head muscles), I have coffee and chai tea, which I am allowing myself to drink in moderation. I’m not relying on self-control to prevent coffee and tea binging, but rather the fact that I only own a French press, I’m lazy, and I’m down to my last four ounces of chai.
So what the hey, right? Supposedly, withdrawal symptoms peak at 48 hours, so Wednesday morning may be rough, but I think I can do it, particularly since publicly declaring my intentions to an Internet audience binds me to an obligation. I’ll be checking back in next week to let you know how it’s going, especially whether or not the headaches were intense, I got really bored of drinking ice water, or I crumpled up and died when I couldn’t order a Coke Zero to complement my buffalo wings.
Until then, folks, I’m armed with horse-tranquilizer-sized Advil and a can-do attitude!