It’s been one year since I took my last sip of Diet Coke®. I gave it up not because I thought it was the devil, but because I was simply drinking too much of the artificially sweetened stuff.
Over the first three months, I pretty much went cold turkey. I initially felt the loss in my energy level, especially because I had no other source of caffeine (except for chocolate) in my diet. Although the initial fatigue eventually ended, I realized what I missed most was the psychological lift and the happiness that Diet Coke® had brought to my life.
Weaning Yourself from Sugary Drinks
May Be Harder Than You Think
I know I sound like a commercial, but that’s what I really missed the most. For some, it’s wine, for others it’s a martini or a coffee. For me, it was diet soda. And I know I’m not alone. So many of my friends also have (or had) a thing for Diet Coke® or some other diet soda. It’s kind of sad that when we reminisce about our times drinking it, it’s like we’re talking about a dear departed friend.
When people ask me if I feel any different after having given up Diet Coke® – and all diet soda, for that matter – my honest answer is no. If anything, I don’t feel quite as satisfied, especially when I write for hours on end and need a lift or pick-me-up. Call me crazy!
Although I’ve tried several unsweetened teas, I don’t rely on them for my fix, especially because I prefer them with a little artificial sweetener sprinkled in. I don’t think artificial sweeteners are going to kill us, but I rather keep my intake low, just to play it safe. I do drink Diet Snapple® on most days, but I have much less of that than I used to have Diet Coke®. I have even gone up to 10 days at a time without any caffeinated beverage when on vacation, though I’ll admit that on my caffeine-free days I definitely feel like I’m missing something.
Here are four “Stressipes” to help you curb or quit your habit once and for all. It won’t be easy – it certainly wasn’t for me – but it can be done if you choose to do it.
1. Taper your intake
Instead of going cold turkey, make gradual cutbacks in how much you consume. For one week, keep a record of how much and when you have the diet soda and set a goal to gradually decrease each week. This will help you minimize headaches or dips in energy.
2. Plan your fix
If you don’t want to give up diet soda altogether, try to figure out what time of day it means the most to you and have it then. If you know you like having it early in the day when your colleagues are enjoying their coffee, that’s the time to go for it. Or you may rather have it when you’re out with friends at a restaurant or a party. When you do choose to have one, order or buy just enough to get your fix without going overboard. (Putting a lot of ice in it can also help you consume while thinking you’re having more.)
3. Drink by day
If you know you want at least some diet soda every day, try to have it before mid-day (12 to 2 pm, for example) so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Drinking it too close to bedtime can keep you awake longer or prevent you from sleeping as soundly (not to mention you may need to wake up to go to the bathroom).
4. Find alternatives
You may find you can swap the diet soda and feel satisfied with sparkling water with lemon or lime squeezed in, or with some fresh fruit slices, or 100 percent fruit juice splashed in. Just be mindful that if you replace diet soda with something caloric (like fruit juice or a laced coffee beverage), you’ll have to cut calories elsewhere to maintain a healthy body weight. There are many tasty brands of unsweetened iced tea you may like, but you may need to try a few before you find one you like, especially if you rather not use artificial sweeteners or real sugar to boost the flavor.
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN is a nationally recognized Registered Dietitian and award-winning author of “ Nutrition at your Fingertips,” “Feed Your Family Right” and “So What Can I Eat.” She is also a past national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com
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