breaking my (diet) coke habit

Have you ever been in a relationship that you knew deep down probably wasn’t good for you, but you just couldn’t imagine living without? That’s how I felt about my dear friend, Diet Coke. Well, I said goodbye to my friend 1179 days ago (who’s counting). Here’s why and the one thing I did to quit.

Week 4.

Last week I was meeting with a friend, a charismatic, highly competent and capable CEO of a leadership development organization. In our small talk, he shared how concerned he was that his high school age son had begun using chewing tobacco on game nights. He’s a starting baseball player.

To encourage his son to quit, he made a friendly wager with him and put some skin in the game. He agreed that he’d quit his 5 to 8 cans-a-day Diet Coke habit if his son would quit the snuff. I was gripped.

Impulsively, I had to ask…how long has it been?

“Four weeks,” he said.  Ohh…I ached for him knowing he’s probably still having to fight his impulses every day.   I recall it vividly.

See, on June 8, 2011, I had my last Diet Coke, and I still think about it all the time.

Disclaimers.  Before I tell you my story…

One. I am a fan of the Coca Cola Company. I believe they do some great work around the world. I have friends in the organization, and I assure you that they are wonderful people. As well, this organization has been an incredible benefactor to the city of Atlanta where I live. I also attended graduate school on a scholarship paid for by one of their foundations.

Two. I have no idea what it’s like to deal with “real” addiction … to cigarettes, narcotics, pain medication or anything of the sort. I’ve also been blessed with very few personal losses in my life, though when I say things like, “this is like the loss of a friend”, I actually have experienced the loss of a close friend who died young, and this is no way meant to suggest these losses are on par.

With those things said, Diet Coke was my crack.

It was my eye-opener, my study-buddy, and my inspirational muse. She was my drop dead gorgeous, trouble-making, unscrupulous party girl. She made me happy. She made me smarter. She made me more fun to be around.

But, I’d heard rumors. People were trying hard to tarnish her reputation, and I began to wonder if we should break up. I didn’t record them back then, but this morning a quick Google search of “Is Diet Coke bad for you?” still returns 5.8 million hits. They’re still saying bad things about my girl.

The rumors.

The journal General Dentistry says she makes her friends’ teeth erode in a similar way to that wretch methamphetamine (article). Could that be why my dental hygienist has asked me for over a decade if I brush my teeth really hard?

The American Academy of Neurology was suggesting she might elevate the risk of depression in adults. (article). A University of Miami Medical School study tied diet soda to increased risk of cardiovascular events. (article) And there’s more…diabetes, weight gain, bone density loss, kidney function decline, the list goes on.

Back to that fateful day.

I had just met personal trainer, Day Adeogba, and he asked if I drank any fruit juice or soda. He was on the hunt for sugar in my diet (of which I still have too much), but when he discovered that I drank 3 to 5 cans of Diet Coke each day, he smiled all the same.

You’d think I had just told him I did drugs. He asked if I could quit. He insisted that Diet Coke was not a powerful choice for my body or my life. The nerve!

Well, I wasn’t about to quit. I’ve disciplined myself to train for marathons. I’ve abstained from bad behavior…but quit Diet Coke? Seriously? I couldn’t even conceive of it.

The one thing I did do was agree to cut back…to try to get through a few days a week without a Diet Coke. We agreed that it would be worth 4 points on my irunurun dashboard each day that I didn’t drink one. And, that was it.

The battle within.

Every time I thought of that glistening silver can…or better, the supple curves of a 20 oz bottle. The sound of cracking it open. The fizz…oh, the fizz. I’d just think “4 points, 4 points, 4 points.”

If you are an irunurun user, you know that 4 points is nothing to sneeze at. That’s 28 points a week…the difference between a perfect 100 and a marginal 72. The difference between a marginal 72 and a slightly embarrassing 44. It’s a difference-maker.

I switched to water. Cold turkey. (I also gave myself points for drinking at least 6 glasses of water per day.) The fact is, I stopped that day and haven’t had one since.  I haven’t relapsed.  I haven’t replaced her with coffee or any other concoction, but I must admit, it’s been the toughest behavior change of my life.

I made it through a day. Then another. Then another. I thought about it every hour. Then every day. I had quit, but I didn’t know it yet.  I was afraid I might relapse.  So, I only thought about one day at a time.  Nothing more.

I still think about it weekly…she still winks at me at convenience stores and checkout lines, but I’ve escaped her grip.

The benefits.

Okay, so I haven’t lost 30 pounds, regrown hair, regained 20-20 vision, or experienced any other dramatic health benefit.  But I have noticed some things.

For the first time in years, I have no trouble getting up in the morning. I now rise around 5am raring to go (perhaps because I love my work). I have steady rocking energy right through the afternoon. I don’t have headaches after lunch. I don’t feel like there are bugs crawling under my skin. I’m not jumpy.

I know I didn’t mention any of those symptoms in the beginning…perhaps I didn’t want to admit that I felt them. But they were there. Deep down, I knew she wasn’t good for me. But I loved her. And, deep down I still do. But, it was time for a break.

If I can do this, I’m confident that I can break any habit or achieve anything, God-willing.  If you want to, you can to.

Please comment. What is your muse?  Could you go a day without her?