This is a guest post by Elisa Zied, RD. It originally appeared on her blog.
It’s been one year since I took my last sip of Diet Coke (you can read about why I gave it up on Fooducate). I gave up Diet Coke not because I thought it was the devil, but because I was simply drinking too much of the artificially sweet stuff.
Over the first three months, I pretty much went cold turkey. I initially felt the loss in my energy level, especially because (except for chocolate) I had no other source of caffeine in my diet. Although the initial fatigue eventually ended (thankfully!), I realized that what I missed most was the psychological lift—and the happiness—that Diet Coke brought to my life. I sound like a commercial, I know, but that’s really what I missed 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 of them 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 4 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 diet soda up altogether, try to figure out what time of day it means the most to you and have it then. If you know you like to have it early in the day when your colleagues are enjoying their coffee, that’s the time to enjoy it. Or you may find you rather have it when you’re out with friends at a restaurant or a party. When you do choose to have it, order or buy just enough to get your fix without going overboard. (Having a lot of ice in it can also help you have less but think you’re having more.)
3) Drink by day. If you know you want at least some diet soda each day, try to have it before mid-day (12-2 pm, for example) so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Having it too close to bedtime can theoretically keep you awake longer or not be able to sleep 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 that 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.
(Read more about my thoughts on diet soda right here.)
Have you kicked the can? What strategies worked for you?
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN is the founder/president of Zied Health Communications, LLC, based in New York City. She’s a registered dietitian and the author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips, and coauthor of Feed Your Family Right & So What Can I Eat. Visit her at elisazied.com.