Confession: I Started Drinking Diet Coke Again

And I think I love it

11.18.16
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I am the single most judgmental person out there when it comes to soda consumption. So judgmental, in fact, that I had to make a New Year’s resolution to stop judging people based on how they choose to absorb their liquids at the start of the Jewish New Year.

Examples: One time, my friend Rosie ordered a DC at lunch and I looked at her as if she were a child murderer, which in my mind, she essentially was because she was pregnant and I was so utterly certain that she was slowly and softly contaminating the baby with poisonous syrup water. This is now referred to, between us, as “The Incident.”

Two years before this fiasco took place, I noticed that a writer at Man Repeller brought in a can every morning. She explained that she hated coffee. I explained that she was electively giving herself cancer on at least four separate occasions — an incredibly crass comment to make, frankly — but she continued on. (Good for her, you know?)

I have never respected my in-laws as implicitly as I should (they are such wonderful people, I mean it!) simply because of how frequently they drink Diet Coke.

And yet, two weeks ago, when I was parched in spite of how much water I had been drinking, I metaphorically blindfolded myself, sauntered into a deli, went to the refrigerator, picked out a Diet Coke and proceeded to purchase it. MY WHOLE WORLD WAS FLIPPED UPSIDE DOWN. I opened the can and started drinking and I swear in that moment I could hear birds chirping and feel rose petals falling in the most gentle, swift motion across my face like feathers manufactured in a silk mill near Japan. The carbonated syrup slid down my throat as if a bubbly (pun intended) toddler on a water slide, and I swear I lost like three wrinkles from inside my furrowed brow because it was the exact quench I was looking for. Ice cold. Refreshing. Sweet. It was game over following that moment. Because like any good drug, Diet Coke keeps you coming back for more. One can is never enough. See but the thing with a legal drug that is accessible practically everywhere, including hardware stores and pharmacies where you are supposed to pick up medication that will ostensibly make you less sick, is that you can always find it, and thus drink it on demand. When you’re not thirsty, or tired. When you’re not even craving it. So, of course, I’ve been doing that, which really makes me wonder: does criticizing people that I care about for smoking cigarettes — puncturing holes and black spots in their lungs — hold any salt when I’m slowly slurping away at my own death?

Am I slurping away at my own death? I’m at such a crossroads, people. Here I’ve been trying to talk myself down the cola spiral by using the information available to me thanks to the Internet. So far its done a tremendous job reminding me of how terrible this substance is for my health. I am like 36% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and my risk of heart attack is considerably greater than that of former me, who only drank water and coffee (and wine). I’m gonna get migraines, might become depressed (need I remind you of what happened when I took Lupron?) and apparently, according to Health.com, my teeth might look like a meth user’s if I drink it enough. Says the website, “Research compared the mouths of a cocaine-user, a methamphetamine-user and a habitual diet-soda drinker, and found the same level of tooth erosion in each of them.”

But I don’t care. How fucked up is that? I’m trying not to be so hard on myself these days. And part of doing that requires letting myself go. Indulging. Consuming. Developing a new point to socialize upon so that I can empathize with fellow Diet Coke drinkers. Now we have common ground! A thread to hold us together. And if we all fall down? At least we fall together.

Update: I just opened a can. Heart beating very fast, headache setting in.

Now what?

Ready to quit again? Here’s our guide.

Photo by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • isabelle

    I think balance is important. As you said, the issue is the tendency for addiction, and how much easier/cheaper it can be to get sugary drinks than to get healthy ones (or even just water!). That said, both my parents drink diet soda daily and are very healthy at twice my age. Even working in the medical field hasn’t deterred them. I can do without soda (and alcohol for that matter) without it being a big deal, so I do, but if it’s something you love I think you just have to be mindful to compromise elsewhere to keep everything in balance.

  • Gwyn

    leandra i’m also the biggest soda snob ever but the thing is i mix it with my alcohol every weekend!!! i’m a hypocrite because i’m only snobby about it when it’s alcohol-free and in the daytime

    • cristina

      I feel you. But what are we supposed to do if you want to have an alcoholic kind of night and forget your shitty week (ok this sounds stupid but it is like that), mix the alcohol with water? At least you feel a bit “better” cause you are compensating the calories in the alcohol with the “no calories” of the DC!!

      • hearceespeak

        Seltzer & lime!!

      • Gwyn

        hahaha exactly!! i guess i could try and be healthier and go for cranberry juice or tonic water as a mixer but that’s not as FUN

  • Mariana

    “…a legal drug that is accessible practically everywhere, including hardware stores and pharmacies where you are supposed to pick up medication that will ostensibly make you less sick…” the concept of a pharmacy selling soda or candie is very weird for my european point of view, it is so dissonant.

    I use to be the biggest drinker of Coke I know in my teen years, my friends still remember it. Coke at 10.30am was normal for me and now I can be months without drinking one, but if I eat a very spice food, I’m not forbidden to drink one. Back than my metabolism and digestive system was bulletproof. Now, not only I can’t process bad food as well as I used to, as I care much more about the quality I put in my body.

    • Anni

      I think it’s because in the US all the pharmacies are kind of also like convenience stores? I’m originally from NZ and at our pharmacies you can’t buy butter, or barbie dolls, or tupperware or pre-packaged sandwiches but you can at most places that also sell medicine here.

  • Lindsay D

    ugh a diet coke with lemon is my weakness! it tastes SO GOOD. My friends give me the judgey eye when I drink it too. MODERATION

  • Greer Clarke

    Ohhh don’t even worry, I just came out the other end of finals and I am a certified addict reborn

  • Senka

    I never really developed Coke or in fact any soda addiction, but I do enjoy store bought fruit juices that I know are not organic or the healthiest and contain high level of sugar and possibly even artificial colors. I try not to buy them, because I know that if I do, I’ll drink that and not opt for eating an actual fruit. In that sense I understand it. It’s hard to keep up with everything, so i believe moderation is the key in our choices of food, so sometimes pizza and sometimes kale salad is not the end of the world, but those drinks can be easily avoided.

    • Sounds familiar. 🙂

      • Senka

        Fructal carrot and pear juices are a childhood addiction my mother is guilty for. She sometimes still supplies me with it. 😀

        • Right. There was no way to escape this one 🙂

  • Andrea Raymer

    I just posted this on my dad’s Facebook wall because he needs to learn from this. He got me hooked on DC when I was in middle school and I had to wean myself off of the 5 or 6 cans a day that I used to drink. I’ve been judgy about it ever since.

  • Soda is indeed bad. It was never, ever around when I was a kid and so I never think to drink it. Although, when I do, it does so fresh and so new — every single time. I’m sure if you drink diet coke now and again it will not be the direct cause of your death. Besides, if we slogged through life with no indulgence in these types of vices, then it’d be a hell of a boring, health check-y slog. And if it makes you feel any better, soda or not: we’re all being exposed to the Great Equalizer that is pollution/smog/so forth. SoMeThInG iN tHe AiR ToNigHt..MoRtAliTy!

  • hearceespeak

    Noo don’t do ittt!!! You have the strength not to 🙂

    Consider these instead:
    http://www.lacroixwater.com/lacroix-nicola-flavors/lacola/
    http://www.zevia.com/flavors/cola

    • Ann Selvage

      there is also a kombucha brand called Live kombucha that has a cola flavor that is 100% convincing enough. This is how we weaned me off of my addiction to coke zero and onto maté instead. http://drinklive.com/

  • I guess my Addicted to Volvic would not interest a person so at least you have Style …:-)

  • tmm16

    Right there with you, Leandra. For me, it’s more of a craving for something fizzy than the flavor, but I do like that too. I know I should probably look into other carbonated beverages, but a coke or diet coke just does the job for me. I try to limit to drinking only once a week. We all have our weaknesses 😉 as long as we try to work on them, amiright?

  • I’m a bit of a diet coke addict too (my friends would say full on addicted!) but it’s just sooooo goooood. Live on the wild side I say, you never know when you might get hit by a truck or something.. right?! x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

  • Stacey

    As a former DC addict, I’ve realized I was addicted to the fizz. Try Topo Chico mineral water (plain or with lime); it is super fizzy!! I still indulge in DC occasionally 🙂

    • Leandra Medine

      I HAD THIS YESTERDAY YOU ARE READING MY MIND

    • Cristina

      Holla! We get Topo Chico by the case in the Midwest, and it’s all the rage in the hipster world aka Austin, TX. It’s the fizz for me too, and occasionally I sip like half a can of Coke, but I live off Topo Chico. Also, the mineral contest is supposed to be good for you!

  • If you take the view that your body is your temple, then any beverages (especially coke and diet coke) should be consumed as a ‘special treat’ every once in a while. Like once or twice a year. Stick to water and then you don’t have to worry about all the nasty sugar, preservatives and side effects contained in those pesky, unhealthy soda drinks.

  • 808kate

    If it makes you feel any better this is from the diet soda and type 2 diabetes study Health.com referenced: “Diet soda intake was quantified from an item listing “Diet soft drinks, unsweetened mineral water” (hereafter referred to as diet soda).” They included La Croix, basically. Correlation isn’t causation, I’m not saying diet coke is a wonderful healthful beverage but I don’t think we should put it in the same category as cigarettes. – Kate the annoying comment section dietitian
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660468/

    • DeanaCal

      Thank you Kate! “correlation isn’t causation” and “anecdote does not equal data” are concepts that seem to be in short supply these days. This article actually made me a little sad – like we don’t beat ourselves up enough for every other thing in life and now I’m supposed to feel as though I am courting death because once a day I have a delicious fizzy beverage that doesn’t even have any calories? Sorrynotsorry.

  • Olivia Dello Buono

    I haven’t had one in two weeks (🙌🏼), but now I can feel my willpower slipping…

    Will update at 3pm slump.

  • Kayla Tanenbaum

    Welcome to the dark side, Leandra. It feels good.

  • Grace B

    My fiance bought us a whole roll (or whatever you call the box that opens so you can just grab one) of Pepsi last week on a whim and I have so trained myself that soda is bad, bad, bad that I’ve only had one. And just half of it. I normally just fill my cup up half-way if I get soda at fountains too. But it kinda blows my mind because remember when soda was at like every birthday party, family event, youth group picnic? I used to love getting a 20 oz soda from the vending machine at the horse farm I worked at, take it home, freeze it (yes), and then let it thaw and drink it like a slushie. But uh, now I’m too chicken shit. Oh and I know people here in the south that drink like HUGE quantities of Dr. Pepper in the morning instead of coffee.

    Good on you Leandra!

  • Abby

    I’m kind of amazed at how judgey people are about diet coke! Anything fizzy, including everyone’s beloved La Croix, is terrible for your tooth enamel. I’m pretty much with everyone on the “bad rando chemicals” thing, but honestly there are so much worse things to do for your health. Enjoy it in moderation and live your life!

  • My dad drinks Diet Coke like it’s water and he’s in pretty good health for a smoker over 50 so… you’ll probably be fine!

  • Michaela Williams

    My mom drank around 15 Diet Cokes a day for the first 20 or so years of my life. One of her favorite stories is about me asking at the ripe age of 2.5 for a “drink your coke?” I also drank my fair share of the DC for many years and did not even attempt to give it up until my early 20s (I am 30 now). I rarely drink it anymore, usually only when I’m heavily hungover, which only happens a handful of times a year these days. But, when I do, I completely recall why I drank 3-4 of them a day in college. It really is the sweet nectar of the gods…that will probably send us all to an early death. Everything in moderation, right? Trying to make myself feel better here.

    • Michaela Williams

      Side note, I have told my mom she should donate her body to science when she passes because she would be the perfect lab rat for the effects of aspartame on the human body. Just saying.

  • Samantha Lee

    I am the EXACT SAME WAY when it comes to Dr. Pepper. There were 5 or 6 years, where I exclusively drank it (literally, no water – this is not an exaggeration). I try to avoid it completely now because if I don’t, it is such a slippery slope. Seriously, I feel like I have some understanding of addiction just because it is REAL between Dr. Pepper and me.
    But so good. So..very…good.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

    • Grace B

      I have been to the Dr Pepper museum in Texas! In winter they sell it HOT!

      • Samantha Lee

        Wait, really? I’m from Texas and would never drink it that way (but, I did at one period own a Dr. Pepper bike…).

        • Grace B

          It was not bad! I just tried the sample size at the Museum soda shoppe. Highly doubt anyone drinks it that way regularly. 🙂

  • xtyb

    No. This is worse than when Kylo Ren killed Han Solo.

  • Anne Dyer

    Literally. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Diet. Coke.

  • Chloe Bruderer

    This is amazing. I love not being hard on ourselves about stuff like this

  • pamb

    Coke Zero is even better. Come alllll the way to the dark side. We’ll just roll our eyes at your judgmental cancer talk and enjoy the sweet, sweet ride.

    • Julie Garbutt

      YASS TEAM ZERO FOR LYFE

  • Alice

    I ALWAYZzzzZ get into DC (plus plain C) while I am studying for exams/ stuck at my desk. I love it so much that it’s almost a motivation to work ‘if you memorise this I’ll reward you with a can’ etc etc. Its probs the rush of sugar I crave but I wonder if maybe I am addicted to the frizzante itself because coincidentally, I drink soda water like it’s going out of fashion!

    • Alice

      P.S. Considering slaking off this paper I am writing in favour of a walk to the corner shop to buy you know what …

  • elpug

    I always tell my mom all this but since i moved back home, it’s always in the house!! And soooo quenching.

  • Grace B

    Been marinating on this for awhile — how awesome is it that VANILLA Coke is back in stores!? Feels like it disappeared for awhile there..so good.

    • chouette

      WHY is there not Vanilla Diet Coke?? Can someone please prove me wrong?

      • Grace B

        You dream big girl!

      • Sophie

        There’s vanilla coke zero!

        • chouette

          YASSSS

  • Marco

    Well, I felt the urge to clarify how diet soda just isn’t soda the same way vegan bacon isn’t bacon. The packaging of a soda is there though. You’re drinking an ‘excitotoxin’. Diet drinks may very well be the root cause of many neurological issues in recent generations that were never so prevalent before. Aspartame specifically is rough stuff. The history of it is fascinating though including sweet old Donald Rumsfeld being instrumental in getting it legalized. Yep, he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • The Keyboard Slayer

    I say screw it. Life’s too short to not drink the delicious brown liquid.

  • Zoe

    I don’t mean to enable you, but have you ever had Diet Coke and lime? Tried it once & now I can’t have it any other way.

  • Jayne

    I am addicted to diet coke, I just love it. I have recently moved away from home for University and I’ve realised I’ve cut back due to costs but as I don’t drink coffee, diet coke is what I crave. Nothing beats an ice cold diet coke when I’m thirsty and even better with alcohol. It’s bad haha.


    electraviolet.co.uk

  • Adardame

    I think it tastes awful and gives me headaches. Plus, I’ve been avoiding caffeine just to be different. I really enjoy a cranberry sprite zero, though.

  • chouette

    Be careful, it’s literally easier to quit cigarettes than Diet Coke!!

  • Riley

    Sure, Diet Coke, but WHERE is that navy sweater from in Leandra’s pic?

  • Morgan Siggard

    All about that La Coix or grocery store brand versions of flavored fizzy water. Our entire household is hooked and we pay for a portion of our new cases with recycling money from the old cans.

  • Amisav

    Seeing as this is a no judgement zone have you tried a recipe for Diet Coke chicken? Pretty freakin great if you ask me.