I love Diet Coke. Like really love it, to the degree that I realized recently that many days have gone by where Diet Coke is all I have drunk. So last week, when I forgot to start my daily ritual with a Diet Coke in in the morning, I decided to press on and go a full day without it. That became two, then three and now a full week. I twittered several times my “day count” without Diet coke and was somewhat astonished by the interest by some of interested in “how’s it going.” I guess others have had various reactions from giving up Diet Coke or more specifically, caffeine. So, I thought a post might be in order.
How’s it going? Good, I guess. I mean, a couple of people asked if I’d had headaches or other types of withdrawal symptoms. Not really. I had maybe a mild headache on the second or third days, but it was nothing that sent me running for an aspirin.
I thought I’d be dog-tired without my caffeine pick-me-up, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve been making it a point to try and get enough sleep, which has probably helped. I probably miss it the most in the afternoons more than the mornings. I suspect that when I inevitably have a day where I need to be up early due to travel or something else, where I haven’t had much sleep, I’ll likely reach for the Diet Coke. But so far, so good.
I’ve drunk Coke, then Diet Coke, for as long as I can remember. I started drinking Coke as kid, and I always liked the taste. I lived in fear like many when “New Coke” came out and the “old” formula was retired, then was relieved when “Coca-Cola Classic” gave us all a reprieve.
As a Coke drinker, I looked down upon the main variations that eventually came out. Caffeine-Free Coke? Wasn’t getting your caffeine fix part of the fun? Diet Coke? I wanted all the caffeine and all the sugar! Plus, who liked the aftertaste? Caffeine-Free Diet Coke? It was like a combination of two evils.
Probably about eight years ago, I was on a long flight to Britain when they ran out of regular Coke. Diet Coke was all they had, so I held my nose and drank it, not wanting boring water and not really liking anything else. By the end of the flight, I was thinking, “Hey, that’s not bad.”
Around that time, I was also realizing that drinking nearly 2 liters of Coke per day was a serious source of empty calories, and sitting in front of a computer 10-12 hours per day wasn’t doing much to burn them off. So I made the switch and never looked back. On the odd occasion I’ve had a sip or two of “regular” Coke, it’s tasted terribly sweet and not like the “real stuff” to me.
Sometime in the past few years, Diet Coke also switched from being an afternoon drink to an all-day drink for me. For some reason, the idea of having a soft drink before noon always felt weird to me. Pre-lunch drinks felt like the should include things like juice, milk or coffee — not soft drinks. Perhaps it was because in the past, I’d often start my day with a bowl of cereal. Milk and Diet Coke don’t go together and should in my mind have at least a good hour or two separation (and yes, I know, Penny Marshall thinks milk and Pepsi is great stuff. I wish her continued well with that!).
It was probably conferences that shifted me over. I’d often have to be up early after a late night, and I certainly wasn’t having a bowl of cereal before going into a day of sessions. Grabbing a Diet Coke helped boost the morning wake-up. I started having a Diet Coke in the mornings even on a “normal” day, over time.
Why not coffee? Hate the taste. Love the smell, hate the taste. In anything, by the way. One of the worst things is biting into a nice chocolate only to discover some idiot decided to ruin it by introducing a “mocha” flavor. Coffee ain’t for me.
Also in the past few years, I finally realized that one reason I often found it hard to fall asleep was likely due to all the caffeine I was having each day. As a result, I largely tried to stop having regular Diet Coke after 6pm. Instead, I’d switch over to Caffeine-Free Diet Coke (and suddenly realized how useful a product that was!). Once I got back in the US, I’d instead go for a Diet A&W Root Beer — no caffeine in root beer, you see.
Dropping Diet Coke wasn’t motivated out of a desire to reduce my caffeine intake further. It was really just that, as I started out saying, I realized there were days when I’d consumed no water at all. I guess you’re supposed to have like two liters of water per day. Clearly two liters of soda as a substitute has been keeping me alive, but it probably isn’t that healthy. So when I’d skipped my morning Diet Coke, I seized the opportunity to stretch it out and do a “detox” for the day plus try H20 once again.
Now it’s something of a challenge or a dare. How long can I keep going? The mornings haven’t been that much a challenge. Lunch is harder, as I really like a Diet Coke with a meal. It’s an effort, though not a monumental one, to say “No.” Harder is being at a restaurant, where I really feel the urge to have a Diet Coke and where saying no makes me feel like I’m missing out. Then again, I swear I felt like at a recent meal that the food tasted better. Maybe my palate is clearing. Hardest has probably been on a recent trip, where I’ve said no to the Diet Coke offered on the flight.
It hasn’t been all water for me, though that’s the majority of what I’ve consumed. A stole a few sips of my son’s chocolate milk for some variety. Last week, I had a Diet A&W Root Beer for some variety without the caffeine. At a restaurant, I had a sarsaparilla. Come on — how often do you see that on a menu, plus it didn’t have caffeine. And I’m sure there was no caffeine in that vodka-and-cranberry I had a few days ago!
Since I’ve gone a week, I kind of want to stretch it out a bit longer before I take in any more caffeine again. Like I said, I wasn’t concerned about my intake, but having a break before resuming more modest amounts seems like a good idea.
And I will get back to Diet Coke. I do like the taste; I will want the pick-me-up it provides. It’ll just be more moderate, a part of my liquid consumption, rather than the vast majority of it.