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How To Break A Diet Soda Addiction: Tips From A Former (Diet) Cokehead

by | May 16, 2012

It’s the rare person who has never been a victim of Diet Coke. I’ve definitely been there, and I’m not proud of it. My friend E—geek girl extraordinare—overcame her Diet Coke addiction, and can help you find your way to recovery.

Since 2008, E. Foley has been helping geeks find love. She writes amazing online dating profiles and guides her clients through the perilous waters of the dating scene. She’s totally proud to report that she’s even caused a couple geek weddings! As part of her quest for her healthstyle, she is an admin at Plus5CHA, a fitness & health community for geeks. (Visit GeeksDreamGirl.com or follow @geeksdreamgirl on Twitter.)

How To Break A Diet Soda Addiction: Tips From A Former (Diet) Cokehead

by E. Foley

Hi, everyone. My name is E and I’m an addict.

(Hi, E.)

CNN recently posted an article entitled “Can you get hooked on diet soda?” Before I clicked on it, I thought to myself, “Duh, of course you can. Been there, done that.”

The addict in the opening paragraph of the article sounds just like me a few years back:

First thing every morning, Ellen Talles starts her day by draining a supersize Styrofoam cup filled with Diet Coke and crushed ice. The 61-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., drinks another Diet Coke in the car on the way to work and keeps a glass nearby “at all times” at her job as a salesclerk. By the end of the day she has put away about 2 liters.

“I just love it,” she says. “I crave it, need it. My food tastes better with it.”

My preferred poison was Diet Pepsi, but I’ll still refer to myself as a recovering (diet) cokehead. It was my coffee in the morning, it was my pick-me-up mid-morning, it was my lunch beverage of choice, it was how I washed down my afternoon snack, and it was the drink of multiple refills if we went out for dinner. Two liters a day? Easily.

It took me three tries over several years to fully break my addiction.

Each time I quit I went through the horrible withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, irritability, and the unrelenting desire to take one long draw on a cold bottle of Diet Pepsi and feel the sweet rush of it as it traveled from my tongue to my brain. Even though it’s been several years since my last Diet Pepsi, I can still remember that feeling. That rush I got when feeding my addiction is still there, buried in my brain.

Which is, of course, why I will still refer to myself as a (diet) cokehead. I could, if I chose to feed the beast, reawaken the same addiction and be back to a two-liter a day habit.

5 Tips For Quitting Your Diet Soda Addiction

1. Don’t feel like you have to go cold turkey.

It’s what worked for me, but it may not work for you. Maybe set a rule for yourself that you only drink diet soda when you’re out at a restaurant. Since your SummerTomato-esque healthstyle involves more meals at home, that’ll cut down on the diet soda you drink. Later, you can start substituting other drinks when you eat out until you’re eventually soda-free.

2. Remove the addictive substance from your environment.

Smokers will attest that it’s harder to quit when someone else’s cigarettes are in the house. It’s the same for a diet soda addiction. Try to enlist your family, partner, or housemates to quit with you. If they can’t or won’t, see if you can put the soda in another location. Get a mini fridge for it and put it in another room. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Be prepared for the withdrawal symptoms.

Your body is addicted to this substance. Your brain is addicted to the high you get from it. When that feeling disappears, your body will fight tooth and nail to get it back, to get that next fix. You’ll probably feel downright terrible – headaches, irritability, lack of focus.

  • Time your quitting so you can be out of focus and irritable without it affecting your life too much. Don’t quit diet soda the week of the giant research paper or the big work project or your wedding. That’s just a recipe for disaster on both fronts.
  • Get some ibuprofin, or your anti-headache medicine of choice. Remember, these headaches are temporary and they will go away. No sense to suffer through them when you can dull the pain.

4. Substitute a tasty beverage that you enjoy.

When I quit, my savior was unsweetened iced tea with lemon. It gave me enough caffeine to dull the headaches and it was sugar-free and natural. Nowadays, my #1 beverage is water, followed by unsweetened iced tea. Here are some substitutes for diet soda:

  • Water. It’s not as boring as it sounds. Flavor it up with a squirt of lemon, lime, or orange.
  • Sassy Water. I tried this recipe from The Flat Belly Diet and it’s pretty darn good. If you hate straight-up water, give it a shot. It tastes very fresh and zippy.

2 liters water (about 8 ½ cups) 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced 12 small spearmint leaves. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let flavors blend overnight.

  • Unsweetened Tea. As a former resident of NC, I can tell you that asking for unsweetened iced tea in the South will get some really odd looks (especially after you tell them you won’t require fake sugars either). But most places have it, and you’ll discover quickly which restaurants have unsweetened iced tea worth drinking.Hot tea is also amazing, especially if you get loose leaf tea rather than grocery store teabags. My favorite loose leaf teas come from Adagio Teas and their Ingenuitea teapot is super spiffy for brewing.
  • Italian Soda. If you can afford a few extra calories, consider stepping down from diet soda to Italian Soda. You make Italian soda by mixing carbonated water with flavored simple syrup. Torani syrups come in a myriad of flavors and are made with cane sugar (not HFCS). It’s 100 calories for two tablespoons, but trust me, you do not need two tablespoons, or even two teaspoons, to transform your water into something a bit more flavorful. Be careful to watch your consumption of Italian soda. It won’t have all the calories (or chemicals) of a HFCS soda, but the empty calories do add up. (Torani does make sugar-free syrup, but it may be better to go the more natural route, even if it does mean a few more calories.)

5. Get a sponsor.

No, you’re not an alcoholic. Diet soda isn’t going to ruin your life and relationships the way alcoholism can. But you will need help sometimes, and it’s good to have a friend or three you can call or text or visit when you’re feeling the need to swing into a 7-11 for a Big Gulp. Have your lifelines on speed dial and don’t be afraid to use them.

You can do it!

Why don’t you drink soda?

Originally published March 9, 2011.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 4, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

In case you missed it, I shared my thoughts on the new USDA Dietary Guidelines over at my personal blog (and on MSNBC, kinda). Also this week fake sugars find themselves in the spotlight, along with dark meat chicken and the culinary crack pipe. And if you were wondering, we here at Summer Tomato have plenty of reasons to believe breakfast is still important.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 23, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m excited to announce this week the launch of my personal blog daryapino.com. It’s still very much a work in progress, and there’s a decent chance it may change a lot in the coming months. But since it is meant to be a more informal peek into my personal healthstyle (which I get asked about all the time (???)), I figure there’s no harm in announcing it at this point. There are a few posts up there now, including a review of Anthony Bourdain’s new book Medium Raw, to give you an idea of what to expect. Let me know what you think.

I found a ton of interesting links this week ranging from really cool scientific discoveries on the benefits of whole foods to frightening food safety issues and vegetable MRIs. I also found some proof that organic tomatoes are better for you than the tasteless kind.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • USDA Admits Link Between Antibiotic Use by Big Ag and Human Health <<The horrendous conditions that exist in industrial feedlots require the animals be given huge doses of antibiotics to  stay alive long enough to be profitable survive. This overuse of medicine creates superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are becoming a serious problem in our very own hospitals. Solution seems obvious to me. (Huffington Post)
  • Good cholesterol may mean little for statin users <<Interesting new data showing that statin users get no extra benefit from having high HDL “good” cholesterol. I’m a little surprised by this, and will be following this research closely. (Medline)
  • Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes <<Translation: Organic tomatoes are more nutritious than conventional tomatoes in a well-designed 10-year study. Why this research didn’t make the news is beyond me. But of course if a poorly designed study shows no difference in the nutrition of organic foods then it’s front page material (in science we call this a negative finding and it should require EXTRA proof). So I’m calling BS of the week on the lack of press here. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry)
  • A rose may be a rose but perhaps a calorie’s not a calorie <<Cool study showing that whole foods use more calories during digestion than processed foods, even when the meals have the same number of total calories and are almost identical. (Weighty Matters)
  • The Claim: Artificial Sweeteners Can Raise Blood Sugar <<Yes, yes they can. Artificial sweeteners have never been shown to have any value, and they also taste pretty bad. I vote for natural sweeteners with real calories. Just use them sparingly. (New York Times)
  • Why Toasting Dried Chiles Matters <<Cool experiment on the flavor added by toasting dried chilies before using them. I’m totally trying this. (Serious Eats)
  • Your Salad – Is the convenience worth the risk? <<This is a subject that has been bothering me a lot lately. Industrial lettuces have been getting E.coli and salmonella like crazy this year, so even vegetarians and generally conscientious eaters are at risk unless they buy produce directly from farms (which can be impossible for many people). I don’t know what to say except rinse your bagged salads well. (Marler Blog)
  • WTF Should I Do with All This Summer Fruit? <<Tips on freezing fruit so you have a stash come winter. (Chow)
  • Inside Insides <<One of the coolest geeky food blogs I’ve come across. They take MRIs of fresh produce!!
  • Tarragon Egg Salad <<I love egg salad, and am learning to appreciate tarragon. I declare this recipe on the menu! (Simply Recipes)

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Feb 26, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Lots of great healthy eating tips this week on the interwebs. I love the news that slow eating can help you eat less. How often are we told that enjoying food more helps us lose weight? (OK, all the time here at ST, but I’m a weirdo.) There’s also an interesting article about sodium worth reading.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What goodies did you find online this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Sep 11, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

First and foremost be sure to check out my guest post over at Geek’s Dream Girl, Get Fit By Becoming a Food Geek. Also, Michael Pollan wrote a thought-provoking Op-ed on food and healthcare and the Nutrition Diva gives us more to ponder in the world of food and health.

In other news this week I applied to and became listed at the website Alltop. Apparently this is some kind of honor and I’m supposed to put one of these badges on my blog. I’m not sure I feel comfortable putting one in my sidebar, but I’ll show you some of my options here. Let me know what you think.

Alltop. We're kind of a big deal.Alltop, all the top storiesAlltop, confirmation that I kick ass

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: I’ve been struggling with the Delicious tool bar on my browser this week, so my bookmarks there are not current. I hope to fix this soon).

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips and recipes you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious healthy meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

  • Get Fit By Becoming A Food Geek <<Nerds looking to get in shape can take advantage of their inclination toward excessive information. My guest post at Geek’s Dream Girl.
  • Big Food vs. Big Insurance <<Michael Pollan, as usual, offers a brilliant analysis of the benefits of healthcare (insurance) reform, and the residual benefits this will have on our waistlines. (New York Times)
  • Do sugar substitutes hurt or help with weight loss? <<Find out the latest on the controversial topic of artificial sweeteners and weight loss. (Nutriton Data)
  • Fast food lunches contain RIDICULOUS amounts of calories <<Do you eat fast food? Maybe you will stop after reading this. As supplemental reading, here’s my opinion on fast food. (Obesity Panacea)
  • Fruit Even Healthier Than Thought: Study <<Personally I’m not surprised to hear that there are benefits of whole fruits scientists haven’t discovered yet. I bet there are things we don’t know about whole vegetables too. (HealthDay)
  • For Your Health, Froot Loops <<B.S. of the week Maybe that last article explains why the FDA is allowing Froot Loops to be labeled as a “Smart Choice.” Oh wait, that doesn’t say fruit…. (New York Times)
  • Green Onions Recalled <<Yet another recall of industrial food. You have to be brave to shop for food at a conventional supermarket these days. As Arnold says in Terminator 2, “Come with me if you want to live.” (New York Times)
  • 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat <<Interesting read over at Tim Ferriss’ blog about the benefits of saturated fat. I would take these points with a grain of salt, but it is worth thinking outside of the box sometimes and questioning your long-held beliefs. (Blog of Tim Ferriss)
  • Soybeans With Garlic and Dill <<This recipe looks simple, healthy and delicious, and can be made with items that are available year-round. (New York Times)
  • Slow-motion sneeze is gross, and probably effective <<This video of sneezing is really gross, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Enjoy. (Los Angeles Times)

What thought provoking stories did you find this week?

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