In Part 1 of this series, I covered the science behind artificial sweeteners so you can decide for yourself regarding their safety and place in your diet. In Part 2, I’ll share with you the story of my divorce from Diet Dr. Pepper. If giving up diet drinks and artificial sweeteners are something you want to do, I hope this helps.
Diet Dr. Pepper was my go-to drink starting in college. I mean, we’re talking at least three of these a day most days. I didn’t have much in common with my freshmen roommate, but we both drank DDP so we got along just fine. This was all while studying dietetics, and my nutrition education at the time (as do most still today) was perpetuating the idea that health and weight were all about calories in versus calories out, so If there was such thing as a delicious calorie-free drink, what could be the harm?
The problem was, this was literally all I was drinking. My liquid intake for the day, my water so to speak, was in the form of DDP. Working after college and then attending PA school, my habits never changed. Around this time, there was more conversation in the health world about how diet soda drinkers were not healthier or more likely to lose weight than regular soda drinkers. This still didn’t phase me much, because I wasn’t really trying to lose weight. But deep down it never set right with me how much of this stuff I was consuming. I remember eating lunch one day during my internal medicine rotation, drinking an ice cold DDP as I did every day for lunch. My preceptor, a very intelligent physician, told me “You need to stop drinking those things. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have calories, your kidneys and body have to process that junk. If you want a soda just have a regular one every once in a while.”
Over the next few years, as I started learning more about the benefits of clean eating (eating REAL food with minimal processing), I felt strongly it was time for me to give this drink up. It was literally the opposite of real food, the drink is entirely concocted in a lab. If you’ve never been a diet soda drinker and deciding to not have one is no bigger a decision than what shirt you’re wearing today, then this probably doesn’t resonate with you. But you soda drinkers out there, I know you can relate. You, who can’t imagine a day without Diet Coke. You, whose concern when traveling out of the country on your honeymoon was whether or not your favorite diet drink was going to be available. No? Just me? This stuff is HARD to give up!
For me, there was only one way to do it- cold turkey. New years eve 2015 I had my last DDP. I declared this to my husband, who laughed. That was really all the motivation I needed. The details of my struggle are pretty boring, but essentially it involved a lot of anger and dramatic emotions for about a week. And then on week 2, it got just a little easier. The desire continued to decline over weeks 3 and 4. After about 5 weeks, I didn’t miss it at all. In fact, a few months later I inadvertently took a sip of a diet soda and thought it was disgusting. Only a few weeks without artificial sweeteners and I couldn’t even stand the taste. It’s been over 3 years and I haven’t once had the desire to drink one. I was mistakenly given a latte with sugar-free syrup from my favorite coffee shop and I had to throw it out. It simply no longer tasted good.
And what was the result of this? I started drinking water. I slept better. I saved money. I hesitate to even tell you this because it was not my goal and was most likely related to a multitude of other factors at the time, but I even lost a few pounds. I now love drinking water, and occasionally enjoy a regular Dr. Pepper when we’re out to eat or I’m sitting poolside (let’s face it, that Doctor got something right in his formula). I enjoy the taste of real sugar. And if you’re worried that you’ll just crave sugar-filled beverages instead, all I can say is that wasn’t the case for me. I found drinking or eating foods with real sugar sources were more satisfying and I didn’t crave them all the time. I started enjoying coffee and tea, things I had never really drunk before because I learned to appreciate real flavors. My fluid intake now consists of coffee in the morning, mostly water, occasionally a sweetened drink like lemonade or regular soda.
You don’t have to give it up if you don’t want to, at the end of the day it’s not going to be the biggest influence on your overall health. Read Part 1 and make your decision. But I wanted to share this in case it resonated with you and your desire is to stop. Absolutely every person I’ve talked to that had the same habit and gave it up, shares a similar story about not missing after a few weeks. I know you can do it!