I'm Gonna Kick Tomorrow...
June 28, 2011 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Tips, tricks and anecdata needed to successfully and permanently kick a diet soda habit.

Study after study after effing study agrees: diet soda is pretty much going to kill me and everything I love. And then vultures will eat my artificially-sweetened bones. Several times, I've attempted to kick my Sweet Lady D habit. Each time, I've felt awesome, been super-proud... and relapsed within a week. Have YOU managed to quit diet soda permanently? HOW?

Some notes:

- It's not the caffeine... about 75% of the diet soda I drink is of the caffeine-free variety.
- I didn't THINK I had a particularly addictive personality... until non-nutritive sweeteners, that is.
- I've never been a coffee/tea drinker, but I DO have a Keurig and a vast array of coffee/tea K-Cups at work.
- I don't usually fall off the wagon in moments of stress or vulnerability, but in moments of boring-ness. "Hey, you know what would go great with this [hour of folding laundry/dinner at a friend's house/data analysis session]? A DIET COKE SO GO GET ONE RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW."
- The stuff is dirt cheap and it's EVERY. WHERE. I don't need to present an I.D. to get it. Hell, I don't even need to have PAPER MONEY to get it. How am I supposed to resist an addiction which can be satisfied with quarters?
posted by julthumbscrew to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I bought a water bottle when I quit pop. Filled it up as soon as I got to work and slowly sipped at it. When it was empty I refilled it. I was drinking water all day long so I was never thirsty enough to want anything else.
posted by swashedbuckles at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2011

How? You do it by not drinking soda.

You have a thousand decision points between wanting a diet soda and finishing the can. Even if it means cracking it open (AAAAH! that fizz!) and saying to yourself, "no, I don't want to consume this" and tipping it down the drain, the way you stop drinking soda (or eating candy, or whatever) is by not doing it.

posted by devbrain at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2011

Substitute it with water. I have a friend who was drinking 8 or more diet sodas a day. He started using the soda as a reward for drinking water - after he finished drinking his 100oz (or whatever) of water that day, he could then have a soda. He found at first that there were many days he didn't drink his allotted water and had no soda, but once he was consistently drinking all of that water every day he no longer craved a soda.
posted by rhapsodie at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Can you identify what it is about diet soda that is appealing? Is it a flavor? The carbonation? something else?

Identifying where the appeal is will help suggest an alternative.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011

So, recently quit trying to drink pop/soda.

and discovered the thing i was craving the most was carbonated water. I missed my bubblies.

Use fruit juice as a flavor enhancer and buy yourself some club soda. :)
posted by royalsong at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Homemade mint lemonade, made with Stevia. Also, the Crystal Light people make something called Pure Fitness that they say "contains no artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives."
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2011

I have cut way back by:
1. Not carrying change around or to work
2. Drinking so much water it makes me sick to my stomach
3. Reminding myself that even though I don't understand the mechanism, artificial sweetners look like they make you fat and diabetic.
4. Not sweating it to much because Diet Coke with Ice and a Straw is a awesome treat sometimes. Key words: Treat. Sometimes.
posted by stormygrey at 9:50 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: EmpressCallipygos: it's the ritual of having a drink, partially (I go crazy at my desk unless I have a can/bottle of SOMETHING to sip at) and also the non-boringness of the drink itself (water - even nice, crisp Brita water with lots of ice - just seems lamentably dull). And the sweetness, too... I do have a sweet tooth the size of a rhinoceros horn...
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2011

Drink carbonated water with a little bit of flavored stevia when you have a craving. Stevia tastes like fake sugar to me, so it might fake out your taste buds. Keep cutting back until it is just carbonated water with lemon or something.

And yes, keep the regular water going pretty much constantly.
posted by Vaike at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I have quit diet soda about a million times, with my longest quit being three months. It's really addictive. Almost nothing has worked for me.

I found that after about ten days, I was almost totally without cravings but that even one relapse undid everything. Diet soda is not a sometimes food.

Mostly I just gutted it out for ten days - something I'm doing now, again. Nothing really seemed to help, not even regular soda....because nothing else contains delicious, delicious aspartame with bubbles.
posted by Frowner at 9:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try water with lemon; a little sweet, a little sour/bitter. It's a good diet soda replacement for me in terms of flavor and refreshingness. But I just buy the big containers of "ReaLemon" and squeeze some of that in there, I don't mess with cutting up and squeezing actual lemons. And sometimes you just want a fair amount of lemoniness. I keep the ReaLemon in my fridge door. And if you go to minimus.biz, you can get little lemon juice packets, like they sometimes have for tea at restaurants, pretty cheap. I carry a few in my purse. (Because lemony water, as we call it in this house, also helps with my pregnancy morning sickness.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2011

You say that the appeal is: 1. the ritual, 2. the taste (as in, can't be just water), and 3. the sweetness.

Try this two-phase attack which I have just made up out of my head.

FIRST PHASE: Seek out some of the foofier all-natural sodas (and I mean REALLY all-natural, because I strongly doubt Sprite really is as "all natural" as it claims). These will still be sweet, but not AS sweet as diet soda, and they will be somewhat healthier. GuS (which stands for Grown Up Soda) is one option, and so is Fizzy Lizzy. Orangina is another option. All of those are pretty much just club soda with juice, and some added sweetener; except that "added sweetener" is going to be either cane sugar or grape juice, both of which are healthier than whatever lab monstrosity is sweetening diet soda.

This will be less sweet than diet soda, and is an intermediate step. Kind of like a patch, if you will, to get you ready for the next step.

SECOND PHASE: club soda and fruit juice. Once you're a bit more used to the less-sweet tastes of these other "natural" sodas, start also drinking fruit juice-- you may find that some fruit juices are sweet enough on their own. When you do get to that point, then start mixing them with club soda -- presto, you've got your own soda, that is 100% natural and has no added sugars.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I bought a sodastream to make my own diet soda, promptly starting using their lighter fruit flavorings instead of diet soda syrup, and then quickly switched to just plain soda water. All of this happened within a few weeks, and without even trying to do it. I bring two liters of soda water to work with me every day, and always have one at my desk to sip on.
posted by amarynth at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2011

I've always been able to just quit drinking diet soda. I do like the occasional Topo Chico or other mineral water as a break from just plain water, but it isn't a substitution. I had the soda as a crutch, and started carrying around a large cup or bottle of water with me. I stay hydrated, I have something in my hand and in my mouth.

I used to drink several cans of Diet Coke a day at work. I'd also drink a few at home. Now, I'm off of it. I will still have one on occasion when there's nothing else to drink, but it doesn't lead to any sort of relapse. I'll sometimes think it tastes gross and wonder how in the hell I drank so much of it in the past.

There's no physical addiction to soda. It isn't heroin. Just stop and start drinking water instead. This is mind over matter. Just as in eating better, there's no tricks, you just do it.
posted by birdherder at 10:12 AM on June 28, 2011

1 a day rule. You are just allowed one a day.

I love regular coke. I allow myself one a week at Sunday brunch.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I agree that water is dreadfully boring. A friend of mine dealt with this issue by making vast quantities of loose-leaf iced tea in a French press. Typically, he'd make a concentrated brew (after some trial and error with which tea to use that wouldn't get bitter after a long steep) and store it in a pitcher in the fridge, then fill a giant Nalgene bottle each morning with a little concentrate and added water.

If you have a food co-op nearby, they have loads of great flavors to try. Rishi is good (if you're nearish to Milwaukee), as is Stash and Republic of Tea. You can get a bunch that are fruity, caffeinated, minty, subtle, flowery... whatever. It's fun to have a variety at home, too, and the French press is just big enough to make it easy. They're really cheap at IKEA; buy a few in case you crack one.
posted by Madamina at 10:35 AM on June 28, 2011

Try switching to fizzy/gassed water, I used to drink a lot of soda but found that drinking fizzy water as opposed to boring normal water was a much better replacement - I guess I just missed the bubbles or something. ofc ymmv
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 10:39 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Successfully kicked the DC habit, now going on 3 months now.

A large amount of water per day is a key, but the bigger picture: making major changes in my own diet, going low carb and much more 'natural'.

My voracious sweet-tooth (that was driving the need for DC at least once if not several times per day) was reset through this, that now without any sugar or sugar-substitutes in my diet over time my taste buds are much more sensitive.
posted by scooterdog at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

in moments of boring-ness

I think this holds the key to your answer. I'm a diet soda junkie, myself, and I drink several times more water than soda. I'm on my second water-bottle refill since I started typing this answer. At least once a day at work, I'll think "I need some more water" and then notice that my water bottle's still half full. What I'm actually itching for is the walk to the water cooler - it's a distraction and an opportunity to move around. If this sounds like you, your plan of action should involve developing a higher tolerance for boring activities, or an alternate way to take quick breaks (exercise?) or provide stimulation during the activities (music?).

I'd be wary of substituting another packaged drink for the diet soda, since you'll still be spending money and creating waste. If you like plain tap water, go with that. If you miss the flavor, throw a slice of fruit or some fresh herbs in there. Strawberries, cucumber, mint, and basil are all good water enhancers, and there are certainly more I haven't discovered. You might be able to freeze the slices/leaves so you can keep a variety on hand.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2011

flavoured seltzers - i actually prefer them to diet sodas. crisp and refreshing, without artificial sweeteners or extra calories.
posted by wayward vagabond at 10:45 AM on June 28, 2011

I have cut way back on my Diet Pepsi consumption (which had been embarrassingly voluminous) mostly by convincing myself I don't need to spend money on it. For caffeine I have iced tea or coffee, otherwise I mostly stick to water. When I do get soda, I don't buy multipacks of "individual" servings (and yes those 24 oz bottles used to be an individual serving for me). Instead I get either 1 20oz bottle (which are expensive for what they are!) or a 2 Liter bottle. Having to dirty a glass for some soda makes me think twice about it. Yes I am that lazy, and yes I'm using it to my advantage.

I would suggest getting some of those flavored seltzers that come in the 1L bottles, and weening yourself to the ones that don't have artificial sweetener at all. You can buy cans of seltzer and keep them in the fridge. I'm guessing what you really want to get yourself away from is the sweeteners.

Know that quitting the diet soda all at once thing will make you crave it because of caffeine withdrawal but also because most diet sodas have plenty of sodium, and you'll miss that too, at first. Once you get over the hump you'll be good to go.
posted by eldiem at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2011

I had stomach surgery and had to avoid carbonation entirely for about a year. That did the trick. I don't suggest that route, though.

I drink Propel now instead of soda, but that still has artificial sweeteners. I also drink lemonade. I don't miss the bubbles.
posted by cabingirl at 10:55 AM on June 28, 2011

Seconding Soda Stream. You can drink it plain for the fizz, with lime for flavor, or with raspberry syrup (homemade!) for an occasional sugary treat.
posted by kcm at 11:02 AM on June 28, 2011

If it's the fizz and that sharp super-cold feel - Topo Chico is perfect. It's just carbonated water but it's not boring like plain old water. I don't even miss the sweetness - in fact, the couple of times I've had a diet coke recently, it was repellently chemical tasting and *way* too sweet. Ditto for fruit juice.
posted by media_itoku at 11:05 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Buy 12-packs of flavored LaCroix sparkling water in cans. They come in several varieties and contain no artificial sweeteners or calories (or sodium).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I replaced my several-Cokes-a-day habit with several Coke Zeros a day. Then I decided I needed to give that up, too. After a couple months, I still occasionally crave one (and indulge myself), especially with certain trigger foods -- pizza just tastes better with Coke, for example. But here's how I got off it in general:

1. At home, just stop buying them. I always had a 12 pack or maybe a 2 liter sitting around in case I wanted any. Not having any means that for the part of my day when I'm at home, I either have to drive somewhere to get some or go without. I know you said it doesn't do it for you, but for me, having a cold pitcher of Brita water in the fridge made this easier; I never saw luke warm tap water as an option before, but ice cold water, though still not quite soda, at least is drinkable.

2. During "moments of boring-ness" away from home, I try to grab a Vitamin Water Zero. I'm not a scientist, but supposedly stevia is better than artificial stuff, and still zero calories. And delicious! A little pricier than soda, and not available everywhere, but with all these different flavors to try, it makes it interesting. (I was fortunate that my school bookstore carried a large selection of these right next to the Cokes. Might not be the case for you.)

3. At restaurants, I made a conscious decision to save money and drink water. This was easier for me since most restaurants don't have Coke Zero, and Coke (calories) and Diet Coke (taste) weren't options for me. Assuming you drink Diet, this part may be a bit harder for you.

It's possible, but definitely not easy, for the reasons you mention. I'm not the most disciplined person -- not even close -- but somehow I managed to put together the self-discipline for this. And really, that's what it has to come down to.
posted by SuperNova at 11:26 AM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: Most important: DO NOT SUBSTITUTE.

Don't attempt to replace this habit with another. Don't go for fruit juice or seltzer or coffee, you'll just end up with a new habit and be back in 6mo asking how to kick that ;)

You need to remove easy access. Don't buy any. Throw out/give away anything you have now. Put your money (purse?) in a drawer or cabinet so you don't have anything to purchase with when you walk past a vending machine.

It takes 2-4wks to break a habit. It won't be easy, but you can do it. Remind yourself of the benefits - better healthy, less spending. That's your goal, self-improvement, not 'stopping soda'. Stopping soda is just a means to an end.
posted by jpeacock at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2011

Two suggestions:
We got a Sodastream as well. It came with a couple of tiny bottles of lime flavoring. Basically, you're drinking unsweetened fuzzy water with lime. Very refreshing.
You might consider getting some powdered Gatorade. It's not quite as terrible as soda, and it might help with your cravings. We started pouring it in to chilled water bottles. It's not fuzzy, though I suppose we could pull that off (using the sodastream).
posted by Gilbert at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2011

Chiming in here to add that lime juice works just as well as lemon juice to add to water in case an alternative is desired.
posted by de void at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone... while "not substituting" is probably the BEST advice, I'm not sure if it's advice which will realistically work for ME, so I may invest in a lot of that LaCroix water (it comes in COCONUT! Num!), look into a SodaStream and try to stick this out for at least a full month... hopefully by then it'll be more of an ingrained habit.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2011

I like fizzy water (like the LaCroix, there are many brands and flavors). I've not been addicted to diet soda, but was addicted to frozen treats, and found a "one per week" rule on healthmonth.com to be astoundingly effective at making ice cream and its ilk no longer hold the emotional sway it once did. Healthier habits feel great!
posted by ldthomps at 1:55 PM on June 28, 2011

You're reinforcing your bad habits of wanting to drink sweet things.
posted by phrakture at 3:17 PM on June 28, 2011

I gave up sodas three years ago. I switched to iced tea with no sweetener and just a squeeze of lemon. I also carry a bottle of water with me everywhere. It can be done!
posted by JujuB at 3:17 PM on June 28, 2011

A little ritual I enjoyed in muggy Baltimore summers was cold-brewed iced tea. Fill a large jar with room temperature water, add a heaping tablespoon of tea, cover, and let it stand overnight. Strain into a pitcher (add sugar or not, as desired) and store in the fridge. No French press required. It was OK without any sugar, probably because it never got very strong or astringent. (This is called "sun-brewed tea" if you stand the jar on a windowsill while steeping, but I never found that necessary. Any ol' table will do.)

I used an inexpensive rose congou tea from my local Chinese grocery store. It's fun to try different kinds of tea this way, or try adding some mint sprigs, fresh ginger or lemon grass. You don't even need to boil water! No fizz, though - sorry.
posted by Quietgal at 5:34 PM on June 28, 2011

I shared all your reasons for drinking diet coke. It made me happy (which freaked me out).

What worked for me, finally, was just not drinking it. I made a firm rule for myself, and I stuck too it. If I craved a diet coke, I would make myself get anything else. Sometimes that was a seltzer, sometimes a coffee, sometimes a chai, sometimes a vitamin water. Since I didn't really want anything else, those urges eventually subsided. I fell off the wagon for a few months because a diet coke pusher showed up at work and gave me one every day or so, but I went back to my rule, and it wasn't hard.

I'm not great at "cold turkey" normally which is why I think that diet coke isn't really as addictive as I thought it was.

Good luck. You can definitely do this.
posted by semacd at 5:49 PM on June 28, 2011

I had to use baby steps. If you're not ready to go soda free in your home just yet, try storing it in an inconvenient place. Somehow running out to the garage to get a soda + having to get out a glass and ice to drink it makes that cold bottle of water in your fridge much more appealing. Buy those teeny tiny cans. You'll cut your intake in half and probably not even notice. Make a "no soda with meals" rule. (Okay, I still have that one with breakfast. No one is perfect.) Switch to caffeine free for every other soda. Good luck!
posted by Kalatraz at 7:30 PM on June 28, 2011

Best answer: I recently quit drinking diet soda. I had no intention of doing so, but was participating in a 45-day nutrition challenge where I had to give up artificial sweetener (not so bad, I thought) along with a lot of other stuff (grains, dairy, beans, starchy vegetables). I thought I'd gut out the 45 days and then immediately crack open a Coke Zero. Since I was already eating Paleo and already fairly lean, I didn't expect a big body composition change but, wow, I immediately dropped ten pounds (in two weeks) and my body fat was the lowest it's ever been in my life. The single biggest change in my diet was the absence of artificial sweetener, and that finally convinced me that it really is that bad for you. And after 45 days, I really didn't need it or want it anymore. As for beating the cravings during the challenge (and yes, that was tough) two things really helped: unsweetend green tea and black tea in a can, and unsweetened, flavored soda. There were times when, god knows why, I just wanted to crack open a can of something to drink. Years of habit, I guess. And there are some foods that just go better with a carbonated beverage, even if it's not sweet. Eventually I didn't even need those two crutches.
posted by zanni at 3:08 AM on June 30, 2011

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