Help me quit my Coke (a-Cola) addiction
November 29, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I need to stop chugging 8+ cans of the vile (wonderful) liquid a day. Multiple previous attempts have failed. I need (1) motivation and (2) a plan

I'm pretty sure I'm in addiction territory. My heart beats a little faster when I see the red cans, I get a sense of sinking disappointment if I reach our office fridge and there are only Lights and Zeros.

On one level (much like a smoker) I have this unreasonable belief that it makes me happy. But with my weight up over 40 pounds and the constant mental self-beatings because all my attempts to quit have failed, I know it's not.

I'm up to over 2l a day, starting at 6 in the morning when I arrive at work. Lately every morning, I come in with fresh resolution not to touch the sauce. Sheer willpower alone is not working.


Firstly, I need englightenment. The "it's bad for you" isn't making it less appealing. I laugh in the face of obesity. I think the kind of thing I'm looking for is info (video, articles, investigative pieces) that call me a sucker for buying into the marketing hype or exposing exactly how their conglomerate is taking me for a fool. Or some unethical stuff that the corporation has been involved in. Anything to get me indignant and quit it.

Or, if there are compelling shock stories about just how bad it is for me (the urban legends about it dissolving rocks or cleaning forensic crime scenes make me side with the Cola and shake my head while cracking open a cold one [isn't that crrrrrshhp sound of a freshly opened can a.maaay.zing? ;)].

Then, once I have the righteous indignation and/or repulsion, I need a plan that has least likely chance of failing. Quit cold turkey? Allow myself a token drink once a day/week? Slowly come off it? If anybody has done it before (I've tried) there are some pretty yucky side effects of headaches and crazy mood swings. How do I weather them and not just go for the hair of the dog.

I've decided that December 1st is my red (!) letter day. I'm going to do it!
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (69 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dying For A Coke? (PDF alert):
Eight union leaders who worked at Coke’s Colombian bottling plants were assassinated by paramilitaries. The assassinations occurred while Coke was in contract negotiations with the union SINALTRAINAL. A fact finding report concluded that “the physical access that paramilitaries have had to Coca-Cola bottling plants is impossible without knowledge and/or tacit approval … The conclusion that Coca-Cola bears responsibility for the campaign of terror leveled at its workers is unavoidable.” Union leaders at these plants continue to receive death threats. These actions, along with human rights and environmental abuses in other countries, have led over 50 universities, including NYU, to ban the sale of Coke products. Coke denies responsibility and refuses to permit an independent investigation into these killings.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:10 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

(link, sorry)
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:11 PM on November 29, 2011

According to people I know who've stopped themselves drinking soda, after a long enough break it begins to taste awful to you, so my vote is for cold turkey. Switch completely to water, any of those juice or flavored water substitutes just encourage you to maintain your taste for sweet drinks.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:11 PM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

I need (1) motivation and (2) a plan

If you have an addiction to anything, including caffeine, all that you need is the actual desire to quit. You already know the excessive consumption is bad for you by your reference to the weight thing. I'm unclear as to how you expect that anything anyone says in a Metafilter askme will generate the desire to quit.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:12 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cold turkey. I used to down Diet Coke by the case and can't remember the last time I had one. I was at a fast food place and they were out of real ice tea so I got a Diet Coke and ended up pouring most out.
posted by birdherder at 7:15 PM on November 29, 2011

I had a diet Coke habit that was about that bad. I went cold turkey and took ibuprofen regularly for about 3 or 4 days during the worst of the headaches. I needed ICE COLD sparkling water during that time to help me through it - the coldness and the BURN of the carbonation helped. I recommend La Croix because it comes in cans and is super carbonated. Like painfully. Yum.
posted by peep at 7:16 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have gone over a month without a soda, and I was a former confirmed diet coke fiend.
Cold turkey is best from my experience. And if I can do it so can you!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:17 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: I have the a similar addiction, but mine's to the zero. I switched to diet coke a decade ago because of the calories (and lost a ton of weight with that one change alone), but I has to say, the Zero is much, much better that the Diet stuff. Tastes almost like the real thing -- in fact, i now prefer it. With that in mind, I'd consider switching first to the Zero. All you're swapping is one type of chemicals for another, but at least the calories will be cut down, and you're only going to go through a sugar withdrawal, instead of both sugar and caffeine. One chemical at a time...

Unfortunately, that's all the advice I can give, because that's the point where I got stuck. I did give it up completely for a couple months, but that didn't last. I really am addicted as well.

Good luck!
posted by cgg at 7:17 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I recently quit coffee. I have free, good-quality coffee at work, and at one point was drinking four 16-oz cups a day (which, by my math, has about as much caffeine as 21 sodas). I also had coffee and energy drinks at home. When I quit, I had headaches and fatigue for 4 days, but now I seem to be pretty much better.

I've switched to tea -- one cup of caffeinated tea in the morning, and herbal tea for the rest of the day. I got rid of everything at home, which helped a lot.

If you really, really can't quit, Coke Zero is very good and calories. But still has the caffeine of course.
posted by miyabo at 7:17 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Boy, I initially read that as "21 a day, starting with 6 in the morning." Anyway, I highly highly recommend the "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" lecture by Robert Lustig linked to in this mefi post.

I say quit cold turkey. The headaches last only for a few days, up to a week. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
posted by phaedon at 7:18 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Psych the headaches are just from lack of caffeine. Have a cup of coffee or tea to help you over the worst of it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:19 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went cold turkey about 3 years ago. It just got to the point where enough was enough.

I still drink a lot of gingerale and root beer as there is no caffeine in those drinks (in Canada) - except for Barqs which I avoid. Perhaps switching to gingerale would be a good way for you to taper off the hard stuff.
posted by davey_darling at 7:19 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The "it's bad for you" isn't making it less appealing. I laugh in the face of obesity.

You do know there are many, many other health problems related to consuming that much sugar? Gaining weight should be the least of your worries. Everyone knows that "sugar is bad for you" but most people don't know exactly why and what it's doing to your body. It's actually pretty horrifying if you read up on it. When is the last time you've gone to the doctor?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:19 PM on November 29, 2011

(Darn autocorrect....)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:20 PM on November 29, 2011

Maybe try separating the addiction from your physical dependence by switching to decaffeinated code for while before trying to stop drinking coke entirely? I know ... it doesn't taste exactly the same....
posted by Metasyntactic at 7:21 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Wikipedia stuff: is feared that the water used to produce Coke may contain unhealthy levels of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. It has also been alleged that due to the amount of water required to produce Coca-Cola, aquifers are drying up and forcing farmers to relocate.
Packaging used in Coca-Cola's products has a significant environmental impact but the company strongly opposes attempts to introduce mechanisms such as container deposit legislation.
To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including 9 murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused to do so.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

According to people I know who've stopped themselves drinking soda, after a long enough break it begins to taste awful to you, so my vote is for cold turkey.

This has not been my experience; a Coke after a long break -- and my longest break was over two years -- is still the best thing ever.

The only thing that has ever worked for me is to go cold turkey and stick to it. I cracked and had some Coke to get me through my PhD exams and I haven't been able to reliably quit since.
posted by gerryblog at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why don't you switch to (unsweetened) coffee or tea? They're both much better for you. You won't get the hell of caffeine withdrawal and neither have any significant amount of calories.
posted by wayland at 7:26 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

8 cans of Coke is 1136 calories (!). If your weight is stable (which is unlikely, but whatever), you would lose a pound every three days just by cutting your Coke habit. If weight loss is a goal, that's pretty darn compelling.
posted by threeants at 7:27 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Persuasion: My sister lost almost 50 pounds simply by switching to diet soda. 8 cans a day is enough calories to sustain a sedentary person. Also, it's terrible for your teeth. If you want motivation, check to see how much a root canal costs.

Plan: Switch to water (diet soda is still pretty bad for you, and if it's going to suck, you might as well get the most benefit from it at once) and chew a lot of sugar-free gum. If you need the caffeine, try a cup or two of black tea.
posted by elizeh at 7:28 PM on November 29, 2011

Oops, missed the part where you said you're not looking for health points as I was led astray by your mention of the 40 pound weight gain. Sorry to derail.
posted by threeants at 7:29 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: What's going to motivate you depends a lot on what your values are. If you don't care about obesity, what health issues do you care about? Diabetes? Calcium (and subsequent bone-density) loss? Vitamin imbalances leading to generally bad health? Cancer? Whatever hits home for you most, I'm sure we can find a detailed study that will make you (analytically) repulsed to see the stuff. Or if it's not health issues but environmental concerns, whatever.

As far as the addiction, you have a couple addictions here: sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, I believe) and caffeine. It actually might be helpful to you to do one of 2 things: either replace the sweets and caffeine temporarily with other items until you've gotten off the Coke, or go cold-turkey on not just Coke, but sugar and caffeine as well. I did this a couple of years ago, lost 50 pounds, and had a ton more energy. The first week or so is hell, though. Make sure you drink tons of water and take lots of vitamins.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:30 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: Lots of iced tea with no sugar for the caffeine. It's more sustainable than lots of coffee and has a certain refreshing harshness.

You can find Coca-Cola's criminal activity listed by country here. A couple of excerpts:

"In Turkey, in 2005, 105 workers at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Istanbul joined a union and were terminated. They organized a lengthy sit-down strike in front of the main offices of Coca-Cola in Turkey. After several weeks of protesting, Coca-Cola workers entered the building to demand their reinstatement. While leaders of the workers were meeting with senior management for the company, the company ordered Turkish riot police to attack the workers who were by all accounts peacefully assembled, many with their spouses and children. Nearly two hundred of them were beaten badly and many required hospitalization. Lawsuits are pending."

"It should be noted what happened in the '70s and '80s in Guatemala City: According to 'Soft Drink, Hard Labor' published by the Latin America Bureau (UK) in 1987, 'For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for 13 months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived.'"
posted by Adventurer at 7:31 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Caffiene headaches can be managed with a small cup of coffee or tea each morning, and no other caffiene for the rest of the day. After a week of that you won't get caffiene headaches from removing caffiene from your diet.
posted by singingfish at 7:44 PM on November 29, 2011

Wikipedia has an entire article called Criticism of Coca-Cola, linked upthread. From health to environmental to economic issues, from Nazi Germany to murders in bottling plants, that article has it all.

Anecdotally, I know someone who used to drink several cans of Coke each day, and he was in his 30s. His doctor told him he had the stomach of a 60-year-old man due to all the acid in the pop.

I was able to cold-turkey pop but I was actually on vacation and had a ton of stuff to do (i.e. distractions). After that, I came under orders from 2 different doctors to avoid caffeine for 2 different health conditions, but I'm still allowed to have some when I have a bad headache/migraine. I find myself unable to drink more than about 4-6 ounces now, and that will take me a few hours to drink. If you do go cold turkey, and you want to occasionally drink it still, limit yourself to one or two a week, and maybe you won't get the caffeine dependence back.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:48 PM on November 29, 2011

I quit drinking coffee last winter since I was getting headaches if I was a bit late with the next day's cup. I agree with the folks above who say that cold turkey is the way to go. On the couple of special occasions where I've had caffeine, headaches rolled around the next day--no good!

I am also, a little less successfully, quitting diet soda for the most part. I find it can be nice to drink soda as an accompaniment, say, to a sandwich and fries, but when I want something to drink on its own, I try to go for water. And when I don't feel like having water with a meal, then I just don't drink anything--no one you have to, right? Problem solved.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:51 PM on November 29, 2011

I am totally a Coke fiend, have been all my life (one of my siblings worked for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in my hometown, so we were a Coke Family).

For years I thought I could control my intake, force myself to only drink one can a day, or one glass, or whatever, and that approach never worked. I've come to a place where I had to admit that I really can't control myself, and my solution has pretty much come down to this: Stop buying the stuff. I literally cannot keep soda in my house, because if it's there, I will drink it all. So basically, when you're shopping, don't listen to the little voice that tells you you can just cut back gradually. Just don't buy the stuff in the first place. Switch to iced tea (it's cheaper, anyway, if you mix it yourself).

I still do drink Coke, I'm not completely off the stuff, but it's a treat that I allow myself when I'm dining out, for example. I go right ahead and enjoy those free refills. Or I might buy one 20-ounce bottle while I'm having a long day at work. The important thing is that I don't keep it in my house, at all.

And yeah, stay hydrated. Learn to love water. Caffeine withdrawal is a pain, but it shouldn't last long.
posted by Gator at 7:52 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have quit Diet Coke twice, once cold turkey and once on a slow reduction. (Once I stayed quit for two years, once for six years.) I was at about that level on intake. If you go cold turkey, do it over a 3-day weekend if you can, it feels like shit. The first day I was laid out flat with the headache.

My reduction method was much easier but takes a lot longer. I started pushing back my first Diet Coke of the day in the morning, 15 minutes at first, until the headache got bad and I caved, and simultaneously pulling back my last one of the evening. (I drank them all workday, so I started grabbing my last one at 3 instead of 4.) Then I started pushing back the first one of the morning and pulling back the last one of the afternoon until they met in the middle. I had one at lunch for a week, then I cut that one down to 6 oz. over the weekend, then out completely. Pushing back the morning was much, much harder than pulling back the afternoon, but you can hold off your jones for 15 more minutes, I promise.

I keep lemon juice in my fridge door and put a squirt of lemon juice in my water to give it a bit of flavor and tartness, which helps. You can get lemon juice packets for your desk.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:52 PM on November 29, 2011

I don't honestly believe anything you read here will put you off the stuff. You have a visceral reaction to it; no amount of logical reasoning can overpower that.

What you need is a partner in crime and some painful consequences.

Do you know someone else, maybe even someone you work with, who also has a bad habit and needs to quit? Find them, and bet $500 (or some amount big enough to be punitive and painful) that you'll go longest without having a coke.

Several of my colleagues did this in order to quit smoking, and they got a lot of mutual support from their fellow quitters and the rest of the office. Between the support and the large wager, months went by before the first guy caved and had a cigarette.
posted by nadise at 7:54 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

It'll help to find a way to get enthusiastic about the substitutes, too, so you're really looking forward to your next x break, not bemoaning it with dread it because it won't be your beloved Coke. Become a connoisseur of coffee blends. An aficionado of licorice or mints or lollipops. A seltzer gourmet. An explorer of the wondrous worlds of tea, its history, and the various mechanisms for preparing it. Etc.. Get even a bit weirdly obsessed. It can really help.

You can also try something like Stickk, which will help you track your progress and make you donate money to something you dislike if you slip (or not, but that piece may appeal to you). I'd also at least give yourself some planned rewards if you can stay cold turkey for one week, one month, etc., ideally paired with something visual (like big red Xs on your calendar) or tangible (akin to AA chips) you carry with you.

Finally, the very best thing that has helped me to avoid temptations like these is the phrase "That's not for me," said with kind of a "peh!" dismissiveness. Train your mind to see the red can as just not even an option. Like poison. Or baby food. Or haggis nectar. Or Marshmallow Fluff. Think of all of the other temptations (the deepest cravings of SOMEONE out there) that you, personally, subconsciously dismiss with that phrase without a thought (could be Olive Garden, could be People magazine, could be the gym, could be pork rinds, could be the Tiffany store, could be Cinnabon) and put Coke in that category. When you see one, it's just plain Not For You. You don't even have to exert effort to resist those things, and you need to mentally steer Coke into that category.

And get every last can out of your house tomorrow. Ask a work friend to get something (else) out of the fridge for you on the first couple of days rather than going yourself. Avoid even the sight of it as much as you can, especially during the first 10 days. You CAN do this. Approach it like a frickin' boss and and declare that failure is not an option.
posted by argonauta at 7:55 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I used to drink a good amount of soda, like 3-4 cans per day. I had to stop because it started giving me indigestion and acid reflux -- I'm not saying this will happen to you, just sharing what my turning-point was. I don't really have a secret "do THIS because it was so EASY" secret to quitting. I just had to cut it out because the physical discomfort I was experiencing was not worth the pleasure of the drink. It was hard. One thing that I enjoyed was sucking on ice kept my mouth active and brain preoccupied. And it really is rewarding knowing that you can overcome something that you know was a bad habit.

Also, tea is wonderful! And it's amazingly cheap. And delicious. And there are so many flavors. I keep a variety at my desk so that I can switch things up... much more interesting than water, although I drink a fair share of that now too.

And I do have to echo sentiments I've read upthread -- when you've been off soda for a while, it's hard to go back because it'll taste unpleasantly sweet. I do enjoy the occasional flavored sparkling water, though ;)
posted by erstwhile at 7:56 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Learn to like Coke Zero and drink all you want of it?

I was a Diet Coke fiend. Like, I would get a 44oz at the convenience store in the morning, drink that, get another one around lunch, drink that, get another one on the way home, and drink that. I would STILL be doing that if I hadn't developed interstitial cystitis; to my horror I discovered that not drinking soda actually improved my symptoms. I actually cried when I realized that. Good for my bladder, traumatizing for me. I quit cold turkey and started drinking iced tea instead. That also bothers some people with IC, but fortunately not me at the moment. I don't know what I'm going to drink if that starts to bother me, I don't like bottled water.

Is there another beverage you can tolerate in large quantities?
posted by crankylex at 8:02 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would you laugh in the face of yellow, stained, crumbling, rotting teeth? Ask a friend to smell your breath and tell you the honest-to-god truth. Rotten teeth smell bad. I bet your breath is awful and I wouldn't want to kiss you, or even be in the same general area as you.

Was that too much tough love?

I quit in a gradual process, because I am a big wimp and the caffeine-withdrawal headaches were too much for me every time I went cold-turkey.

First I switched to Diet Coke with the Lime flavor. The Lime masked some of the nasty chemical taste of the diet soda.

Once I got used to the diet with lime, I switched to regular Diet Coke. Not as tasty as the kind with lime, but not the unbearable yuck that is switching directly from regular to diet.

I skipped the caffeine-free coke stage, and went to iced tea instead. I think it happened to be summer at the time, and iced tea just seemed yummier than more soda at that point.

Gradually, I decreased the amount of tea I used to make my iced tea.

Now I drink mostly iced water. Occasionally I'll get a little nutty and have a flavored water, or even go absolutely out of my mind and get a diet coke. But so far I have been able to avoid getting back into my case a day habit.

Good luck!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:05 PM on November 29, 2011

I'll do it with you. Message me if you think that would help.
posted by rebennett at 8:06 PM on November 29, 2011

OceanSpray CranEnergy is my go to morning drink now, after kicking the Coke habit on New Years Day (a nasty stomach virus helped kill the desire for it actually). It has Splenda, and doesn't taste sweet at all thanks to the cranberries. It also has green tea and B vitamins so I get the energy boost I need, plus I may never have another UTI for the rest of my life.

Don't get me wrong...I have DREAMS at night of drinking a 20 oz Coke when I'm stressed. But then I remind myself I'm getting my daily caffeine and that the sweet taste of Coke makes me vomit ( it did in January) and it gets me past the craving.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:10 PM on November 29, 2011

"8 cans of Coke is 1136 calories (!). If your weight is stable (which is unlikely, but whatever), you would lose a pound every three days just by cutting your Coke habit. If weight loss is a goal, that's pretty darn compelling."

Just to correct this: his/her body would detect the sudden change in calorie intake, and would crave to eat the normal amount of calories he/she takes in because that's what the person's body is used to. What calories he/she didn't get through soda, they would obtain through food (unless they're actively looking towards losing weight).
posted by Evernix at 8:14 PM on November 29, 2011

The only times I've ever quit bad habits have been when I really, really wanted to - when I accepted that the negative consequences severely outweighed whatever enjoyment I was getting. So, here's what I would tell myself every time I thought about grabbing a coke:

empyrean (that's right, I call myself by my MeFi username) - the amount of sugar in 8 cans of coke, consumed every day? Here's some very likely outcome scenarios: you like producing insulin? You should. Guess what, though - you can most likely say goodbye to your pancreatic function. That means diabetes and insulin injections, every day. Recent studies have also demonstrated consumption of sugary soft drinks also have a high correlation to pancreatic cancer, which is about as miserable a way to die as there is.

Your liver is likely to accumulate fat and throw off your enzyme levels. The damage caused by long-term fatty liver syndrome can be almost indistinguishable from cirrhosis. That's right, tossing back that much sugar can have a similar effect to 20 years of hitting the bottle. Your teeth. Oh lord, your teeth. Staining, corrosion. Sugar and phosphoric acid combined? It's like they tailor-made the combination to wreck tooth enamel. Show of hands, who wants dentures?
posted by empyrean at 8:21 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I cut back on Coke when I read that not can it function as a degreaser to get greasy stains out of clothes but you can also use Coke to clean corrosion off car battery terminals. It removes battery corrosion and I put it in my belly. Um, pass.

I just completely went cold turkey and never kept any in the house. Every now and then I'll have one, but I'm a long way from the five a day I once was. More like five a year. Good luck.
posted by teleri025 at 8:22 PM on November 29, 2011

I quit Diet Coke a few years ago, bought myself a Sodastream & started drinking seltzer instead. For me, it was the combination of the chemicals and the sense that it was just incredibly bad for the environment for trucks to be carting around chemically-enhanced water in single-serving packaging that was going to require a lot of fossil fuel to recycle, and that pushed me over the edge to decide I didn't want to consume that kind of thing anymore. Mostly I just drink regular water now.

I say this not to chide you, but to say that you have to figure out what's going to matter to/convince YOU, if it's not the health argument. Maybe it's the environment, or the other things you could spend the money on, or whatever. But you already have the desire to quit - now it's just finding the hook that works for you. Good luck.
posted by judith at 8:25 PM on November 29, 2011

Any chance that you might have ADD? I only ask because his sounds an awful lot like self-medicating behavior. Just a thought.

How quickly do you want to get off of Coke? If going cold turkey doesn't appeal to you, you can cut back gradually by eliminating a can every day (or every other day) until you cut it out completely.
posted by corey flood at 8:26 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I used to drink Coke every day too. I stopped by switching to flavored seltzer. I realized, and my sister had the same revelation, that I was craving the fizz. Every once in awhile when I try Coke again, I am pleasantly surprised to find it pretty revolting and have no desire to start drinking it again. So keep that in mind, if you can get past the hard stages you really will lose your taste for it.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 8:39 PM on November 29, 2011

I love love Diet Coke. And coffee. Two big cups of coffee in the morning and...lots of Diet Coke the rest of the day. I've never counted.

Anyway, 13 days ago my doctor put me on Wellbutrin (for ADD and probably a bit of depression). On Day 3, I felt a bit jittery. Day 5, I felt awful. Heart racing, very shaky. I put down the coffee I was drinking. Just to see if it helped, I only drank a half cup of coffee the next day and then no more caffeine. Tylenol every 4 or so hours during the day, starting as soon as I got up. Barely got a headache. I've been drinking a half cup of very milky coffee in the morning and then no other caffeine since then and feel fine. Don't really miss it. I don't know if I'd recommend this route, but if doctors will give you a couple of weeks of wellbutrin to quit smoking, maybe they'd give it to you to quit 2 liters of Coke a day. Could be a terrible idea, but nothing else has ever gotten me to quit before. (Also, I know some people who are on Wellbutrin who don't have trouble with caffeine, so maybe it's just me. YMMV) In any case, two days of headaches and I'm fine. My husband forgot and ordered me a Diet Coke at a restaurant and I barely touched it. I didn't even want it and I usually rate restaurants by how quickly they refill my drink. And how big their cups are.

If you want to try to just switch to Diet Coke, my trick for that was to switch to Diet Dr. Pepper for a couple of weeks. Since I didn't usually drink Dr. Pepper, I didn't mind the taste as much as I minded the taste of Diet Coke. (I couldn't stand a sip of diet coke. I could suffer through the diet Dr. P.) After a couple of weeks, I'd gotten used to the taste and couldn't taste the aspartame in the Diet Coke anymore.
posted by artychoke at 8:59 PM on November 29, 2011

Have you tried Zevia? It is DAMN good.
posted by blargerz at 9:12 PM on November 29, 2011

I am this way with Dr Pepper, right down to being sad when there's none in the fridge and going pretty crazy out of my way to get it. It's weirdly a part of my identity, too--you know how some people collect, like, penguins or chickens or pigs and that's what everyone always gives them for gifts? People give me nice bottles of Dr Pepper, and Dr Pepper-related merchandise. Former classmates who are now teachers themselves remember that I'm the Dr Pepper girl and offer me bottles when they invite me to their classes as a guest speaker. I have a problem.

I have quit for years at a time. The main thing that helped was going cold turkey. However, I looked at it just as avoiding Dr Pepper--not as avoiding caffeine or sugar or HFCS or anything else that's supposed to be unhealthy for me. And so I was able to ease the caffeine withdrawal headaches with caffeine-containing Excedrin, and find substitute drinks that still tasted good to me but weren't Dr Pepper (or Diet Dr Pepper or other cola, which tastes just close enough to make me crave Dr Pepper but not close enough that I'm satisfied with it). Actually, finding a substitute was a big help, too, because then I didn't have to sit there and think, "I want Dr Pepper but can't have any. What else should I have? Nothing else will be the same so what's the point? Maybe I'll just go get one last Dr Pepper and that will be it." Instead I had a decent drink I liked on-hand that I could grab automatically without thinking and having to use my limited willpower to talk myself out of finding a Dr Pepper. For me it was a fizzy citrus drink like Aranciata, Limonata, or Orangina, and then I eventually stopped drinking those because I didn't crave them as much as I'd craved the Dr Pepper, so they weren't any more satisfying than water or juice would be. And of course not letting myself have any in the house is important, too, because no matter how well it's hidden, or how much I tell myself it's just for special occasions, I will find it and drink it at the very first moment of weakness.

I won't lie, it was pretty hard at first. The good news is that the sucky part is over in a couple weeks. It doesn't actually take very long to get past the physical and psychological cravings and get used to drinking other things. I even started enjoying water! And learned how to make my own (healthier, tastier) sodas and {fruit}ades!

Obviously I backslid--when I went back to school full-time I didn't allocate my limited willpower reserves very well, and I fell back into the habit. But I had a good solid 5 years without. You can do it, too!
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:14 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: I've since gone back to drinking it, because the sweet, sweet nectar that is Coke Zero was introduced, but what worked to get me to seriously reduce to the point of almost eliminating my Diet Coke consumption was not focusing on not drinking diet coke, but instead focusing on drinking water.

I made it a priority to drink a liter and a half of water throughout the day -- 3 of my large glasses full, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

I then didn't disallow myself the coke, but I made it something I drank only after I drank the water for a given period. And since the water was filling my thirst cravings (if not my caffeine cravings), I generally found I didn't need or want the coke after the water was consumed.

Some people find it easier to add healthy habits to their life than to eliminate unhealthy ones -- and then the unhealthy ones are reduced naturally by the addition of the healthy habits. If you are one of those people, this may be worth a try.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:19 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Fresh pineapple with ice cold seltzer or mineral water is my go-to. Sweet, tart, cold, fizzy.
posted by blargerz at 9:32 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I quit drinking soda(used to drink diet cokes or zeros back to back to back) and switched to mineral water. Doesn't really matter which brand. I tried seltzer but it doesn't have the same...I don't know mineral water. I drink coffee in the morning for the caffeine and then when I need the carbonation fix I drink mineral water. I don't even like soda anymore and haven't touched it in the past few years. I actually crave the taste of mineral water now, which is why seltzer won't do.
posted by fromageball at 9:33 PM on November 29, 2011

Cold brew ginseng green tea (tea bag in bottle shake) some honey. slice of lime,
posted by hortense at 9:35 PM on November 29, 2011

Start tomorrow, no coke for an hour when you get in. Next week no coke for the last hour. Cut off some hour every week until there is one.

I allow myself 1 a week now.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 PM on November 29, 2011

Best answer: A Mefi member would like to add this comment anonymously:
So, I was in this spot. I drank somewhere between 1 and 3 liters of Coke a day for something like.. 12+ years? Got started at the high school vending machine in the morning, and through the various travails o' life and my accompanying depression, worked my way up and stayed there. Have the weight to prove it. I have a clear memory of some point in my early twenties, thinking, "I really need to stop drinking Coke. I mean it this time. Well.. not cold turkey, that's probably too hard. I'll just have some any time we go out to eat. [pause] How can I get us to go out to eat tonight?"

If that's not addict behavior, I don't know what is.

Various psych-therapists have suggested it was also a kind of self-medicating, but I never got much of a caffeine or sugar buzz off of it so I can't comment on the physical angle. I'm pretty sure it was a psychological self-medicating, though; any time I'd get stressed, or anxious, I'd drink a Coke and start to feel.. "better" is the wrong word, but less-bad, in any case. Whether that was a chemical reaction taking place in response to something in the Coke, or simply in response to the act of drinking it, I can't say.

I cheated a bit when I quit. I had a gods-awful sinus infection-flu-plague-thing, and switched to Sprite (couldn't keep water down, needed something with a bit of carbonation). Kept on that when I got better, but was still drinking the same volume, and the calories of the two are the same. Slowly got myself switched over to (real, not Minute Maid-type or from-concentrate) fruit juice, which.. also wasn't better. Then, I just started drinking ice water.

Ice water was the ticket. Mind you, I was still drinking the exact same volume of liquid, but now it was pretty benign. As the months have gone by (as I'm about 5 or 6 months into my "no pop" streak, which is better than my previous "sometimes I'd go a whole day" for the previous decade-plus, and am down 25 pounds with pretty much no other lifestyle changes) my craving to drink in general has gone down as well.

I'm pretty sure at some point, the drinking-Coke thing had not only become a kind of psychological crutch, but also a damned hobby. Any time I was actively engaged I had zero thought about it, but as soon as I was sitting in front of a computer or television or just reading a book, I wanted to reach for more. I'd suggest looking at the times and places you're most likely to reach for a Coke and figure out what's going on there, in case it's a similar thing with you.

If you want a practical non-health reason to quit: think about how much money you spend on it. Count it up in a day, then tabulate that out over a year. Plus, you know, mega-corporations are typically pretty evil. (of course, that one doesn't work so well for your purposes since making your own soda pops at home is not difficult; your only problem would be keeping up with your intake volume).

On to quitting!

If you get headaches, that's the caffeine, and I'd suggest tea. Tea bags would be fine, but loose-leaf would be even better; the ritual of boiling the tea, letting the leaves steep in a pot, pouring the tea into a small cup can be pretty relaxing, and makes it more of an event than "well, time to drink some more (whatever)".

Mood swings I'm not as sure about. General advice: exercise. Go for a walk, do some jumping jacks, play DDR or something on Kinect even. If you find that after a month it's not going away, maybe talk to a doctor about some kind of super-low-dose medication.

I'd just recommend cold turkey + ice water (I'm talking a cup that can handle something close to a liter, filled with cold tasty/filtered water and enough ice to worry the Titanic) + making tea once a day (for headaches). Every time - every time - you think, "Man, I want a Coke right now," drink some water. Not even kidding about that. You're reading this right now, maybe we're into next week, you're a couple of days into the thing and you are jonesing so bad. Drink some of your water. It's cold! It's refreshing! It's right there and won't make you hate yourself.

If you slip up.. don't worry about it, just go back to the water and continue on. Coca-Cola is not an inherently evil substance. Nothing is. It's the excess that is and will continue to cause you problems. Good luck!
posted by taz at 9:55 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ok, this is going to make me look like a jerk, and I hope that you don't actually care too much about what people think about you, but it sounds like you're looking for any kind of inspiration . . .

I've worked at more than one office with 'coke drinkers' -- the people who come in every day with a full liter or six pack or what have you and crack it open first thing in the morning. We other non-Coke addicts . . . we, uh, talk about you guys sometimes. No offense. Nothing too harsh, and it's not like we won't be friends with you or something. But we do. Stuff like, 'ew that's gross -- he drank a whole liter today!', or 'god, it's only 8 am!', or 'jesus, how many empties are on her desk??', etc. (Sorry)

So now I feel bad because it really seems to be a legit addiction for some people. But I did want you to know that people might be judging you just a little bit, in case that helps at all (that's a weird sentence).

Also -- Diabetes. Sugar water is so, so, so not worth losing body parts to. And it's so much easier to prevent Diabetes than to treat it.
posted by imalaowai at 10:28 PM on November 29, 2011

How about stocking up on ice-cold cans of seltzer water? You still get the bite from the carbonation and the sting of a near-freezing can in your should help you transition better, and won't make you feel quite as deprived. Plus, you can drink it several times as often without even worrying about it.

I switched from Diet Coke to Diet Orange Sunkist because the latter has citric acid instead of phosphoric acid... not only are there health benefits, it tastes so good I'd never go back.
posted by aquafortis at 10:37 PM on November 29, 2011

Once you have your plan, you might try Health Month for moral support and accountability. Health Month is a game about making small improvements to your health, one month at a time.
A basic account is free. If you want to set up rules for December, you have until evening Dec 1st.

If you sign up, you're invited to join the Metafilter Health Month team.

Wishing you much success and good health.
posted by valannc at 11:23 PM on November 29, 2011

I had some glass containers that were painted with flower patterns in some sort of enamel paint. I am a manly man and could brook no floralness in my kitchen. I didn't have any paint thinner and so I decided to try a little experiment for SCIENCE!, so I tried bathing the containers in four liquids: rubbing alcohol, bleach, coke, and water as a control.

The coke was by far the most effective at removing it. It didn't dissolve the paint (though I think I only soaked it for an hour or so) but it made it brittle enough so that I could fairly easily scratch it off with my fingernails.

Of course, I don't know how this would have worked chemically so maybe these results were unsurprising.
posted by XMLicious at 11:34 PM on November 29, 2011

What about the state of your teeth? If you consume that much sugar, your teeth will began to experience problems. Too much sugar causes gum disease. That means your teeth will start falling out because your gums are pushing them out.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:24 AM on November 30, 2011

In terms of setting up a plan you might want to try, an online goal setting service that asks you to bet yourself to stick to you goal. You put up an amount of money and if you don't reach your goal that money goes to the charity or individual of your choice.

Or you could try the new social networking game superbetter, recently featured on On The Media.
posted by brookeb at 4:09 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sparkling water.
posted by tel3path at 5:45 AM on November 30, 2011

Sorry, to expand on that, I've had a similar problem, and I find that it's mostly the texture I crave. You could start by substituting one small bottle of sparkling water per Coke per day, for a week, or a month.
The next week or month, two. And so on.

I find there's something important about drinking it in small plastic bottles rather than reusable canteens or flasks. This is wrong, of course, but it has been a phase I've had to go through.

To replace the caffeine, drink percolated coffee, not decaf, not instant. One in the morning, one after lunch. Always start from a clean jug and percolator and try to use the same size percolator as the amount of coffee you're about to drink, not a bigger one. Four tablespoons coffee grounds to one and a half cups water. Whole milk or cream, not skim or 2%. Three cups a day is the optimal dose.
posted by tel3path at 7:03 AM on November 30, 2011

I switched to Diet Coke (well, Diet Pepsi or Coke Zero, I hate the taste of Diet Coke) eventually, and it took a while, but now regular Coke is just too sweet. And I don't enjoy Diet Pepsi as much as I did Coke, so I don't bother with it most of the time.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:37 AM on November 30, 2011

Remember the Code Red Mountain Dew? I used to drink at least that stuff all the time during one semester in college. I would just open a 2-liter and pound it while I was watching TV, browsing the internet, whatever. Eventually, I drank so much that my heart wouldn't slow down when I tried to go to sleep. I would just lay there and feel my heart beat pumping away. It beated so loud that I felt like my roommate could hear it. I would roll around for hours until I finally caught a few bad hours of rest. One night, I couldn't go to sleep at all. I was wide awake at 4 AM staring at the ceiling yelling for my body to just "GO to SLEEP! I AM TIRED!" to the point where I cried because my body wouldn't listen. The next day I thought about was having horrible sleep the past few weeks. I realized it was the Mountain Dew. I started limiting myself to one glass a day and not drinking any after 6 PM. The next night or so, I had my first good nights sleep in a long time and woke up feeling wonderful.

More recently in my years, I have loved Coke Zeros. I try not to have any in the house as I will drink it all within 2 - 3 days, but I will have a 20oz on occasion or a drink of it at a party or sorts. I don't drink that much soda thanks to my wifes utter dislike of the chemicals and reminds me how bad it is for me. There really is no good substitute for it, except I find that if I use some sort of water-flavorer I will drink a gallon of water. So its really the sweetness I am after. Good luck man - you don't have to quit it for life, but a support system if only to nag you all the time might be a good thing.
posted by amazingstill at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2011

Seconding Health Month and the Metafilter team. It's awesome for this kind of thing.

I speak from experience. When I joined the MeFi Health Month team, I was drinking 5 or 6 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper every day. (I look at that sentence now and think, "ugh.")

Like Jaquilynne, I found that focusing on adding water was an easier way to cut back. The first month I set a limit on how many cans per day (2) and I kept obsessing about it all day. ( when will I have the first one? When will I have the last one? Oh, I already hit my limit but I want moooore!)

The second month I dropped the "limit soda" rule and switched in a "drink water" rule. Once I was focusing on adding water, I found I naturally wanted less soda, and I was able to dial it back to zero. I do still have soda occasionally, as a treat when I am out, but I never keep it in the house. I have switched to drinking tea for my caffeine fix so I never got headaches. If you decide you want to cut out the caffeine altogether, then dial it back gradually. Set a "no caffeine after __ time" and gradually move it up, from 2pm, to 1 pm, to noon, and so on.

You can do it!
posted by ambrosia at 10:11 AM on November 30, 2011

I was in a similar place as you a few years back but with Dr. Pepper. I would recommend going cold turkey. Artificial sweeteners cause you to crave sweets and will just make you want more Coke.

That being said the only way I could kick it was with a replacement. I finally opted for flavored but unsweetened seltzer. I wasn't crazy about it at first but now I can't live without it. It probably isn't as healthy as water but it doesn't have sugar, caffeine or any artificial sweeteners. I reallllly recommend the Mandarine Orange flavor!
posted by trishthedish at 10:48 AM on November 30, 2011

Here are some things that worked for me. I used to drink multiple sodas a day, but now, almost never. Maybe once every couple of months.

- I allowed it to be a gradual change. Felt good about myself when I didn't have soda, but didn't beat myself up when I did.

- I started saying to myself, "Soda is gross!" After awhile, I believed it.

- I made it hard to obtain. Never bought it at the grocery store; never carried cash for a vending machine.

- It's easier when I don't focus on what I'm giving up, but what I'm replacing it with. "Drink no soda today" is a lot harder than "drink 64 ounces of water today." (After that, I am not at all interested in drinking anything else.)

- Something else that helped was getting my other stressors under control first, making sure I was getting enough sleep, etc. I can only deal with one thing at a time, you know?

- Another thing I found helpful was to allow myself really awesome indulgences when it was really tough. I can't have Coke with lunch, but desperately want it? I'll have a green tea latte from Starbucks (without syrup, it's still rather sweet). I can't have Coke with dinner? Well, FU Coke, I'll have a glass of wine.
posted by hishtafel at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2011

I used to drink almost as much of this for several years. When I finally went to the dentist, he thought my teeth were fine. Then he took an x-ray and discovered they were fucked. I needed (I think) twelve fillings, which cos I didn't want a mouth filled with metal cost over $1000. My teeth are very sensitive now.
posted by Kirn at 2:37 PM on November 30, 2011

I go through this periodically when I'm trying to cure myself of my caffeine addiction, which is very minimal -- I usually drink one can of Diet Coke a day, a bit more on weekends. After about the 10th time of doing this -- I have switched to Sprite at restaurants and gained weight from the sugar, bought Caffeine Free Diet Coke which tastes off to me, and suffered through days and days of pounding headaches -- I have given up and accepted the fact that one Diet Coke a day isn't going to kill me or drive me to the poorhouse. Can you work your way down to a more reasonable quantity? My suggestion would be to halve your Coke intake immediately, then gradually switch to Diet Coke or Coke Zero to get rid of the calories, then halve it again until drinking Coke isn't your defining characteristic. And unsweetened iced tea is seriously an awesome substitute. If I weren't too lazy to make it myself, I'd probably drink that everyday instead of the Diet Coke. From my experience, going cold turkey just makes me think constantly about how bad I need a Diet Coke, but it seems to work for a lot of people.
posted by jabes at 2:59 PM on November 30, 2011

Hi this was just me!

I was drinking 3-4 cans per day. I went down to one per day. I like carbonated water as a substitute because it has that nice fizzy quality. Also coffee to replace the caffeine - going off caffeine and sugar at the same time is that much harder.

Things that will happen to you when eliminate or drastically reduce cola consumtion:

*You will feel hungry all the time because you are cutting out so many calories.
*You will crave sugar. I would've died for a cupcake. Try not to just replace one form of sugar with another or you will never break the addiction.
*Your food will taste too salty.
*You might get headaches from sugar withdrawl - I did.

It is hard. It is just like any other addiction. But after about two weeks it got dramatically easier.

After drinking 1 per day for awhile, I stopped buying it at the store. Now I will only drink it at restaurants or with pizza or if I am having an especially bad day. I still love it. Deeply. But I am glad I did it for a few reasons:

*I have already lost a bit of weight. I used to think I didn't care about that but it turns out that it feels good.
*I know in the long run my teeth will be a lot better off.
*I don't panic when I am somewhere without coke the way I used to.
*I just feel the power of my own will a lot more.
posted by mai at 8:18 PM on November 30, 2011

Do you like iced tea? Plain is best, but you can also stir in a little honey when the tea is warm. Or mix cold tea with some lemonade. But remember, frequent lemon juice is bad for your teeth.

To remove any obstacles to making iced tea, here are the amazon links to get you started:
* Jar for fridge door
* tea bags -- Hot brew: use 3-4 bags per jar with boiling water. Cold brew: use 5-6 bags with cold water overnight in fridge.
* electric water kettle if you do hot brew.

This is a really good thermos for drinking in the car.
posted by valannc at 2:22 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

So, this popped up on my feed today. It's an article on Grist that showcases a little bit of the evil wizardry that goes into creating Coke, and offers some suggestions for quitting (many of which have been mentioned upthread.)

Serendipitous timing, thought I'd share.
posted by baniak at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2011

I still do drink Coke, I'm not completely off the stuff, but it's a treat that I allow myself when I'm dining out, for example. I go right ahead and enjoy those free refills. Or I might buy one 20-ounce bottle while I'm having a long day at work. The important thing is that I don't keep it in my house, at all.

I'm late to this, but this would have been my answer exactly.

I was drinking coke from morning to night. I wanted to lose a little weight, and I lost 10 pounds right away just by not drinking so much coke.

But I haven't gone cold turkey. I have coke more often than not when I go out to eat, but that's only once to a couple of times a week. I simply don't keep any at home.

That's worked for me.
posted by justgary at 11:20 AM on December 5, 2011

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