“Phenylketonurics-Contains Phenylalanine”: My Love Story with Diet Coke

Today is Fat Tuesday, which means tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which means Lent is starting, which means it is time to do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

After eleven years of peaceful togetherness, Diet Coke and I are breaking up.

It’s been a long time coming. We were too young when we got together. I was just a kid, strapped into both braces and puberty with fierce reluctance and dealing with the burden of a new bully (HIPS). I needed help, and Diet Coke was there. We were just friends at first, but then we got serious in 8th grade. My parents approved, thinking it was better than guzzling the crates of sugar in the regular brands, and for a while I think my friends were envious; after all, I was starting a relationship they wouldn’t understand for years. Diet Coke was my cool, mature college boyfriend, and I was the teenage girl it found cute enough to take to the dance.

(Of course this is ridiculous.)

Diet Coke and I at the International Coke Museum in Atlanta, Summer of 2008. I guess you could say these were our salad days...

We got along great for years. I had Diet Coke for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I savored it during my breaks at work. It was cold, sweet, tart, and refreshing. Drinking it made me feel like the girls in those soda commercials, the ones who are always randomly standing in front of a fan and laughing with forever-white teeth (ironic since they can’t stop drinking Diet Coke all the time). It was great, and as I was also a super hard-core dieter, it was enabling all of my calorie-counting, pound-paranoid, waistline-worrying days.

(Of course this was unhealthy.)

One year I gave the stuff up for Lent. If I were in an interpretive art class, I would describe this 40 day period with a montage of film clips. I’d interweave the first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan with weird images from Requiem for a Dream and that crazy scene in LOST when the characters kept passing out because the island/world wouldn’t stop moving through time. That’s how it felt. It was awful, but I got through it. I spent Easter Sunday with a box of Diet Coke and a 2-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper, and I think I may have gotten physically/violently ill by the time the day was over.

(Of course that was a poor choice.)

Last December, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. It was a new doctor, and while she was very nice, she was not happy to hear about my caffeine intake. Here’s how it went.

Doctor: Do you drink caffeine?
Me: Well, I drink Diet Coke.
Doctor: How many?
Me: Ummm, just, you know, like five-ish a day.
Doctor: *blank stare*
Me: Four-ish?
Doctor: Well, I don’t allow those drinks at my house. My kids never drink soda.
Me: THEN I AM GLAD I DON’T LIVE IN YOUR STUPID HOUSE!

Okay, the last part didn’t happen, but the woman did make an impression on me. I left the office with a resolution to do better about my soda consumption. I made it my New Year’s Resolution to cut back to three a day, but no one was really impressed with this. My coworkers and friends acted like that this was still too much, so I decided I had to do something else.

My friend suggested going cold turkey, but I resisted. I’ve tried that before. I can do it for a day or two, but then I end up getting a quick taste of Diet Coke, and then I wake up in a stupor with twelve cans around me and the delirious feeling Charlie Sheen must have had when he woke up to see that stripper sneaking out of the hotel bathroom.

(Of course Charlie Sheen is no laughing matter. He’s winning, after all.)

But I have come to realize that quitting is the only way to do it, so today—Fat Tuesday—marks my swan song to Diet Coke. I’m going to have a few today, and then I’ll close that chapter of my life. I’m going to drink water! I’m going to avoid caffeine! I’m going to stop using fizzy drinks as a dieting crutch!

Buffy's world trembled when she lost hold on reality. I suspect similar scenarios when I finally ditch Diet Coke.

(Of course this is false enthusiasm.)

It’s been a fun ride, Diet Coke. I’ll always remember the nights when we stayed up til two in the morning together, watching random reruns of The Nanny on TV Land just because I couldn’t fall asleep thanks to your shenanigans. I’ll remember that summer when I went on a quest to find an Ice-E made out of your delicious nectar (note: they don’t exist). I won’t forget that time I drank one of you, not realizing until it was too late that the half-full can had sitting out on the counter for two weeks.

I won’t forget the good times we’ve had, Diet Coke, but I also won’t forget that you are probably pickling my liver and giving me avian bones. It’ll be tough—in fact, I’ll probably be comatose like Buffy in that episode where she thought her entire world was a figment of her imagination.

(Of course that’s how the world will initially feel without Diet Coke—fake and synthetic, just like my beloved beverage.)

It’ll be hard, but it’s time I quit you, Diet Coke.

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8 thoughts on ““Phenylketonurics-Contains Phenylalanine”: My Love Story with Diet Coke

  1. I used to have this same issue, unfortunately mine was worse about 6 REGULAR cokes a day. It’s a wonder I was ever able to get sleep. I also bravely began my resistance over lent with a friend in the same situation. The day after lent my friend and I agreed we would purchase each other our coke of choice, but after all that time away from it I finally found it disgusting and never returned to the habit.

    EXCEPT WHEN I’M AT YOUR HOUSE.

    • I successfully gave up Diet Coke for Lent twice in my life: once in high school and once in college. I remember the high school incident clearly, because I was SO ready when Easter Sunday rolled around. If memory serves, and it might not, since the following events made me really queasy, I downed a 12-pack of Diet Coke and half a 2-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper. The decadence rivaled that crazy food party scene in “Heavyweights”…

  2. This was awesome — a fitting sendoff to an old friend. Lifetime Movies should *be* so lucky. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I do think your body will thank you — not just because of the caffeine, but the chemicals. It’s why I stalk Kosher Coke and bought Pepsi Throwback in bulk: real sugar is still sugar, but it’s “natural.” (more natural than chemicals or high-fructose corn syrup anyway)

    Good luck and stay strong!!! 😀

  3. Does she want you to quit caffeine altogether? You could do something similar to what I’m doing: a caffeinated coffee to get me to work in the morning, then only decaf unless I’m really hitting a wall after lunchtime. No third caffeinated drink, period.

    I dunno, it works for me, I guess.

    • Well, she isn’t asking me to give it up–just cut back–but I’m not really doing this based on doctor’s orders. I just think the stuff is terrible for me and I don’t drink nearly enough water (or milk, for that matter–I drink tons of soda, which corrodes my bones, but get little calcium). I don’t drink DC for the caffeine, as it actually has little effect on me (I can drink it at 11:30 and still go to sleep immediately), but I like your idea. I have to be careful with coffee, though; I drank it in high school, but I only like it with like 10 Sweet-N-Lo packets, and as that’s the poison in Diet Coke, I don’t want to give up one toxin for another. Haha

      • Milk makes coffee sweet. So if you decided to roll with a java try just plain old milk before you reach for the sugar and see if it’s sweet enough. If not sugar in the raw…or maybe hot tea sweetened with honey!! Love honey, I make bread sweetened with honey instead of white, refined sugar. My boss just gave up DC and switched to caffeine free Coke. He had a headache for 10 days. GOOD LUCK!!

        • Good tips! I actually really like hot tea, so maybe I’ll start drinking that more often. I don’t think I’ll get a headache when I quit, but I will be a very unpleasant person for a few days. I’ve warned my loved ones and coworkers. LOL

          Thanks for the good wishes. I hope I can do it!

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