Please Don’t Make Me!

I’ve been reading lots of tips about how you shouldn’t start the day by checking your phone/social media/email, and I think there’s definitely some truth to that. I habitually lose time to it in the morning, when I can least afford to lose time, and sometimes, it starts your day off in a bad direction.

This morning, it got me arguing with myself about my Diet Coke addiction. I’m not inflating my language, here— right now, I have a three-a-day habit, and it seldom ticks down. Occasionally, it ticks up, if I can rationalize fountain drinks. If I don’t drink it, I go through caffeine withdrawal that leaves me with headaches and crankiness.

This is the thing about addiction, for me. You don’t need to tell me how bad this is for me. I have all kinds of dark fears about what it’s doing to my teeth enamel and bones, not to mention my kidney function. I wonder to what extent it contributes to extra weight I carry around. And this morning’s article has me wondering if it’s leading me to cardiovascular problems. But the problem is that the science is fairly sketchy. We all have hunches and theories about how bad it is for you, but we’re not sure exactly how, and most of the connections we’ve suspected over the years aren’t there in the way we’ve been told that they are. Before you start arguing the science with me, which I have no interest in, let me say that I am, however, utterly convinced that I need to reduce my consumption or give it up altogether.

And the reason I started drinking soda habitually to begin with, the need for caffeine (I won’t drink coffee. Just accept that.) has reduced, over time. Although it hasn’t always been true, I’ve addressed my sleep habits and can usually get myself out the door, dressed, and functional at work without it. Not that I like it when I resort to such drastic measures, but it’s a crutch I have but don’t need in the way I once did.

But here’s the thing: on a fairly powerful level, I simply don’t wanna. I drink other things— unsweetened iced tea, hot tea, and water, primarily, but Diet Coke brightens my day out of all proportion. Seriously. On the rare occasions when I find that I’ve only had two cans, and can drink the third on the way home from work, it makes me deliriously happy. And I don’t want to switch to regular soda, as an interim step— I actually like Coke Zero and Diet Dr. Pepper better, because I find that freight-train sugar rush that goes with regular soda really unpleasant. I also don’t like to drink my calories.

It’s coming to a head for me for a few reasons. It will be really expensive on the cruise— such that it’s cheaper for me to buy a beverage package than pay almost $4/can, or I’ll have to sneak in a case or more in my luggage. That seems a little ridiculous to me. I’d like to cut back, but I’m in a really busy/stressful time before then, and I don’t think it’s realistic to try to make major behavioral change with this much going on. I also don’t really want to be feeling deprived and going through withdrawal on vacation.

Also, this is a change I told myself I’d make when I changed jobs… but then with a bunch of pet stuff that came up at the same time, and making the decision to get my romantic life back into black and white and so forth…

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project and Better Than Before. She categorizes people based on approaches to behavior change in several areas. One of these dyads is Moderator/Abstainer. Her theory is that some people are able to moderate their behavior— only eat french fries every now and again, or have a little piece of chocolate and be satisfied, and some people find it easier to abstain altogether. This resonates for me because I’m mostly a moderator, and my BFF is (historically, anyway) mostly an abstainer, and both of us are relentless self-improvers. I rebel if I tell myself I can’t have x ever, and tend to do better just putting certain things in a “special occasions only” category; she has tended to prefer to give something up altogether than to have to moderate consumption. But there are things that it’s hard for me to be moderate about, and this is one of those. I can usually reduce my consumption to the one-a-day or one-every-other-day rate until a crisis hits, and then I’m back up to three or more a day, and it takes a lot to get me to reduce that, despite my concerns about the long-term health impacts. To someone who’s not addicted to it, that sounds crazy, but during a dark time, this fizzy, no-calorie sweetness feels like a very modest ray of sunshine, and I can rationalize them pretty easily.

I’m starting to think I should switch to regular soda partially because I am averse to drinking my calories, and I find the sugar rush unpleasant (which is a natural and immediate disincentive to overconsumption) and I think it would be easier for me to allow myself one regular soda a day (which I wouldn’t be very inclined to do) than it is to limit myself with diet soda. It’s easier for me to call it a special occasion food than it is for me to look at diet soda that way. That’s how I look at other “drinking my calories” drinks, like alcohol and smoothies and chai drinks, and I think the no-calorie thing is the thing that most allows me to overconsume soda now.

This is the point where I normally would throw it to you and ask you to share your wisdom. And though I’m convinced that you have it, I’m hesitating to do that, because I don’t like to be lectured about things, especially not about things I’m already reasonably well-informed about. I’m in the process of changing my behavior, and a lecture is likely to have exactly the opposite intended effect, and get me drinking four or more diet Cokes a day. So I’ll just warn you of that. I’d prefer commiserating stories of giving up something that’s bad for you to “ew, gross! How can you put that in your body?!” or smugness in any form. You even have to be careful about cheerleading me at this point, because my rebellious streak runs deep, this is a difficult change for me to embrace long-term, and I’m trying not to derail progress.

Tiptoeing quietly back to my day, trying not to let my body know I’m thinking of cutting it off…

3 thoughts on “Please Don’t Make Me!

  1. Having severed my relationship with nicotine (many years ago) and having to reduce as close to zero has possible all stimulants (medical reasons) ….. sugar, salt, alcohol. The only system that worked for me was to identify when I would succumb (easy with cigarettes) and then change the routine. i.e. 10:00am was my standard coffee and cigarette break. Solution was not to buy the coffee but have a different break. It was not easy in stressful situations but instead of reaching for a cigarette, I would do something totally different like going for a short walk. After dinner cigarette? Just get up from the table. If you can identify a pattern, then you have a good chance of being able to break it. Good luck 🙂

  2. Here’s where I stand. I need caffeine every morning within 2 hours of waking. I don’t drink regular soft drinks with the exception of an occasional Dr. Pepper. No diet drinks. Unsweetened tea is my main caffeine source- minimum of 2 a day. I did drink Pepsi daily (and way too much- won’t even consider all those calories) until 2008 when I had a surgery. While recovering I drank tea because I felt so sick and when I realized I was living without Pepsi, I stuck with the tea in various forms. I do understand the addiction/caffeine headache conundrum. It’s a tough call!

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