Diet Coke: Friend or Foe?

I have been working on the follow-up to my Food post with a detailed description of my low-carb meals and snacks.  Unfortunately last week I really struggled with blood sugars.  There was no way to write about a “perfect” diet because nothing about my diabetes was perfect.  So I figured I would write about Diet Coke instead.


Laddie_Head SquareI have not had a Diet Coke since August 15.  According to my iPhone goddess Siri, that is 39 days or 1 month 8 days or 5 weeks 4 days or 0.11 year.  I have not had one cup, one can, or one sip.  Nada.

Usually it is hard for me to give up Diet Coke, but this time it’s been fairly easy.  One reason is that I spent a queasy weekend in New York City starting on August 16.  It had nothing to do with Diet Coke because both my husband and I had the tummy yuks complicated by bumpy taxi rides.  But somehow in my mind, the Diet Coke the day before seemed linked to my queasiness.

As someone with Type 1 diabetes, I have been fairly accepting of a Diet Coke habit.  There are so many restrictions in my life that it’s been easy to ignore the caffeine and artificial sweeteners in my favorite beverage.  The Internet is filled with the risks of diet soda including kidney damage, metabolic syndrome, cell damage, and rotting teeth.  How much those risks are coincidental and how much is cause and effect is debatable.  So make up your own mind.

What is actually my biggest concern is the phosphoric acid in dark colas.  I was diagnosed with osteopenia in 2007 and spent five years on Fosamax.  There are some studies that indicate that phosphoric acid in dark colas might be implicated in bone loss.  I have other osteoporosis risk factors, so one might argue that I should avoid Diet Coke.

The last time I gave up Diet Coke I allowed myself one day a week to indulge with no limits on the amount.  It worked quite well for several months.  I played a silly little game to keep me motivated.  On my digital calendar I added a daily task titled “No Diet Coke” repeating forever.  The box each day was colored blue.  At the end of each successful day I changed the color of the box to pink to reward my success.  The box on the day when I drank Diet Coke stayed blue and was renamed “Yes Diet Coke.”  After a while I got tired of doing the calendar changes.  I kept the one-day-a-week habit for a while longer.  But then one-day-a-week went back to three or four and eventually back to seven.  Because I had never pledged to do this forever, I didn’t feel too bad about the resumption of my addiction.

When asked about Diet Coke, most of my doctors have indicated that as long as you limit it to about one can daily, the risks are probably very low.  But that’s not how I drink Diet Coke Friend or Foesoda.  First, I don’t like Diet Coke out of the can very much.  I prefer fountain soda and alternate between the 32-ounce cups for $.69 at Super America and the equivalent $.89 refills at Holiday.  (It’s all about location because how far should you drive to save 20 cents?)  Secondly, I don’t drink the soda all at once.  I like to nurse it all afternoon and add more ice as needed.  It keeps me company in a friendly sort of way.  Third, as I’ve discussed when it comes to food, I don’t do moderation well.  I’m an all or nothing girl.

The danger of viewing Diet Coke as a friend is that my mother always considered cigarettes to be her friend. They kept her company, soothed her, gave her hands something to do, and were there for her every day.  Emphysema and lung cancer put the friendliness of her friend in doubt.

Although I like the idea of staying away from Diet Coke permanently, it likely won’t happen.  I refuse to beat myself up over it or view it as a failure.  I’ve got enough inner demons and don’t need to add more guilt to the list.  I’m currently drinking a lot of sparkling water/club soda and enjoy that very much.  But it’s not available at most of the  places where I would normally get a fountain soda.  When I take the grandkids to McDonald’s, I savor my Diet Coke while they play on the indoor playground and then get a refill to take home.  Or I’ve been known to have a 2- or 3-Diet Coke visit with Scott Johnson at the Golden Valley McDonald’s.  Iced tea is an option and might just have to do.  Of course now that Scott has a new bicycle and computer, he might start wanting to meet somewhere more upscale.  Yeah, right….

So today I didn’t have a Diet Coke.  I didn’t have one yesterday either.  But I’m making no promises about tomorrow.  And that’s just the way it is.