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.

15 thoughts on “Diet Coke: Friend or Foe?

  1. I can relate to this. Back in May 2011 I was interested to see if I could give up Diet Coke (the only soda I drank). In the last 2.5 years I’ve probably had it 10 times? Like you, I wonder if one day I’ll just be back to drinking it everyday, but for now, I will continue trying to reach for water instead.

  2. In my mind, and with my diabetes, there are some things that I KNOW will cause me problems and others which MIGHT cause me problems. So I choose to limit the definitelys and allow myself to enjoy the possiblys.

    Diet Coke it’s something that I allow, even if it is just because it’s the lesser of two evils. After all, you can’t cut out everything.

    • You’re right about questioning how much we as PWD can limit. I have long since comes to terms with living with artificial sweeteners. As a woman with osteopenia and significant risk factors for osteoporosis, the phosphoric acid concerns me. But if and when I go back to Diet Coke, I won’t drown in guilt

  3. I like your analogy of seeing DC the same way as cigarette to others. I’m like you, I can’t limit to only one per day (except when I was pregnant). And yet I’m so strongly opposed to cigarettes because of their addictive qualities. Maybe I’ve been the pot calling the kettle black all of these years?

    • I think we all hope that Diet Coke isn’t as destructive to our health as cigarettes:) I have always been glad that I never smoked because I know that I would have had a hard time giving it up.

  4. And now they are saying that if you drink diet soda, you will crave sweet foods.

    We went to a family wedding a few years ago. I got my type 1 son a diet soda and a woman at the wedding started lecturing me on the evils of diet soda. I felt like telling her to shut up and mind her own business. He was already limited in what he could drink there, and she stressed me while I tried to defend his drinking diet soda.

    • Sometimes you really wonder where people are coming from to make comments like that. I’m sure she might have thought that a nice glass of natural orange juice would have been a better choice….

      • Come to think of it, I think my SIL, who was a friend of hers, told me after that the woman was an USANA distributor (think expensive vitamin pyramid scheme).

    • I actually noticed this summer that I often didn’t finish my Diet Cokes or sometimes I would buy one when I didn’t really want one. But good for you for having one and then not going back to a daily one. My fear is that if I have one, I’ll be back to a one-a-day.

  5. After spending years believing I couldn’t get through a day without my morning double cup of black instant coffee, sometime this past spring I suddenly decided to give up coffee cold turkey. I think the reason was because of how the coffee stained my teeth. Now all I drink is a double cup (I use a glass beer mug in the microwave) of green tea and green tea with pomegranate. I never experienced a withdrawal from the caffeine and green tea doesn’t stain at all. Plus I get all those flavonoids and other goodies. I used to hate green tea but now I love it. Haven’t had a single taste of coffee for over six months. The rest of the day I drink water all day long, with or without lemon. Good luck breaking your addiction, if that’s what you want to do.

  6. I will gladly meet you for a pleasant visit, with or without Diet Coke. Although I will admit, the availability of Diet Coke would be an added perk for me. 🙂

    I’ve been doing really well at not having Diet Coke at home, and drinking ice water there. But I drink it in ridiculous quantities when I leave the house, and also admit to sometimes leaving the house (I work at home) just to drink Diet Coke. 🙂

    You’re awesome, Laddie! Way to go!

  7. This is fantastic. When I gave up Diet Coke a few years ago, I stopped having migraines! Somehow it has crept back into my life, but only maybe…1 can every other day, and 1 big delicious icy cup at Target periodically.

    It really is our generation’s smoking! We are ashamed to be seen with it, unless we’re around others with the same habit. We don’t want to be bad role models for our children. It’s slightly shocking to see in a mom’s hand at the playground. We know it’s bad for our health in both tangible and mysterious ways. You have hit the nail on the head.

  8. My husband hates diet soda of any variety so after reading your blog, I’m really happy that this is the case. I don’t like diet soda either so I guess I’ll be more then happy to continue drinking my favorite drink, water. He keeps Lemon Crystal Light in business.

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