Nutrition Q & A: The addictive powers of diet soda

182by Wenzel Coaching Experts Heather D’Eliso Gordon, RD, CSSD and K.C. Wilder PhD

Q:  Help! I’m addicted to diet soda, the bubbles and the taste. I know it’s bad for me, but it’s become a crutch during my workday. Any suggestions for quitting my Diet Coke habit successfully (cold turkey never seems to work!)? I’m worried about potential negative affects, especially as a woman cyclist already facing the very real possibility of developing osteopenia.

Sports Nutritionist Heather D’Eliso Gordon responds:

A: It sounds like you have been in the contemplation stage of trying to change a behavior for some time and now you are ready to act on it. First things first, ask yourself this question: “How would my life be different if I didn’t drink diet coke?”  And follow it with this question: “What would happen if I didn’t give up drinking diet coke?” If you ponder the answers to these questions for a while this information might be the link to kicking the soda habit.

You might also find these tips useful from “recovering Diet-Coke addicts”

Take one day at a time. It’s sometimes daunting to tell yourself from this day forward I am never going to drink a Diet Coke again. If you start your day with an intention: “I’m not going to drink any Diet Coke today.” you will be more apt to be successful.

Notice what your routine is with drinking the Diet Coke. Is it late in the afternoon when you are bored and tired at work? Or is it first thing in the morning when you want something refreshing to drink? If you can break the routine and find alternate beverages to quench your thirst you’ll be that much closer to kicking the habit.

Try drinking sparkling mineral water with citrus zest – there are many varieties with and without flavor – or calories for that matter: Calistoga, Crystal Geyser, Pellegrino, Perrier or make your own. CO2 isn’t just for pumping up your bike tires. There are devices for sale that you can make your own sparkling beverages with canisters of CO2.

What you ultimately know:

Drinking a beverage with artificial ingredients is not health-promoting. The possible ill-effects of drinking diet soda are being studied at a vigorous pace. To date, research has shown that drinking diet soda may be linked to conditions such as: obesity, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis. It is also speculated that drinking diet soda may trigger cravings for sugar. It has also been shown that those that drink diet soda are 40% more likely to be overweight than those that drink regular soda.

So the next time you are craving a Diet Coke, ask yourself: “Is my body worth it?” Good luck!
~Heather D’Eliso Gordon, RD, CSSD

Sports Psychologist K.C. Wilder responds:

Dear Reader,

I am so glad that you asked this question.  Diet Coke is an addiction that all too many people experience.  Most likely, you love the taste.  It is easy to find, and the carbonation of Diet Coke is satisfying on a whole other level.  All this with no calories, and a caffeine kick!  So, what’s the issue?

Think about recent headlines from the scientific community, “All-Powerful Diet Coke Nabs Science Award for Contraceptive Study.”  Yes, you got it right.  Diet Coke is being touted as an effective “sperm killer.”  If that is not enough, the article summarizes some alternative uses for Diet Coke.  To name a few…use Diet Coke as a household cleaner and pour Diet Coke on a car battery to eat away at erosion.  Okay, if Diet Coke is that effective to clean our toilets, then it’s a good thing that you are having second thoughts about drinking it.

The best news is that from a cognitive behavioral psychology stand-point, you have told me that you are ready to make the change.  Readiness to make a change will help facilitate your success in this process.  Since you are a competitive athlete, let’s break-down the process similar to how your approach your cycling season.  First of all, you have a goal.  A goal, a plan, denotes desire.  You have defined your goal.  I can help you with this process, but just as in racing, your goals are your own.

Let’s complete a goal-setting exercise that will provide you with motivation and focus to quit drinking Diet Coke.  Set the following types of goals: realistic, challenging, measurable, within your control, and written down.  Here is an example below.

REALISTIC: If you have been drinking six Diet Cokes a day, for the last five years, don’t set a goal to quit drinking Diet Coke today.  You will likely lose motivation by setting lofty goals.  A better strategy is to reduce your habit by drinking one less Diet Coke per week.  And, find ways to substitute your Diet Coke habit.  For instance, find a healthy beverage that: a. has caffeine, or b. is carbonated.  Some substitutes may be: Green Tea, or sparkling water with a delicious juice.  A friend’s favorite sparkling beverage is 8 oz. of sparkling water mixed with 3 oz. of grape juice.  I’ve tried it.  It is quite satisfying.

CHALLENGING:  Goals that are too easy can lead to boredom, and failure to achieve your goal.  No doubt, changing a habit is a challenging goal.  Don’t give yourself a year to think about quitting Diet Coke.  That is too easy.  It will never happen.

MEASURABLE:  A goal that can be measured provides a greater sense of achievement.  Set a goal such as: six weeks, be down to drinking one Diet Coke a day.  In the seventh week, be down to no longer drinking Diet Coke.

WITHIN YOUR CONTROL:  You can control your perception, and how much you THINK that you need to drink a Diet Coke.  What you can’t control is whether people will drink Diet Coke in front of you, or whether it will be at the next party you attend.  Set goals that are within your control.

WRITTEN DOWN:  Write down your goals.  Work one-on-one with a nutritionist, sports psychologist, or keep a journal on your own and record self-inspired goals.  Such as, “I will quit drinking Diet Coke by Christmas.”

Don’t let something stand in your way in your desire to quit drinking Diet Coke.  But, if obstacles do arise, then don’t become discouraged.  Instead, draw additional energy and intensity from your goal in order to overcome obstacles.

You have a choice.  Make the conscious choice to quit drinking Diet Coke to reach your cycling goals.  In the end, it’s up to you to use your own free-will, and take responsibility to make the change.  Let me know how it goes for you.

Best in sport and life,
~ K.C. Wilder, PdD