I have a confession to make. I am an addict.
I don’t just mean my love of sugar free caramel popcorn or French cinema. My drug is readily available, sold to children and adults alike, comes in regular and “healthy” diet versions and the sheer amount of varieties is dizzying.
Hello, my name is Paige and I am a diet cola addict.
I’m American by birth, I grew up with cola. I’ve been drinking it as far back as I can remember, though when I was a child it was always the sugary, non-diet kind. It wasn’t a big deal when we were kids, no one lectured us about the dangers of sugary drinks, or tried to control how much we drank. If it was there, we drank it until it was gone and then substituted other sugary drinks like Kool-Aid until the soda was replaced. In light of recent revelations from my consultant that I have likely had an underperforming pancreas since I was a kid, this makes me shudder every time I remember it – but also explains so much.
In high school, the vending machines in the cafeteria did constant business. My friends and I were never without a Coke in our hands. I cringe to think how much sugar and how many calories a day we were consuming just through our Coke consumption!
College was worse, the soda was on tap in the cafeteria and the snack bar, refills were free and the cups were huge. In fact, pretty much everywhere in restaurants refills were free. It was a real culture shock when I moved to Ireland and found that soda only came in a single round!
Eventually in 2009 I made the switch from regular Coke to Diet Coke. The reason I switched? The symptoms of addiction; headaches, cravings, irritability if I didn’t have one near and near euphoria after drinking one. At the time I assumed it was a sugar addiction, and the fact that eventually the symptoms eased and I began to lose weight seemed to support my theory.
These days, I drink a lot of Pepsi Max. I have one every morning when I start work, sometimes one at lunch, often one whilst I’m making dinner, whilst we’re eating and usually during our popcorn-on-the-couch and Netflix afterwards! That’s a lot of diet cola, and it was only a few days ago when I sat down to really think about it that I realised I was consuming so many in a day.
However, there is research emerging now of a link between artificial sweeteners and alterations in gut microbiota in laboratory mice, which can lead to insulin resistance, metabolic changes and possible onset of metabolic syndrome.
This link has been borne out by further studies , all of which seem to point to the same thing – that non-calorific artificial sweeteners may be just as guilty of causing weight gain and retention and health affects as regular sodas.
Additionally, a report from Consumer Reports.org has found that a one of the ingredients in many colas that gives it that brown colour (mel-4) may possibly be carcinogenic . Whilst I am incredibly dubious of claims of cancer causing agents in our food, the link between health and our gut flora has been well and truly established.
For all of these reasons and more, I’ve decided to challenge myself. Starting today and until the 1st of July, I am off all forms of cola. None at work, none when I go out for dinner, none – heaven help me – after I go running.
And I won’t lie, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be so hard, but I feel it’s going to be worth it. I’ve taken my measurements and my weight, and in 30 days, I’ll do it again. I’ll also be taking notes on how I feel. Either way, at the end of the month I’ll have a better idea of whether there is a noticeable difference and a reason for me to stay off diet colas. Part of me is hoping that I’ll feel dramatically different, part of me, I have to admit, is hoping that nothing will change and I’ll have no reason not to start drinking them again.
If nothing else, because I am addicted is the best reason of all to undertake this challenge.
Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!