If you've ever been addicted to diet soda, you know how hard it is to stop drinking it. You start becoming an expert in different types of carbonated chemical refreshment—and you become defensive when anyone questions your habit.
I quit drinking diet soda two years ago, after about a decade of being hooked on the stuff. I had started drinking it when I was around 18 or so, and over time I'd become completely dependent on it to get through the day. I started every morning with a can of Diet Coke (or Diet Dr. Pepper) and then made sure I had at least two 20 oz. bottles to get me through the first half of my class schedule or work day. At around 3pm, I'd have to go get a fountain drink somewhere, because I'd start getting very nervous and agitated once the caffeine fix wore off. At night, I'd drink a few more cans. Unsurprisingly, I went through a fairly nasty period of insomnia for a few years.
I had tried to quit several times: I knew it was really gross, and really expensive, as I couldn't bring myself to buy cheaper generic diet cola and I was blowing money on 12-packs the way a chain smoker drops money on their favorite brand of cigarettes, price be damned. It wasn't until I moved into my own home and noticed the piles of recycling I'd built up just through one week of drinking pop (yes, I call it pop, sorry) that I realized how bad it had gotten. So I decided just to give it up cold turkey, which was a bit of a nightmare, as the headaches from caffeine withdrawal were rough, but two years later I can safely say it was worth it.
But though I personally found diet soda drinking to be detrimental to my overall existence, is there really anything that bad about having a Diet Coke habit? Sian Lewis of the Times of London argues that a dependency on Diet Coke is a "civilized addiction," in that people tend to brush off fears about chemicals in their cans in order to happily continue drinking their favorite beverages. Concerns over osteoporosis and tooth decay are also dismissed in favor of continuing one's beloved Diet Coke habits. Sometimes, I guess, we'd rather not know what we're drinking, as long as it makes us feel better.
Daniel Finklestein, a self-proclaimed Diet Coke addict, tells busybodies to back off, noting that his soda addiction isn't hurting anyone: " don't drink alcohol, coffee or tea. I don't smoke. And I have never taken an illegal drug. But I do like a cool refreshing can, just for the taste. Actually, a number of cans. Or even, in the right convivial setting, with the right food, a 2-litre bottle. I am not bothering anybody else."
So what say you, commenters? Is a diet soda habit something to be concerned about? Or are there worse habits one can have? I know for me, personally, kicking the habit was worth it. But as someone who used to rely on that fizzy pop to get through the day, I also know how hard it is to give it up. The trick, I suppose, is to find some type of moderation, or at least a way to have a Coke and a smile without always equating one with the other.
Diet Coke: A Civilised Addiction? [TimesOnline]