How to Quit Diet Coke

This post originally ran in June 2012. I’m still off Diet Coke (yay!) but am re-running it today because temptation often comes in the form of Memorial Day picnics. 

I’m sorry to say that I have tons of experience with quitting Diet Coke. That stuff is addictive: I have a long history of giving it up, only to relapse a few months later.

I am not going to grab your Diet Coke can out of your hand and scold that you absolutely-right-now-must-give-up-diet-soda-for-your-own-good. But I’ve got good reasons for giving it up myself.

1 killer reason to quit, and 2 more pretty good ones.

Wanna hear my best reason for quitting? When I gave up diet soda, I stopped craving sugar. True story. That alone is enough for me.

But there’s more: my family health history is kinda scary, and I’m choosing to err on the side of caution. Maybe diet drinks won’t ruin my health, but there’s no way they’re helping it.

And it’s impossible for me to drink just a little Diet Coke: one a day becomes four in no time flat. (And four diet cokes a day starts to get expensive.)

I have so many friends who talk about how they should give up Diet Coke–they wish they could–but it’s just so hard. I know it is–I’ve been there! And I’ll share with you what worked for me to kick my own fierce Diet Coke habit.

Thinking about giving up Diet Coke? Here’s how to get started.

1. Quit buying it.

I used to buy Diet Coke–even after I quit–to have on hand for friends and family members. But if it’s in the house, I drink it. Luckily, this is an easy fix.

2. Choose a substitute and keep it handy.

Drinking plain water instead of diet soda sounds noble and all, but it doesn’t satisfy a Diet Coke craving on a hot summer day. My new go-to is sparkling seltzer water with a wedge of citrus.

I keep my fridge stocked with cans of seltzer water from the grocery, and I also brew iced coffee and iced tea in the summertime. There are plenty of cold drinks for hot summer days besides Diet Coke! On cooler days, I do hot herbal tea.

If I’m out and about and seltzer water isn’t on the menu, I’ll order iced tea, coffee, or even red wine. Just not soda!

3. Know your personality.

Decide if you need to 100% completely give up Diet Coke or if you can make it a special occasion drink. If you’re unsure, this quiz over will help you decide if you’re a moderator or an abstainer when it comes to giving something up.

4. Know your weak spots.

I crave Diet Coke on hot summer days and when I’m eating spicy foods. Now, the craving doesn’t catch me off guard in these situations: I expect it. Somehow knowing the reason why I’m craving Diet Coke makes me feel better–and helps me choose a different option more cheerfully.

5. If you are completely, hopelessly addicted, take baby steps. 

Maybe going cold turkey isn’t for you. That’s okay. Start by giving up Diet Coke for a week–or maybe just a weekend. Pour the first sip down the sink. Resolve to only drink Diet Coke when you’re out, not at home.

Focus on making progress, not on being perfect.

Do you have a beverage addiction? Tell us about it in comments.

photo credit

Comments

  1. says

    The best way I’ve found to quit things that are bad for me (diet pepsi, white sugar, white flour, etc) is to remind myself graphically of the nasty things they’re doing to my body, now and long term.

    Associating a product with diabetes, depression and cancer, as well as with the intentional lies of an abusive and manipulative industry quickly makes it drastically less enjoyable!

    It does also help to find good substitutes – I agree that plain water just isn’t powerful enough for that usually. Kombucha, which will help detox my body instead of harm it and is either produced by responsible companies or homemade, is my favorite go-to substitute!

  2. says

    I think it is the diet in stuff that is addicting. I have never drunk diet drinks. I like coke, but I never buy and I occasionally have it if we are somewhere that has it (for free!). My sister, though, LOVES diet coke and has stopped multiple times over the years… she recently lost 125 pounds, though, so I think that has motivated her to keep the addiction at bay.

    Do these tips work for chocolate? ;)

    • Anne says

      “I think it is the diet in stuff that is addicting.”

      Um, yes. My brother-in-law calls it Diet Crack. He swears the real Coke he used to drink wasn’t nearly as addicting as the diet stuff!

      About the chocolate: I cannot stop eating milk chocolate or other chocolate with a high sugar content. I LOVE white chocolate but I just can’t eat it–because once I start I just can’t stop!

      I have a much easier time enjoying just one square of really dark chocolate. I think it’s the sugar (or sugar substitutes) that triggers my cravings, and there’s less sugar in the dark stuff.

  3. Alice says

    I had already decided that today was the day to quit. . .again! And then I read your blog post! I already know that I’m an abstainer, not a moderator, so it’s cold turkey for me! That first one doesn’t taste as good as I think it should when I’ve been off them for a while–that should tell me something!

  4. says

    I have a bit of an iced coffee addiction. When I used to buy it in bottles it wasn’t too bad because it was too expensive to buy more than a few times a week. Discovering I could make it easily at home and an intense few months of study happened at the same time leading to quite a bad addiction. Being able to make my own iced coffee was one of the things I missed the most while on a mission trip to another part of the country!

  5. says

    Here’s a very great get-rid-of-Diet-Pepsi-in-my-life motivator: pregnancy!

    Oof, it’s tough. And I’ll admit that I haven’t been perfect so far, but ONE diet drink every couple of weeks is definitely better than how I used to be…

    My go-to alternative is Crystal Light Pure–it’s sweetened with sugar and stevia, which is a natural sweetener, so I don’t feel bad ingesting it. I’ve been meaning to try it with fizzy water…and I am headed to the grocery store today…hmm…

  6. says

    I don’t have a beverage addiction – I get really sick feeling if I drink more than a few sips of coke, so that keeps drinking at bay for me.

    But chocolate? Oh yeah, that stuff has me wrapped around it’s little finger.

  7. says

    After reading too much about artificial sweeteners, I won’t go near the stuff now. I do like lemonade, but again, I steer clear of anything ‘diet’. Even if there are no calories involved I think it encourages a sweet tooth, plus there is research to show that it confuses your body because you taste something sweet, but there is no energy boost to follow. So next time you have a real-sugar product, you eat more of it, because you aren’t expecting any energy from it. Or something like that.

    • Anne says

      I’ve read that diet soda still triggers an insulin response, which triggers my cravings and all sorts of trouble. So I’m with you–I just don’t go near it now.

  8. says

    Sodas of any sort aren’t a temptation for me, so I don’t have any advice for you. Alas!

    That moderator vs. abstainer concept is interesting. I’ve learned that when I get an intense craving for something (which I can usually distinguish from a bored craving), I have to have it–Tuesday, for instance, I desperately needed cookie dough, so I whipped up an eggless batch and promptly ate half of it.

    And once I’ve done that, acknowledged the craving and consumed (honestly, usually overconsumed) whatever it is, I’m fine. The other half of the batch is sitting in the fridge untouched. But if I had refused to make and eat it on Tuesday, my food choices for the week would have spiraled out of control as I tried to compensate for what I craved with things that just didn’t satisfy.

    I guess that’s a form of being a moderator, except that I definitely overconsume when I get those cravings–one bite of dough would not have sufficed. The key I think was distinguishing between bored cravings, where I’ll just mindlessly eat a whole bag of potato chips that I didn’t even want, and targeted cravings, where I need to have a lot of something very specific right now but then that’s the end of it.

    It also helps me if I make my own version–making cookie dough/brownies/etc. rather than buying premade stuff. By the time I’ve made the effort to make it, I feel like I’ve earned my little binge, but knowing that I’d have to put in effort to make more keeps me from doing it all the time. That doesn’t really help you with soda, though. ^_^

    (And for the record, this is how I am normally; these aren’t pregnancy cravings. ^_^ Though I think since there are so many things I have to abstain from completely right now, the things I decide I can have (like once I figured out I could make cookie dough without raw eggs) become more urgent.)

    • Anne says

      Katie, the “pregnancy craving” excuse was my first thought! That’s a great example of figuring out what works for you, so you can minimize the damage but still enjoy some goodies :)

  9. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever been addicted to a beverage…I do love seltzer water with lime on a hot summer day, though. If anything, I was addicted to seltzer water during my recent pregnancies…it would drink a whole liter a day or several cans…the bubbles settled my constant queasiness :)
    But you tips are spot on for quitting pretty much anything, including chocolate (but what would be an acceptable substitute? I can’t think of anything that really takes the place of a square of good dark chocolate…which is why I see no reason to quit!)

    • Anne says

      Ana, I have no idea what could substitute for chocolate. I’m with you–I can’t see a reason to quit just a little bit of dark chocolate!

  10. says

    Diet Dr Pepper. Mmmm. Or Vanilla Coke Zero, also mmm. I completely gave up soda for Lent a few years ago, and from then till this February had very little caffeine. But I weaned my daughter in February, and have been drinking LOTS since then. I’ll be giving it up soon enough (since we plan to have another baby in the next year or two) – and I rarely drink soda while pregnant.

    So I’m enjoying this brief, excessive addiction. :) But I agree with your tips – not having it in the house is key!

  11. says

    I go through phases with Diet coke (and soda in general). I didn’t grow up drinking it except at my grandma’s house a few times a year, but I started in college, I think, and then needed the caffeine to keep going when I was working two jobs to makes ends meet after college. I then had a few years of not drinking it while I lived overseas, but drinking lots of seltzer instead.

    Now I vaccilate between iced coffee (with cream and splenda) and diet coke. My baby still gets up a lot at night, and my two-year-old is in a terrible phase right now (and I have a four year old with some issues), so I feel like it helps me cope. That said, I might give it up after reading this post. I don’t think I could give up the coffee, though–it makes me feel better when I’m low.

  12. Suzette @ jambalaya says

    Aspartame, sucralose, all of those artificial sweeteners are so terrible!!! In college I learned that they actually build plaque on your brain – causing neuron transmitters to malfunction = development of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. So scary. Come on FDA, do your job and take this stuff off of the market!

    If you stick to dark dark chocolate (I think my readings said 70% or 75% and higher) actually provide your body with antioxidants which are super great and cancer-fighting!!

  13. says

    Gosh, this sounds like me, except my addiction is iced coffee.

    I also find it true that once I quit drinking or eating sugary stuff for a while that I stop craving them. Same goes for salt. My salt tolerance is so low that it is hard for me to eat at restaurants because they over salt their food.

  14. says

    Thank you for including the tip about a substitute. I found that to be true (unsweet tea for me) but felt a little guilty about it when friends would talk about just drinking water when they quit.

  15. says

    You have GOT to buy a sodastream machine! You’ll save so much money on buying that water. (I feel like you’re going to think I’m a spam bot for being a promotor but I promise I’m not).
    I haven’t quit pop yet though it is a goal for someday (and I see you have a post about the real reason you haven’t quit pop and I’ll be reading that in a minute – but for now) but I asked for over a year for the sodastream for Christmas and my family bought it for me this year.
    I drink sparkling water every single day. Eventually I’ll probably tone down but honestly it’s the best. I wanted it so that I would stop buying pop because it’s so bad and gets to be so expensive!
    Ask for your birthday or Christmas or sell something and get it now! :)

    xoxo

  16. says

    I gave up Diet Coke 17 years ago when I was trying to get pregnant for the first time. At some point I realized that if I didn’t want to drink it because it wasn’t good for my baby, then why would I want to expose myself to it? I am a much better abstainer than moderator, so cold turkey worked for me. Side note: I wish I could be a moderator.

  17. says

    I’m an abstainer. It’s just easier. It takes me a long time to decide to eliminate something from my life because I know that if I do, it’s probably for good. Once I make the decision to cut it out (whatever it is), it’s pretty much downhill from there. Moderation is hard for me! It’s all or nothing.

  18. says

    I quit diet pop because I was having problems with acid reflux and it is a big trigger. For awhile, I eliminated all beverages except for water, and when I was no longer having issues, gradually added back my morning coffee, unsweetened iced tea, and an occasional alcoholic indulgence. Most days, I only drink water after lunchtime.

  19. says

    Ack. I am so there – I give it up and then find it again, because I am a can’t-do-just-once-in-awhile kind of person. I need to remember that buying sparkling water (I really love Pelegrino) and fruit is probably the same price and much healthier for me.

  20. says

    So I just gave up Dr. Pepper 18 days ago. I still want it everyday, though it is no longer a have-to-have-it-right-now craving. The only reason I am successful: I made a bet with my brother for 3 months to see who could drink the least. I am determined not to be beat. I think we will tie as we are (somewhat) healthily competitive with each other.

    I have also been sleeping better, exercising and suddenly able to wake up much better.

  21. Charyse says

    I gave up soda (mainly diet coke) 18 months ago…I’ve found I crave soda the most when eating pizza or hamburgers so I get a strawberry lemonade to avoid feeling deprived.

  22. Theresa says

    I am a diet coke addict. I did cut down to one-a-day several years ago. But I still crave it every day. I just like to sip something! I don’t like coffee or tea. I don’t even like wine or beer. I drink TONS of water, so I know I am not dehydrated. I know “drinking more water” isn’t going to cut it for me. I don’t like carbonated water drinks. BLAH. I have given it up twice in the past. Longest was 4 months. For a year or so I refused to have it in the house but that didn’t stop me. I would just drive to the nearest McD’s (because they have THE BEST DIET COKE) every day. I would ask my husband to grab me one on his way home from work OR I would literally pack the kids in the car and go get one. I seriously need to stop. Maybe one a day won’t give me cancer, BUT just knowing I am addicted to something bothers me.

    • says

      My friends who’ve switched from regular Coke to diet swear the diet is way more addicting than the sugary kind. Why is that?

    • AJ says

      OMG, Theresa, my situation exactly!! I also drink water, don’t like carbonated water drinks, and I just love having a diet coke to sip on throughout the day.

      I love McDonald’s diet coke (I prefer fountain soda in general), but I will go out of my way to go to a McDonald’s to buy diet coke. At $2.13 a drink it adds up quickly though!

      As for diet drinks, I actually prefer the taste of them to regular drinks. I am really starting to worry about all those chemicals though. I am trying to stop for my health, plus I don’t want my girls drinking soda and I don’t want to be a hypocrite!

  23. Andi says

    Thank you thank you thank you… I have recently quit diet coke after a long time love affair …. It was hard… This was an encouragement to know it is challenging to give it up. But my cravings for sweets stopped as well…

  24. CJ Shelton says

    I recently had spinal surgery and after many years as a diet soda addict, I knew I had to begin some major healthy changes beforehand. I tried some of the tips in this post and am pleased to report that I have been completely free of any soda as well as cravings for 4 months. What worked well for me was keeping a huge supply of good bottled water as well as unsweetened citrus sparkling water always available. I rarely think about soda and when I do, it’s always a negative feelings in my tummy.

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