Just for the Taste of it?

Does anyone else remember those hokey Diet Coke commercials from the mid-80s, where the obnoxious jingle at the end was, “Just for the taste of it…Diet Coke!”

Yea, well I think there was something much more sinister going on behind the scenes at whatever ad agency Coca-Cola was using at the time.

Sure, they marketed it to consumers, encouraging us to buy it “just for the taste of it” but really, I’m absolutely convinced it was a conspiracy. If you ask me, I think Coca-Cola’s engineers, quality control team and ad people all knew that Diet Coke is, in a word, addictive. They banked on the gullible American consumer falling for the trap.

Case in point: I waitressed in my hometown each summer between college semesters, and would get exasperated at the tables where everyone was drinking Diet Coke. Literally every five minutes, I’d be flagged down to fill their empty glasses.

I could have had a tray in my right hand, a glass of wine in my left hand, and a pen falling out of my pocket, but their eyes told me that they needed their Diet Coke. Stat.

Two of my favorite bosses of all time were certified Diet Coke addicts; neither could function without their caramel-colored bubbly beverage. Some people go for “smoke breaks;” mine would go for “Diet Coke breaks.”

Back then I wondered, did this magic brew quench thirst better than water? What was everyone so obsessed with?

Clearly, I didn’t understand it.

I rarely drank soda and when I did, it was a special treat. Good old regular Coke was fine for me at the occassional party or mixed with rum at a bar. Plus, I always associated diet beverages with my beloved diabetic grandmother (Bubby) who sucked down Tab like it was going out of style and always had Sweet-n-Low or Equal on hand. (Ok, or in her purse.)

But once I started Weight Watchers and learned a can would cost me 3 points, I most certainly canned (pardon the pun) the habit before it ever became a habit.

Walking back to the office on my lunch break one spring day in 2005, I decided to stop at CVS to try a diet soda. It was a Diet Dr. Pepper, it probably cost $1.19 … and it went into the trash within a mere swig.

It was nasty—totally fake and chemical-laden, leaving a bitter after-taste. I surely didn’t get what all the rage was about.

But a couple weeks later, my curiosity was piqued again after seeing my boss’s desk littered with empty Diet Coke cans and wondering, for a second time, if I was missing something.

My office had a fridge stocked to the brim with juices and soft drinks. So since it was free, I decided to pull a Goldilocks and try a Diet Coke to see if maybe this one was “the one.”

Lo and behold, it was crisp and delicious, and once I got past the initial chemical taste I think I crossed the line into oblivious addiction.

There was no turning back. No wonder it’s called Coke…

Today, I drink probably the equivalent of three cans a day, on average.

Road trips just aren’t the same without my trusty fountain Diet Coke, and the work day flies by with a hit of caffeine. Even at a diner, I’ll have a Diet Coke when others are drinking coffee. In fact, it’s gotten to be such an addiction that two of my girlfriends always have a Diet Coke waiting for me on the table when we do girls’ nights if I’m running late.

When abroad, I’m all over Coca-Light (though Coke Zero is huge now, too). Especially in a glass bottle, can we say heaven?

And I’m “that girl” at the bar or restaurant whose glass always needs to be refilled. Sigh.

Last year, after a cleaning at the dentist, my husband brought home a brochure that showed the evil things that drinking soda (regular or diet) can do to your teeth. “I don’t want you to get cancer, and I want you to have your teeth for life!” he pleaded. The brochure—with his highlighter marker annotations—is prominently hanging on our fridge door.

But the notions of tooth decay, gum disease and weakened enamel haven’t stopped me from taking a sip.

In truth, I know that my compulsive addiction to Diet Coke has to end. The bloated-belly feeling isn’t all that great, and though it “fills” me for a little bit, it certainly doesn’t curb hunger. Plus, it makes me crave something sweet after I drink it.

This makes sense, as multiple studies like this one featured in Time magazine have shown that people who drink too much diet soda often gain weight because the fake sugars aren’t registered in the brain the same as, say, a cookie would. So they end up eating the sweets on top of the diet soda which can lead to weight gain. Clearly that’s a risk.

And, perhaps most importantly, if I want to get pregnant, drinking all those chemicals surely can’t be good for me – or my yet-to-be-conceived children.

Worse yet, since my leap into the abyss of Diet Coke Addiction, artificial sweeteners have worked their way into other areas of my life. While I don’t eat many processed foods anymore, I admit I’ve taken a liking to fat-free, sugar-free Jello pudding (butterscotch…mmm!). Sugar-free gum. Crystal Light. Sugar-free York peppermint patties. These sugar-free choices aren’t helping me any, even in small quantities. All they do is provoke the dependence.

Weaning myself off Diet Coke (and other artificial sweeteners) won’t be an easy thing. I sure as hell don’t drink it “just for the taste of it.” I fully admit I am addicted to it, but if there’s ever a time to cut back, it’s now.

This week, I am challenging myself to just one Diet Coke a day. And then next week, I’ll cut back even more, until it really is “just a treat.”

How about you? Do you find diet sodas and artificial sweeteners addicting?

17 thoughts on “Just for the Taste of it?

  1. I do like Diet Coke, and tend to have one with my lunch each day. But (besides Diet Coke) one of the best things about living abroad is how *difficult* it is to get ahold of these chemical-laden products. Fat free cooking spray, reduced fat margarine, fat-free, sugar-free…Most of the time, the reaction I get both in Asia and Europe is “what’s the point?” These days, planning in my “good oil” rather than using PAM and indulging in an ounce of real cheese has become more satisfying than the “fake” stuff ever was!

    Of course, when I am back in the States, I am always tempted by all of these “healthy” goodies, gain weight, and remember why I don’t bother!

  2. That is SO true, Yasmin. Abroad, people eat real, whole foods and guess what–they’re NOT all fat! It’s all abut the portion control aspect–like in that book, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. They EAT foods that we might deem “fattening” but they don’t eat 1/4 lb. of pasta alone! This very well might segue into a blog entry tomorrow… 🙂 food quality!!

  3. I work with one of the people who design the ad campaign for Diet Coke back in the 80’s — want me to smack her for you?! J/K

  4. Yes, please! Though I had NO Diet Coke yesterday at all. I didn’t die, but I missed my caffeine jolt!

  5. only started drinking diet coke when I realized I started getting into weight loss and realizing what calories were and what that meant (in high school). wish I had never tasted the stuff.

    I do drink max 1 a day, a few times a week, but always feel bloated and too full afterward. trying to stop the habit and have done so once successfully only to get back into full swing.

    I really do believe that this stuff messes with our sense of sweet. whereas my pre-diet coke days I knew what full was , how to not get uncomfortably full and expand my stomach too much, and what REAL sweet things tasted like and how they should be had sparingly, I know really have lost touch with all that, sadly.

  6. I am not addicted to diet coke, but I do like it better than regular coke. Usually though at a restuarant I am the iced tea girl. But my standard bar drink is diet coke and bacardi. My main reason for commenting though is to say that A: I love the blog, just saw it today and think it’s great! And B: origionally, coke was made with actual coccaine. I don’t know what they replaced it with once they figured out that that was probably not the best thing, but apparently, it is just as addictive!

  7. Thanks, Rene! See I KNEW there was a reason why Coke is also known as “crack” because it is, indeed, addictive with or without the drug!

  8. I think you can cut back. If you want to do, you can and will.

    I cut out any and all soda all together, and never developed a craving for diet soda, but thats a whole artificial sweetener discussion all together. I may have a root beer or orange soda every now and then, but it stops at that. I keep an aluminum water bottle at my desk that i down throughout the day. It keeps me full and hydrated, without having to run to the break room every ten minutes to fill up a water glass.

  9. I totally agree, Gastronomy612–I actually keep a 32 oz water bottle at work and drink alllll day long, refilling it 3-4 times.

  10. aspartame, and sucralose are addictive. And they are common in these diet sodas. I can fully emphatixe with you. but now, I totally ditched ’em out of my life after it made my hormonal imbalance worst. I have switched to Stevia, a natural sweetener for over a year by now. And it is SAFE.

    if you are still doubtful about it, then have your regular sugar insted. Just limit the intake. Everything is a matter of balance. But then again, it’s easier said than done. *sigh*

    Nice post!

    Much love, abby

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