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If Diet Coke Were Broccoli

Breaking up with your favorite (unhealthy) food can be hard to do, but sometimes it must be done.

Have you really not thought about how cool it would be if Diet Coke (feel free to substitute your favorite unhealthy food here) were broccoli? I can't be the only one who has entertained such thoughts. We all know that broccoli is a superfood with a lot of reasons to make it a staple in your diet. On the other hand, Diet Coke doesn't have a redeeming nutritional quality about it. But, I like it.

For at least two decades, I've had a close, loyal relationship with Diet Coke. I wasn't into health so I didn't know any better. I mean I kind of knew that it wasn't the best "food" for me, but how bad could it be? It has 0 calories, 0 fat, 40 mg of sodium, 0 carbs, and 0 protein. So I could concede that maybe it's not giving me any nutritional benefits, but is it really harmful to me?

DC (hey, is there any coincidence here that those are my initials too?) and I had a very consistent, predictable relationship. Every day, I had one DC at lunch time. I never had more than one and typically not less than one. I knew that drinking it in excess might not be ideal, but a can a day seemed pretty restrained. I suppose our relationship bordered on addiction because I did go out of my way to make sure I had my can a day. If I was out at a restaurant and they didn't have DC (Diet Pepsi just won't do), I would go to a nearby place to get it and bring it back to the restaurant. And, it had to be a can. Fountain Diet Coke never seemed to satisfy, so with time I learned not to even bother ordering it if it wasn't in a can.

In the fall of 2008, my journey to health began. I started to dive into learning about nutrition and one day I decided to break up with Diet Coke cold turkey. I had just bought a case from Costco so it wasn't the greatest timing, but my mind was made up. I took all of the cans and poured them down the sink. I didn't break up with DC because I didn't like it anymore. I still do. I broke up with it because it's not good for my health.

So what are the harmful effects of drinking soda? Researchers believe that diet sodas contribute to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. Some say that regular soda is preferable despite the increase in calories because it doesn't contain the artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, I don't like the taste of regular Coke. I've heard many a warning about aspartame, the sweetener in Diet Coke. It is believed to cause side effects like headaches, dizziness, mood changes, loss of memory (hmmm... I do have a really bad memory), and skin reactions. In addition, soda consumption has been linked to lower bone density, since it can block your bones' absorption of calcium. Plus, when I'm drinking DC, I'm choosing not to drink something else—like a healthy glass of water.

For a couple of years, I didn't drink DC. And then DC came back into my life. I'm all about having balance. A part of health is pleasure and denying ourselves all of our favorite foods is not healthy. So, I thought it was okay if every now and then I had my Diet Coke as a treat. This worked fine for a while. Every couple of months, I would enjoy DC. But then, every couple of months turned into more and more frequent dalliances. I would only buy one can at a time, but I found myself going out of the way to get it. And then recently, I bought a 12-pack. I figured it was more economical and efficient. I would have the cans in the house when I wanted them. Well, I wanted a can a day.

I always say that when you are in a low willpower state, you have to help yourself. If I could have the cans in the house and drink them on an irregular basis, that would be one thing. But the temptation is just too great right now because our relationship seems to have picked up right where we left off. Even though I am a Healthy Living Coach, it doesn't mean I don't have my temptations. And DC is a strong one for me. So today, I'm breaking up again. Right now, we just can't be friends. Having an on and off again relationship is not working for me. I broke up successfully before so I know I can do it again. As a ceremonious breaking up, I just poured the remaining cans down the sink.

Goodbye, my friend. Perhaps when I'm strong enough we can meet again for a very irregular, special occasion meeting. But for now, DC must say goodbye to DC, at least until the day that the makers of Diet Coke can give it the nutritional benefits of broccoli. Hey—a girl can dream.

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Dina Colman is a healthy living coach. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. This blog is from the Relationships quadrant. Contact Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com

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