Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Bariatric Fun: The Ballad of Diet Coke

For those who don't know me, I have had a longstanding--almost comical!--fetish for Diet Coke. In my early airline days I was known (one of many nicknames) as the "Diet Coke Cardinal," and I've basically drunk a 12-pack a day, at a minimum, for 25 years or more. For most of my adult life I was NEVER without a DC. Ever. I carried one up to bed with me at night and it was the first thing I did in the morning. My drives, long and short, would be planned around who had a good mix of DC and it was not uncommon for me to buy a fresh one long before my current one was gone. In all my travels, job one was to scope out where I could get DC and who had the best mix (which typically meant who filtered their water).

This obsession arose kind of by plan: I realized several decades ago that I have a compulsive personality--which surely plays a role in my being overweight in the first place--and I made the decision to grant myself this item as an outlet for my compulsion rather than, say, Peanut M&Ms or some other thing. This was, I thought, a relatively innocuous thing that would satisfy the compulsive part of my personality without doing me much harm otherwise (I suspect if I were not a teetotaler I would likely have a problem with alcohol).

Despite the warnings of well-meaning friends, I have suffered very little for my fetish. Well, apart from spending a couple grand a year on it. I had a doctor tell me some years ago that in the interests of moderation "I wish your 12-pack were a 6-pack, but if you had to pick a habit you chose a pretty harmless one." Every now and again a study pops up saying that Aspartame is demon spawn, but these seem to come and go quietly. And indeed there are few substances in recent history with a deeper and wider track record than Aspartame; with billions upon billions of doses consumed, if it caused bad stuff we'd surely know it by now. (True, at the amount I consume there may be consequences that other folks will never see, but to date I've had no issues.)  I also used to have people tell me that diet soda would not hydrate properly, and yet I used to regularly run 7-9 miles at a crack and I NEVER drank anything else. Can't be much clearer than that, at least for the short term.

And it became more than a fetish, I think: I really do love the stuff. It's very common for me to get a fresh one from a McDonald's drive-thru (they filter their water, so their soda is always perfecto!) and feel positively giddy at how fabulous it is: bubbly and icy and perfectamundo. (Makes me wonder if they put something in it to make it addictive.) Even so, I'd decide every five years or so that it can't POSSIBLY be good to drink this much diet soda, and I'd take a month or two on the wagon. Apart from a caffeine-withdrawal headache for the first three days, I found that I felt no different whatsoever after a month off the stuff than I felt while drinking it; which led me to wonder why I should bother making the sacrifice.  Interestingly, though, after a month away I was surprised that the stuff didn't really taste all that great. But I was soon enough back off the wagon and life moved on.

Fast-forward up to a couple months ago. I read in the VSG literature from my surgeon that carbonated beverages were verboten after the surgery, pretty much permanently. I think the reasons for this are twofold: 1) acid reflux is an issue after this surgery, and carbonated beverages make it worse, and 2) the carbonation in the newly-shrunk stomach works to inflate and stretch it out, which works against its therapeutic power (Generally, the success of the sleeve is related to how small a pouch the surgeon can make; the smaller the pouch / stomach, the more likely a person will achieve their long-term weight goals). So this was my wakeup call: if this were going to work, I'd need to drink something else.

Naturally, for those who know me, this is a HUGE question mark. But I was unworried, which surprised even myself a little. I think I knew that my behavior was as much habit pattern and pacifier as it was a reflection of my love of the product itself. In the past five years I found I was buying and drinking more and more diet Snapple instead of DC, something quite new in my history. So after reading the surgery literature I immediately swore off the stuff to take a trial run, as it were. I've been focusing on iced tea and (since caffeine is off limits for the first month after surgery) on drink mixes like Propel and Crystal Light, etc. And I find I haven't missed the DC in the least, though I have long-standing behavior patterns that still try to assert themselves--like thinking about what drive-thru to hit for a beverage on my long drives. Interestingly, I find that a good glass of ice water becomes much more attractive when I'm weaned off the DC, and I also find that I'm drinking about 1/3 less overall than I used to (so much of my DC drinking had nothing to do with hydration). I've had a sip here and there of Susan's DC in the interim, but I've had little reaction to it.

One good thing is a great reduction in acid reflux. I haven't had bad heartburn like some folks, but all that carbonation surely doesn't help, and I find I eat a lot fewer Tums now than I used to. My esophagus surely thanks me.


CyberKitten said...

I generally drink a 500 or 600ml bottle of diet coke, coke zero or Pepsi max most days. Funnily I drink much less at weekends when I tend to get most headaches. Coincidence?

What I really miss is Vanilla coke which I loved the taste of instantly. If only they'd bring it back.... [please!]

It will be interesting to see what the long term effects of stopping drinking diet coke will have. Be sure to keep us all informed...

Vancouver Voyeur said...

We have vanilla coke here. Should I ship some to you?

CyberKitten said...

Please Ms Voyeur. They probably have it on the mainland too.... bastards!

dbackdad said...

It's diet Mountain Dew for me, though diet Pepsi and diet Coke certainly happen fairly regularly too. I have went fairly long periods of time without drink diet soda, so I think I could do it if necessary. But, at this point, I have not had a medically compelling reason to do so.

wunelle said...

I'm finding now after a couple months that I don't think about DC at all, but I'm still a little manic about having a bottle of tea or crystal light ready to hand. Overall, that's a happy state of affairs for me. Being properly hydrated after the surgery shouldn't be too challenging for me, but I'll have to adjust the exact manner of my drinking: more sipping, more often; no gulping.