Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Journey Out of Diet Coke Addiction

I recently joined Toastmaster’s International so I can improve my public speaking skills. I am just now preparing for my first “Ice Breaker” speech. As I was jotting down some notes, I realized that I wanted to tell a story.

I have been enjoying a healthy lifestyle for about 5 years but prior to that, it was quite the opposite. I used to be a Diet Coke addict.

My first memory of diet coke was when I was in my early teens. Mom was a chronic dieter so it was around in the house. I actually remember my first experience with Diet Coke. I can picture being in the kitchen, looking at the can and then giving it a try. Yuck! I thought it was disgusting! But somehow I gave Diet Coke another try and began liking the taste. There’s nothing like chemical additives to get one hooked!

Growing up in New Hampshire, Pepsi products were more common but Texas was Coke country and I moved there when I was 19. I drank Diet Coke regularly in my late teens and early 20s but I knew I was addicted when I lived in Ireland for a year at age 23.

In Ireland, my daily routine consisted of stopping at the corner shop to get my can of Diet Coke and a small chocolate. The anticipation and then pleasure of sitting down, popping the top, and letting the icy cold soda glide down my throat was delightful. It was my “Calgon, take me away” moment. My 5 flatmates were so accustomed to my habit that my going away present was a Diet coke and a little chocolate tied with a red ribbon. That’s when I realized I was addicted.

Upon returning to Texas at age 24, I discovered that I liked best the Diet coke from Wendy’s by my house. I liked fountain soda best as it was a perfect balance of fizz and flavor. Ironically, I would often buy food at Whole Foods and then stop at the Wendy’s drive-thru on my way home. I couldn’t imagine my life without Diet Coke.

However, in 1998, my life started to shift. I had been battling severe fatigue and bouts of depression for years. I began to realize that it was my responsibility to change my eating habits if I wanted to feel better. I began my health journey that continues to this day. One of the first changes I made was to switch from regular Diet Coke to caffeine-free Diet Coke. Friends and colleagues used to joke with me about the worthiness of drinking caffeine-free diet soda. They asked, “why bother?” But I was addicted. Once I overcame my 4 day long caffeine withdrawl headache, I felt good about my change.

The next radical change occurred in late 1998. Upon the recommendation of my chiropractor, I did the Master Cleanser, a fast in which one consumes only water, lime juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. After 7 days of the fast, my body felt stronger and cleaner. At that time, I had no desire to put Diet Coke back into my body. I’ve been clean ever since but I had cravings for Diet Coke for about 5 years. I remember salivating when a friend would drink a Diet Coke in my presence.

In chiropractic school, I learned about the dangers of Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, in Diet Coke. Aspartame is a neurotoxin, which means that it actually induces your nerve cells to die!. As a chiropractic physician, I feel obligated to share with my patients the danger of Aspartame. I provide information and encouragement to help them overcome their addictions to diet soda.

A profound realization occurred to me once I was Diet Coke free. My unexplained joint and muscle pain that had plagued me since I was 17 was now gone! I had mistakenly been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia but it was actually Aspartame toxicity.
It breaks my heart to see people drink multiple Diet Cokes a day and put that poison into their bodies. But all I can do is lead by example. Realizing and then overcoming my addiction to Diet Coke was an integral part of my health journey and I am thankful for it.

~Dr. Jennifer Greenfield

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