Hello, my name is Jodi McMaster and I’m a sodaholic, and its been almost a year since I had my last drink. I had a six-pack a day minimum habit.

Hmm. “Sodaholic” looks kind of kinky written out;  it sounded fine.

The point is that up until  about a year ago, you’d be hard-pressed to talk to me when I didn’t have a soda in my hand. As a kid, it was Coca-Cola. When I became a teenager I started drinking Tab. When I got pregnant, I went back to “real” Coke, because I was more worried about what the artificial sweeteners might do to my developing child than I was of the sugar. In between pregnancies, Diet Coke had taken over enough of the market that Tab was becoming obsolete and hard to come by in your average vending machine, so I switched to Diet Coke after my first pregnancy, returning to it again after the second.

When I had a horrific breast biopsy due to fibrocystic knotting (which is exacerbated by caffeine), I went to decaf Diet Coke, which was kind of a pain because it, too, is infrequently found in vending machines. The only thing that made me perservere, at least for a while, was the desire to avoid another biopsy.

I have never figured out why the doctor thought it was okay for me to endure eye-watering, teeth-clenching pain when the anaesthesia wore off because she was “almost finished.” Wow. My pain was not worth the time it would have taken for another injection. To top it off, the site hurt like hell afterwards, and when I called to ask about it, they told me it shouldn’t and to check under the Steri-strip. When I peeled off the blister that had formed under it, taking several layers of skin with it, I learned that I was allergic to them. Not just Steri-strips, though; if I leave a regular adhesive bandage on for too long, it’ll start blistering, too. I rip them off on my way out the door now.

Throughout the years, I tried to give up the Coke habit, but I always came back to it. My stepfather, Al Lang, once asked me why I drank decaf Diet Coke with the comment, “What are you getting out of it if there’s no sugar and no caffeine?” He had a point, but I didn’t quit then. I’d read articles that suggest that even artificial sweeteners trigger appetite, but, as Mark Sisson’s post “Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause an Insulin Spike?” on “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog says:

The notion that artificial sweeteners (and sweet tastes in general) might produce an insulin response is one of those murky memes that winds itself around the blogs, but it’s never stated one way or the other with any sort of confidence. I briefly mentioned the possibility of non-caloric sweeteners influencing satiety hormones in last week’s diet soda post, and a number of you guys mentioned the same thing. Still, I’ve never seen unequivocal evidence that this is the case.

In an interesting article from CrossFit Journal, Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist and student of the guy who wrote the Paleo Diet, gives his take on the artificial sweetener problem, but adds an alternative explanation:

[A]rtificial sweeteners can create insulin spikes via signals between the taste buds and organs such as the pancreas and the brain. Furthermore, the body is wired in ways that allow some people to get insulin spikes just by looking at pictures of food.

In 2007, Reuters reported an even more disturbing risk:

Sodas — even diet ones — may be linked with increased risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, U.S. researchers said.

They found adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the waist, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and other symptoms.

But that wasn’t enough for me to kick the soda habit. I switched from Diet Coke to regular Coke when I had a bad siege of migraines around a decade ago to see if the reduction in Aspartame intake would make the migraines go away. It took about three months to clear my system completely, but the migraines did start becoming more infrequent. But now I was on Coke, and it had evil residing in it: high fructose corn syrup.

To me, the best argument that high fructose corn syrup is bad for you is that the epidemiological studies show a rapid increase in obesity when it became the sweetener of choice. But that doesn’t actually prove a causative connection. In addition, corn and any of its byproducts are foods that induce all sorts of fun GI symptoms for me. Did I give up sodas? Nope. I bought the ones bottled in Mexico, because they still use cane sugar there.

Nope. What finally got me off sodas was the same drug given to me for my migraines that made me daily consider checking myself into a psych ward: Topamax. It made the damn things taste weird. I was on Topamax for what seemed to be an eternity, but really was probably a total of four or five months ramping up and then back down. (I knew right away that the side effects were too miserable for me to ever be able to deal with them, but the neurologist I was seeing at the time would not be swayed from his protocol just because I was complaining. Wow, I’m kind of bitching about doctors in this post; let me say now I don’t consider either of these examples to be representative of the profession, or even their specialties, as a whole. I stuck with the same gynecologist until she retired, had the same pediatrician for both my kids until they outgrew him, and have had the same internist for over a decade now.)

The duration of the Topamax experiment was enough to get me off Cokes altogether. I had been able to stay off them for a maximum of a couple of months in the past, but I always inched back up after the first one. Coke really is like a drug for me; even one is the doorway to destruction. I associated certain foods with Coke, like popcorn, and it would be the food that would make me want the Coke, too, and then I went. Popcorn is now also a no-n0 for me because of the food sensitivity issue, but I still want them with burgers.

I appear to have company in my tendency to eat higher-calorie foods when I drink sodas.  A recent study has shown that

Consuming just two sugary drinks a day can dull the taste buds and lead to cravings for high-calorie food, a study claims.The research suggests that within a month those who drink sugary beverages are left with a dulled sensitivity to sweet tastes. This leads to an increased preference for high-calorie and sugar-laden foods, creating a “vicious cycle” as consumers look for their next treat.

I didn’t really notice a weight loss when I gave up sodas (unlike all the men I know who have boasted of 20-25 pound drops once they kick the habit), but once I started thinking about it, I have maintained a slightly lower weight since I gave them up. It’s only about ten pounds, but that’s still something.  What it has done for me is taken out a lot of extra calories and the undoubted insulin spike a real, sugar-laden Coca-Cola gives you.

And yet, after writing all this and knowing they’re not good for me, I kind of want one. Won’t, but  the temptation is always there.

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