Just over a year ago, I decided to tackle my very real, mega addiction to diet coke. Per my 2013/2014 list, I wanted to challenge myself to 30 days diet coke free. At my worst, I would drink 3 to 4 cans (sometimes more!) in a day, and my unwavering dedication to such a dangerous and addictive drink is not something I'm proud to admit.

My former trainer and nutritionist in Austin were both adamant that I cut diet coke out completely, given the surfacing dangers of sweeteners (both artificial and real) and diet sodas. During my Austin days, I was not strong enough to quit cold turkey (much to the disappointment of my health squad).  Plus, despite the evidence, I wasn't ready to believe in its evils - the first step is admitting you have a problem, and I wasn't there yet. Back then, if I had been asked in a focus group to describe my relationship with Diet Coke I probably would have  said something horribly embarrassing like "Oh, she's my trusted friend and confidante,""she's like a sister who's always there for me"...though now I know the reality...she's a conniving "frenemy" who'snice to your face but talks about you behind your back, and tells you nothing but lies! LIES!    While I couldn't fully sever my dependence on DC while living in Austin, I was able to get down to less than a can a day, averaging a slightly safer 4-5 cans in a week.

For some reason though, the words of my Austin health squad stuck with me, and last year, on April 10th I decided I was ready to give up my favorite beverage - at leasttemporarily - just to see what the hype was about.

I wound up giving up diet coke (and all artificial sweeteners) for 240 days. Our initial breakup was painful. For the first week, I felt like shit. I experienced legit withdrawal in the form of irritability, horrible headaches, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and feelings of lethargy.  But, I stuck with it, and after the first 5-6 days, I felt pretty amazing.  After 30 days, I decided "what the hell?  Let's see how long this can last!" But,  I didn't want to restrict myself by saying "never."  Spring swayed into summer and lilted  into fall, and all the while, I was feeling good with my commitment to stay "DC dry." But as the days began to shrink and freeze, I relapsed.  

In December, as a "reward to myself" (It's the holidays!  I've been working long, crazy consultant hours!  The darkness and cold suck so I deserve a treat!), I knowingly cracked open a can of diet coke. While it didn't taste quite the way I remembered, it still had a "hit the spot" comfort and familiarity. Once an addict always an addict. Throughout my 240 days, I thought about diet coke way more than I care to admit - the addiction I have is more powerful than I imagined, and my addictive thoughts actually  scared me a little bit (if this is what a dc addiction is like, I can't even imagine overcoming an addiction  to drugs or alcohol!) When I "gave in", however, I never went back to the same level of diet coke gluttony. At the worst during my relapse, I was drinking a can a day on the weekends, and the occasional can during the week.  

But...I felt the hold strengthening, and on March 5th of this year (day 1 of Lent), I decided to once again give up DC again for Lent and beyond. In fact decided to expand my ban to all sodas (diet or not) - which didn't seem a big leap since I rarely drank other soda anyway, save for a Sprite every few weeks. Lent is now over, and I'm feeling strong and healthy and proud to have conquered my diet coke and artificial sweetener addiction, and while I do still think from time to time how much a dc would quench the thirst, the thoughts are not nearly  as powerful or frequent as the first go-round.  

Still, I remain a bit of a real sugar fiend, with a serious sweet tooth (Caaake!  Ice cream!  M&Ms!  ommmmmnom) and I can tell it's taking a toll on my general health and well being (the hips don't lie, they've been SCREAMING the truth at me for YEARS now).  But, it's not just about a desire for weight loss and to look "good" in my wedding dress this Oct (I'll look  good no matter my size!!). I've mentioned it here and there, but I manage clinical depression and anxiety, and I want to see how much of an impact diet can have on my daily mood.  I've read that a linkage exists between sugar and depression and other mood disorders, and I'd like to do more to minimize my risk.

Today is my birthday (perfect landmark date to make a change!) and I spent much of today planning and prepping for the 21 Day Sugar Detox, which I'm set to start tomorrow.  I bought and read the book, written by Diane Sanfilippo, BS NC, a holistic nutritionist who runs a nutrition blog called Balanced Bites. For the next 21 days, I'm going to follow the yes/no list (level 1) as closely as I possibly can. B's going to do it with me. The Detox includes an inspiring, detailed menu -- but for me personally, it's very overwhelming to imagine trying to learn and try so many new recipes in a week on top of managing a busy work/life schedule. So, the yes/no list works best for me, and I've used it to define a daily eating plan based on healthy recipes that are already in my repertoire and that I know fit into my lifestyle (with a few of the books  recipes mixed in as well).

Throughout the process, I'll do my best to update the blog with my daily menu, and general assessment of mood and well being. It's an accountability thing.

It all began with cutting out artificial sweeteners and ending my relationship with dc...and now I'm looking forward to kicking it up a notch.  Here we go...