Diet Soda Addiction: Real or Rumor?

Are diet soda addictions real -or just one more food rule for you to feel bad about breaking?

Fact: The average soda drinker downs more than three eight-ounce cans a day -- and three percent of diet soda lovers drink more than four, qualifying them for addict status according to a recent Huffington Post story, which went on to explore the strange lengths that these so-called addicts will go to get their fix.

And here you thought diet soda was the healthy option.

Before we continue, a confession: I come from a long tradition of Diet Coke lovers. My dad grew up in a family that went through six cases of Coke every two weeks (a delivery truck came straight to their house) and later hooked up a Coca-Cola vending machine in his college dorm room "as a public service." I'm pretty sure he has consumed no other beverage in the past 50 years, though he did switch to diet shortly before I was born, and more recently, to caffeine-free.

Not that I'm judging. Until a few years ago, I was equally gun-ho. I went through multiple two-liter bottles of Diet Coke every week. And having been raised on the calorie-free stuff, I've always felt smug because I don't even like the taste of regular. Which was supposed to be a good thing since, as everyone knows, regular soda is brimming with obesity and death. Just try to order regular when you're with a bunch of diet drinkers. It's like being the one to order a hamburger while everyone else has salad. Or the person looking longingly at the dessert menu while everyone else says they're "completely stuffed." Not that I know anything about that.

So while I might hail from an extreme version of the soda spectrum, the fact is an awful lot of us have been doing the diet thing all these years, convinced that the righteous path was lined with aspartame. And now it turns out that we're setting ourselves up for addiction?

This is a major buzz kill.

I've been trying to phase out diet soda ever since they started putting aspartame in the same sentence as "cancer," and I'll admit, it's not an easy habit to kick. Even now, when I'm stressed or at the movies, there is nothing like a Diet Coke. I knew I'd become friends with my favorite yoga teacher when she revealed that she hits Subway after we finish our down dogs, for a fountain-style DC. (True connoisseurs know it tastes better that way.)

Nevertheless, I think there's a touch of the melodrama around all this addiction talk. No, caffeine and aspartame aren't going to help anyone live to be 100. But I am so over hearing that every tasty food or drink in this world is dangerous and addictive. This sets up the kind of good food/bad food rhetoric that leads women to indulge in some pretty disordered eating behaviors. And life is just too short for that kind of guilt cycle.

 

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