As I opened the refrigerator door, I noticed something missing. My massive 24 pack of diet soda was completely empty. As I rushed to the cupboard to quickly reload my sweet poison, I found myself searching through the entire pantry with utter determination and was crushed to find not one single can left. It was 2:30am, and that’s when I knew I had a serious problem. As I got into my car, I asked myself, “What am I doing? Its 2:30am and I’m driving to get another case of diet soda!” My addiction had completely taken hold of me and I needed to make an adjustment.
For as long as I can remember, I have been drinking mega doses of diet drinks every single day. Costco crates of diet soda, tubs of diet drink mixes and cases of artificially sweetened energy drinks would take up the majority of space in my kitchen. I hated the taste of water and would do anything to avoid it at all cost. Throughout all this time, I thought it was perfectly fine since it was all calorie free and it would help keep my weight down. As long as I didn’t drink regular soda, I thought everything was fine and I was making a healthy choice for beverages.
It was at the point when I was driving in my car to the 24 hour mini-mart to refill my case of diet soda at 2am, when I knew I was addicted! This craving had completely taken control of me and the addiction had reached a pinnacle. I knew I needed to make a change so I went online to research the effects that artificial sweeteners had on the mind and body. I was blown away at the information I found regarding the serious side effects of sugar substitutes like aspartame (Equal/Nutrasweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and even sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is one of the most common tabletop artificial sweeteners in the US today and is the most used sweetener in diet foods such as diet sodas, sugar-free gum and the majority of other sugar-free products. It is made from a combination of the two amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
After reading a mountain of information on phenylalanine alone, I was determined to gather more research. This led me to a book called “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills” by Russell L. Blaylock. It’s a very interesting look at how different additives affect the brain. Dr. Blaylock defines excitotoxins as a “group of excitatory amino acids that can cause sensitive neurons to die.” The most common ones are glutamate, aspartate, and cysteine. After reading this book, I decided to go cold turkey and cut out as many artificial sweeteners as I could find in my diet. The main culprit was diet soda. Yes, my savored past time of drinking 15-20 cans of diet soda would have to drastically perish. But how would my body respond? Would I go into convulsions and break out in a cold sweat? Here is my 30 day fitness challenge experience of eliminating diet sodas and artificial sweeteners from my diet.
July 24 – Day 1
My first day of completely removing all diet sodas and artificial sweeteners was hard to endure. My regular morning regimen consisted of waking up and doing 45 minutes of cardio before heading back to the home office. When I arrived back, I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal and protein powder then rushed to the refrigerator to crack open a can of cold diet soda. It was 8am and I quickly remembered the cold truth of my challenge. Diet soda was nowhere to be found. The night before, I removed at least 60 cans of my prior stash of sweet poison to make room for bottled water. Yes, the dreaded unflavored bottle water stared me directly in the eye. I grabbed a bottle of the H2O and began sipping it along with my morning meal.
The removal of the sweet taste I had been accustomed to for so long was very hard to adjust to. I found myself craving a can of diet soda and I honestly felt incredibly deprived of my only little treat. I say treat because the rest of my diet was very clean. I ate all the nutrient dense bodybuilding foods one needs to consume for maximum muscular gains and for shedding adipose tissue. Skinless chicken breast, egg whites, turkey breast, orange roughy and tuna for my lean protein intake. Brown rice, sweet potatoes and steel cut oats for my healthy starchy carbs. Tons of steamed veggies for my fibrous intake. Essential fatty acids for my healthy fat intake. I was adhering to the fitness meal plans perfectly and thought I was doing fine drinking my diet soda. To me, this one my little sweet treat I could depend on every day to get me through the rigorous dieting regime. I didn’t eat candy, chocolate or even ice cream. I had my nice little cans of sweet diet soda to accompany me day in and day out. I thought everything was fine since they were all calorie free and sugar-free. I would later learn just how serious these diet sodas were effecting my health.
July 31 – Day 7
Its been one full week since I removed diet sodas and artificially flavored drinks from my diet. The first week was very difficult and I found myself craving diet soda all day, every day. Every time I ventured outside and witnessed racks and racks of diet drinks in grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants, I was inundated with flashbacks of diet soda everywhere. My traditional 64 ounce diet soda at the local minimart was replaced by a 24 ounce bottle of spring water. The store clerk looked at me and said, “Is our soda machine working ok?” I was ingrained to this soda routine almost everyday for the last 2 years I lived in the area. It started to dawn on me that my addiction was a serious one.
August 7 – Day 14
My second week was tough. It seemed like the craving were stronger this week than the first. I still didn’t like the taste of water and I felt myself staring at the bottles and cans of the diet soda rack every time I went grocery shopping. I decided to add a little variety to my water, so I bought a bag of lemons and added sliced lemon to the H2O. It made a huge difference. Just a tiny bit of flavor went a long way and really gave me a sense of enjoyment from drinking the spring water.
August 14 – Day 21
My third week of diet soda elimination was interesting. The effects of cutting out all diet sodas and artificial sweeteners from my daily intake were taking effect. The biggest thing I noticed was the quality of sleep. I started falling asleep right away when my head hit the pillow. I didn’t toss and turn like I used to and once I fell into a dream state, I slept like a rock. It was a good week thanks to the savory addition of my little lemons.
August 24 – Day 30
My fourth and final week of my 30 day fitness challenge was eye-opening. My sporadic headaches I used to have during the day vanished. My mental focus was very sharp compared to a weird fuzziness or brain fog I used to get when I was consuming copious amounts of diet drinks. I just felt sharper mentally and my overall sense of well-being increased. I also noticed my dreams were vivid and I would wake up remembering detailed accounts of nighttime adventures. I had finally reached the end of the road and my 30 day journey had reached it finale. I had been sober from diet sodas and artificial sweeteners for one full month now and I did not know if my future would lead back to the sweet poison.
My 30 day fitness challenge to remove all the diet soda and artificially flavored drinks from my diet was a success! I went a full 30 days and did not cave in once. It was tough, but I made it through and feel amazing. I feel great for a couple of reasons. I had more energy, was mentally sharper, slept better and had a much better sense of overall well-being. I made the decision to continue on with my diet soda sobriety and continue with the challenge.
It’s now September 26 and its been over 2 full months since my last intake of diet soda and artificially flavored drinks! I’m very proud to be able to have continued on with my healthy change and I feel amazing. Not only have eliminated the toxic ingestion of the additives but my overall determination and discipline has been elevated. I finally was able to climb out from under this massive rock of addiction and break the chains of this compulsive need for these habit-forming substances. I was free from the daily routine of worrying when I would get my next fix. This feeling of being free was one of the best things to come from this challenge.
I encourage everyone reading this to take your own personal journey into a 30 day fitness challenge. Whether its quitting smoking, cutting out diet soda or eliminating caffeine, I’m sure you will find many eye-opening experiences once you take the journey. Habits are extremely powerful and when you finally challenge yourself to break these unhealthy compulsive conditions, you can truly set yourself free and live a healthier life!