Are you wondering how to break a diet soda addiction? For most of my life, I was addicted to diet pop. As part of my work to break a 15+ year weight loss plateau, I stopped drinking diet soda and haven’t had any during the last year.

How important is it to give up this habit? I’ll share my story, why diet soda isn’t an optimal beverage choice and the steps you can take to break your diet pop addiction, too.

Steps to Break a Pop Addiction

How Bad is Diet Soda?

Medical experts have long debated the dangers of diet soda.

According to Medical News Today, regularly drinking diet soda has been reportedly linked to an increasing large risk of negative medical issues such as:

  • Heart conditions
  • Metabolic issues (including obesity)
  • Brain conditions
  • Liver problems

Plus, add the fact that diet soda is expensive. Many of us are on tight grocery budgets and that money would serve us better invested in produce or higher-quality times like organic or locally sourced meat and dairy products.


Do You Need to Give Up Diet Soda to Lose Weight?

Do you need to give up diet pop to lose weight?


I lost 100 pounds drinking diet colas every single day, often 3-4 bottles per day. There was rarely a day that went by that I didn’t drink Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper.

I would even go so far as to say drinking diet sodas helped my weight loss because it was something I reached for instead of snacking. When I drove through the McDonald’s drive-thru for my kids, instead of ordering a large fries and Quarter Pounder, I got a salad and a Diet Coke.

At parties, it was something to sip on instead of mindlessly snacking on appetizers. In the afternoons, it gave me a little pick-me-up instead of a sugary treat.

Coke with lime

While it’s true that diet soda isn’t good for you, it’s also true that it’s not the #1 weight loss priority for most people.

Is drinking diet pop the best choice? No, but weight loss is rarely about the best choice, especially in the beginning.

The weight loss process is more about choices that are a little bit better each day.

If you are just starting your weight loss process, I don’t think you need to worry about cutting out diet soda unless you have other medical or personal reasons for doing so. This can be something you tackle later.

Instead, focus on the bigger areas like tracking your food and getting your calories (or points if you are doing Weight Watchers) under control.


Giving Up My Diet Pop Addiction – My Story

If I don’t think it’s that important, why did I choose to give up diet soda?

After a 15+ year plateau where I was close to my goal weight but still about 20 pounds overweight, I made a number of changes to break the plateau and finally get to my goal.

One of those changes was giving up artificial sweetener.

To be honest, I gave it up as a test and I was just sure it wouldn’t make a big difference. After all, I had lost 100 pounds drinking diet soda so I really didn’t see the harm.

Plus I track my calories/points quite consistently so I was pretty sure artificial sweeteners didn’t cause me to overeat.

But I was game to try giving up sweeteners as a test. I committed to giving up all artificial sweeteners for 30 days, including “natural” ones like stevia and monk fruit extract.

While I think natural sweeteners (such as stevia and monk fruit) are better than non-natural ones (like aspartame), I still don’t think they are the best choice. Giving your body something sweet without calories creates confusion that could lead to overeating.

For me this decision meant no sugar free yogurt, no sugar free pudding mixes, no gum and the big one, no Diet Coke. This also meant not using replacement drinks like ICE and Mios drops or flavored waters with sweetener.

During this 30 days, I also stopped protein powders and drinks with artificial sweeteners. While I don’t have lots of protein shakes, I was using Premier Protein as my coffee creamer, so that had to go, too. (I replaced it with Nutpods, which is creamy with a bit of flavor but not sweet.)

How did my experiment go?

Within a couple of weeks, I lost 9 pounds.

I was utterly and completely shocked. I was just sure that sweeteners were not affecting me.

Sara Borgstede Before after 100 pound weight loss

Weight loss before and after – when I gave up diet soda, I quickly lost an additional 9 pounds.

While some of it could be a shift in fluid retention, I think the bigger change is that artificial sweeteners were driving me to eat more.

The difference was subtle, like a few bites of dinner here and some extra fruit there, but when you are close to your goal weight, those little things add up to calories that count.

I won’t kid you.

Giving up Diet Coke for 30 days was tough.

Then when the experiment worked, that meant if I wanted to keep the weight off I had to forgo diet sodas for good!

There was plenty of internal grumbling and complaining going on as I wrestled with what this meant for me long term.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but I ultimately decided that the weight loss mattered more than diet soda. I soldiered on soda-free and gradually the days without it added up to months.

Now it’s been over a year since I drank any diet pop.

Do I miss it? Yes, I do, but I will say it has gotten easier. It’s taken time though. It was probably 9-10 months before I would say I didn’t miss it every single day.

Now I only miss it occasionally like when we go out to eat, get fast food, or are on a road trip.


How to Stop Drinking Soda

There are two main ways to give up the diet soda addiction, which are giving it up gradually or going cold turkey.

  • The Gradual Method – Slowly wean yourself off of soda a bit at a time.
  • Going Cold Turkey – Give it up all at once.

Both methods have worked for different people and one has not been proven to be better or more long-lasting than another, so choose the method you think will work best for you.

The Gradual Method

My business partner, Becky, who has also lost 100 pounds and given up diet soda, used a gradual method to lose weight. She follows a one small change mindset with most things she does and found this worked for her for giving up diet soda, too.

Here’s how her method worked:

  • Becky switching from Mountain Dew to Sprite and Kool-Aid to Crystal Light drink mixes.
  • Next, she started diluting Sprite with lemonade, then light lemonade, until she was drinking straight light lemonade without any soda at all.
  • Then she transitioned from Crystal Light to Mio flavored drops. She stayed in that place for years.
  • Then she did the Whole 30 and broke her Mio addiction for good.

These days, she craves plain water and drinks lots of it. She doesn’t even like pop and finds the carbonation uncomfortable.

Here are some other steps you can try to cut down on the amount of soda you drink:

  • Don’t purchase it for home, so you only drink it while out.
  • Set a guideline for yourself that you will drink one full glass of water before each can of pop you drink.
  • Buy a brand you don’t like as much.
  • Set a window of time during the day when pop is allowed and drink other beverages the rest of the day.
  • Cut back serving sizes. Instead of a huge guzzler cup from the local gas station (I call these the bladder busters), have 1 can or bottle at a time. When ordering fast food, get the medium cup instead of the extra large.


The Cold Turkey Method

If a gradual method won’t work for you, the other option is to cut it out completely all at once.

I’ve found for my personality it was best to give up diet soda cold turkey. As much as I like the idea of gradual, I’d tried many times in the past cutting back or giving it up slowly and I always ended up going back to my regular drinking habits.

Once I set a date to give up diet soda, to break the diet soda addiction, I didn’t buy anymore and made sure I had other options to drink. I powered through the rough first weeks and it did gradually get easier to abstain.


What to Drink Instead of Soda?

While plain water is best if you aren’t quite ready to drink plain water yet, here are some options.

  • Flavored, artificially sweetened drinks. Many people switch from drinking pop to waters with an artificial sweetener such as ICE, Nestle Splash and Fruit-2-O. Personally I don’t think these are different from soda so I don’t think there’s much point, but if you are approaching this habit change with a gradual method, these could be a stepping stone. Just recognize that these beverages carry the same health risks as drinking pop.
  • Healthy “ginger ale”. Mix 8 ounces of sparkling water with 1 T apple cider vinegar for a healthier ginger ale. For some reason, this little concoction tasted good to me (I like sour) and was a great replacement beverage when I first gave up pop. I drank it very cold out of a wine glass to make it feel special.
  • Healthier lemonade. Mix 1 packet of True Lemon, True Lime, or True Orange into 8 ounces of water or sparkling water.Glass of water with lemon and mint
  • Sparkling water. While not terribly exciting, I drank a lot of plain sparkling water when I first gave up soda. It gave me the fizz I was missing.
  • Sparkling, flavored water without sweetener. Check out brands such as Polar, La Croix, and Bubly.
  • Water flavored with lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, herbs, or berries. You can use a water bottle with an infuser or try making ice cubes with items frozen in them. Just one or two raspberries or a couple orange slices will give your whole water bottle a touch of sweet flavor.
  • Hot or cold flavored tea. There are so many great flavored teas available now that add no extra calories or artificial sweetener.
  • Coffee. Try coffee hot or iced, just be sure to avoid adding lots of creamer or other high-calorie items. I like Nutpods creamer which is natural and sugar & sweetener-free.

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Diet Soda Addiction – Give Your Taste Buds Time to Adjust

Is diet soda addictive?

While not addictive in the same sense as drugs or alcohol, I do believe it’s possible to become highly habituated to drinking diet pop. This is why it can be hard to break the diet soda addiction.

I definitely felt I had a soda addiction. I craved soda, couldn’t wait to have it each day, and got really grouchy when I couldn’t have it.

Because artificial sweeteners are 100-500 times sweeter than sugar, your taste buds are used to the especially strong flavor.

Keep in mind that the manufactures of Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and other beverages want you to feel you are addicted so that you’ll keep purchasing their product. They have scientists who carefully monitor everything from the amount of fizz to flavor to which colors work best on the can for marketing purposes.

Recognize that nothing will taste quite as good for a while but you will adjust over time.

If I can give up diet soda after drinking it for 40+ years, I promise you can, too.

How can you quit drinking soda without headaches?

For some people, a steady dose of caffeine can cause headaches, fatigue, or other symptoms. Cutting back gradually can help, or drinking other beverages with caffeine, like coffee.

If you feel you need to go cold turkey you might need to just power through for a couple of days but know that the symptoms will go away in a week or two once your body adjusts.

What happens to your body when you stop drinking diet soda?

Because your body has become accustomed to drinking diet soda every day, you might not notice it affects on your mood, appetite, and overall well-being when you try to break your diet soda addiction. When you quit drinking it, you might discover the following benefits:

  • You have less hunger and cravings.
  • You have more energy (after the initial withdrawal period).
  • You don’t get sick as often.

I didn’t notice too much change in how I felt when I gave up soda. While it’s true that I had been drinking it daily, in so many other areas of life I was quite healthy. I was already eating clean, whole foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

Still, I felt great knowing I was strong enough to overcome this challenge and felt good about treating the body God has given me in a healthier way.

Now you know my story, how much I was addicted, why I chose to give up Diet Coke and the results.

Do you have a diet soda addiction you are ready to give up? Whether you use a gradual method or go cold turkey, you’ll be able to overcome this. I believe you can do it!

Share about it in the comments below.


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