‘I Quit Diet Coke for a Month and I Couldn’t Believe How It Changed My Life’

“I don’t accept that Diet Coke is bad for you in any way. If I ever want to start it again, even if it means giving up the experiment, I will.”

That was my explanation to my wife at the beginning of my four-week trial without my favorite liquid refreshment.

I don’t deal well with outside pressure when it comes to setting challenges for myself, you see. I hate advice, tips and everything else people offer, usually with the best intentions (on their part). I just want to get on with it, slowly, on my own, and stop if and when I want to.

For years, people had told me that I drank too much Diet Coke. My response was that it had zero calories and zero sugar, and that there was no conclusive evidence that it was any worse for you than any other processed drink or food. I pointed out that I didn’t drink tea or coffee, that I usually had just two drinks on Friday and Saturday nights, and that, as a pescatarian, I didn’t eat meat.

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I knew that Diet Coke contained the artificial sweetener aspartame, but so did tons of drinks, even many fruit juices and flavored waters. People also told me what happens if you leave a penny in a glass of Coke and it must do the same to my guts — but I definitely didn’t give it up, reports our sister title Wales Online.

Until I was. It wasn’t a conscious decision at first, I just decided to drink a glass of water every now and then instead of opening a can of Coke. I thought, I can do this, so I did it again. Then, with my journalistic head on, I thought I could do an experiment in giving up completely (almost) and then write about it for WalesOnline – hey presto!

I say (almost) above because the rules of the game were that I would still have it as a mixer with my favorite weekend drink – Tia Maria and coke – to give it up would have been a step too far in my mind. So that was it, no more diet coke as a straight drink and basically no ma-thu at all.

Paul tried to give up his beloved drink -Credit:Paul Turner/Media Wales

Paul tried to give up his beloved drink -Credit:Paul Turner/Media Wales

Up until then I would have my first glass of Coke around lunchtime, another in the middle of the afternoon, occasionally another towards the end of the afternoon when I was thirsty, then another with dinner and a final one around 9:30. One room in my house was always full of crates of the stuff and a supply kept in the fridge.

Day 1:

Weight: 14th 7

Waist: 104cm

I had previously been running around late 13, early 14. I liked to think that my gains were due to the strength training I did more before – and muscle mass – but I have no idea if that was the case or if I was fooling myself. The waist size seemed larger than before, and I find that measuring your waist is far from an exact science – but I was 103 cm in a previous measurement, while a few years ago I was only 95 cm when I exercised a lot

Although I didn’t see any dramatic physical effects from my sudden change to liquid refreshment on the first day, and I was okay with drinking water, I still had a little craving for something sweet. But I did have a revelation of sorts. I realized that my glass of Coke with my meal wasn’t just for liquid refreshment. I was drinking it because my body had become accustomed, either by design or by desire, to having something sweet after every bite. When I ate now—there was no sweetness besides the savory—it was a major shift and a transformative moment in my understanding of my own body and habits.

Day 2:

I wouldn’t really call it cold turkey – it wasn’t like I was giving up nicotine or anything – but if I was having withdrawal symptoms at all, that’s when they started. I was a bit irritable and short-tempered. I also had a headache in the afternoon. Of course, I have no idea if these things were related or just a coincidence.

Day 3:

I felt like I had turned a corner today – I felt ready for the challenge. I was on vacation at the time, which no doubt helped.

Day 4:

The big test – I was back at work – how would I cope without a Diet Coke hit when I had to concentrate all day? Whether it was being back into a normal routine without my daily drink, I started missing it today. I started having discussions in my own brain – my brain would say, ‘just have your Coke, you love it, it probably won’t make a difference anyway’, then another part would hit back with, ‘no, you can do this – keep it up’.

Day 5:

I went for a 55km bike ride this morning in beautiful warm weather and I was craving an ice cold coke with little bubbles on the outside of the glass – I could almost taste it, I could hear the ice cubes clinking together. That wild debate in my head started all over again.

Day 6:

I felt the need for fruit today, not something I’m used to – so I went out and bought some – also not like me. The fruity, juicy, naturally sweet taste of strawberries and grapes helped ease my cola cravings a bit. And healthier of course – a bit of an added result!

Day 7:

The first weigh-in and scores on the doors are:

Weight: 14pcs 5.75

Waist: 101 cm

Wow! Not a huge difference weight-wise, but I did lose an inch or two from my waist according to my measurements. I know there is a margin of error here and that bodies fluctuate naturally, but it seemed like a good start and encouraged me to keep going.

Paul was a big fan of Diet Coke -Source:Paul Turner/Media WalesPaul was a big fan of Diet Coke -Source:Paul Turner/Media Wales

Paul was a big fan of Diet Coke -Source:Paul Turner/Media Wales

Day 8 and beyond:

At that point I stopped tracking daily changes. I was now in a rhythm and used to my routine. I still missed my Diet Coke, but I wasn’t craving it and I found other ways to satisfy my sweet tooth – with fruit!

One thing I did discover was that I was less tired at work. I noticed I had highs and lows before work – maybe the lows after the peak of the Diet Coke caffeine and fake sugar rush. If I was tired that day, it smoothed out, rather than up and down, and was much more manageable as a result.

Weighing at the end of week 2:

Weight: 14st 5.25

Waist: 101.5 cm

Only half a pound off in weight but a slight drop in waistline. But I’ve been busy this week with much less time to exercise.

End of week 3 roads:

Weight: 14pcs 3.75

Waist: 100 cm

I’m back on track with my waistline and have lost another 1.6 pounds.

End of week 4 roads:

Weight: 14pcs 4.5

Waist: 99.5 cm

My weight is back to normal, but still 2.5 pounds less than when I started. But I did take another half inch off my waist.

Weighing at the end of week 5:

Weight: 14st 2.5

Waist: 98.5 cm

A month later, things had changed as follows:

Total weight loss: 4.5 pounds

Total waist loss: 5.5 cm


Like I said, I started this journey partly in the hope that it would make a difference. I just wanted a slimmer waist and exercise and a few diet changes hadn’t really made much of a difference. I also felt like I needed to lose some weight – but my waistline was my main motivation.

I also hoped it wouldn’t make any difference. I love Diet Coke, have always defended it – and if giving it up turned out to be a waste (or waste) of time, I could go back to drinking it like I did before. But I can’t ignore the fact that my waist has shrunk 2 inches in just a few weeks – that seems pretty spectacular. And the weight loss was nothing to sneeze at either. Whether it was all due to the Diet Coke ban, or a combination of things – the numbers don’t lie.

So since this experiment ended I have stuck to the plan. I have allowed myself a Diet Coke with my meals when I occasionally eat out (if I am driving) but otherwise I have pretty much cut it out. I do miss it a little bit but not a huge amount. I hope the weight and waistline continue to shrink but if I can I will let you know how it goes.

My feeling has always been – if you want to lose weight or something – just do what you can do and don’t put more pressure on yourself than you can handle. You won’t succeed unless the motivation is all your own, without anyone telling you why you should or shouldn’t do something.

I tried something and I feel like it worked and made a huge difference in my diet and my life. It may not work for you, or maybe you just have no interest or desire to try it, but for me the journey has been worth it, and I will continue on that path.

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