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How experts say my brain and body are better after giving up Diet Coke

For decades, drinking a Diet Coke every day gave me a burst of caffeine and satisfaction.

I started popping cans of the stuff in the late 1990s, when I was a teenager. It made me feel like an adult. Once I was a proper adult, refusing to quit — no matter how many people told me I should — made me feel young.

I was a married, employed mom who practiced yoga, gave to charity, and voted in every election. Wasn’t I allowed one relatively harmless vice? 

Then I turned 40 and started thinking about my choices. That’s common, I suppose, when you’re caught in the tractor beam of Middle Age. I decided to make three changes at once: walk more, tweet less and, after 25 years, put down the Diet Coke.

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A year later, I was three for three. I hadn’t tweeted or scrolled since well before the bird app became X, though I “liked” various posts that crossed my path. My daily average step count was at 10,000 or more, up from 7,000. I got my buzz from coffee and tea.

And I didn’t feel any different.

Nothing significant about my health, mind or appearance seemed to have changed. Had all this effort been a waste?

I decided to ask the pros — and was surprised to find them unanimous.

‘You did your body a favor, and your brain’

Your body is very happy. I am sure it is.

Michiko Tomioka

nutritionist and longevity expert

Health effects don’t have to be visible to be serious

The health of your gut is related to the health of your brain. Once the gut is disrupted, the brain is affected as well.

Dr. Uma Naidoo

nutritional psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School instructor

My No. 1 takeaway isn’t about bone density or diabetes

All in all, I was sobered by the long list of health effects both experts rattled off, which didn’t even include a possible aspartame-cancer connection. I knew Diet Coke wasn’t exactly barley tea or a turmeric latte. I hadn’t thought it was like wine laced with iocane powder, either.

I’m happy to hear that my body is probably better off now. But honestly, I’m most proud of myself for another reason: I’ve shown that I can do something difficult and rewire my brain after 25 years.

A bobblehead of the author on a tower of Diet Coke.

Courtesy author

Here I am, able to walk past a vending machine and not think about scrounging up quarters. It’s good to know I can alter deeply ingrained habits. That alone helps foster a sense of relaxation and confidence, Tomioka pointed out.

Knowing that I can change, even or especially now that I’m in my 40s, brings satisfaction. As much as a crisp, cold Diet Coke at lunchtime? Maybe not — but satisfaction all the same.

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