When I Broke Up With Coke

Happy Endings

Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?

I grew up with pop (soda) as a treat. My parents were firm about drinking milk for dinner whether at home or in a restaurant (in those days, no restaurants served juice.) Occasionally, my Dad would let us split a glass bottle of Coke between us – one poured and the other got to pick first. That’s how I learned to use ice to inflate the volume of a glass and deceive my little brother. Evil, I know. The only exception was if we went to McDonald’s where we could get an orange pop.

By high school, I was a big fan of Coke and the knock-off versions, but I didn’t like Pepsi. I would drink it, but the taste was noticeably different. I was a weird kid – I liked Diet Sprite but  not Diet Coke. I loved generic pop. And I really really like a nice cold glass of Coke over ice with a lid.

As with many adults, I drank a lot of pop. It was my beverage of choice – Coke, followed by Sprite and then Pepsi. I didn’t even think about it after a while. I just drank it.

Around 1999, I was put on a new medication that promised to treat my illness and promote weight loss. It wasn’t a diet drug, just a drug that didn’t promote weight gain like so many do. I decided to give it a try. Within a few weeks, I noticed some changes in how I tasted food. Tomato anything tasted odd – spaghetti sauce for example. But worst of all – pop ALL POP tasted really bad, like a flat diet drink. I was appalled. No more Coke?

No more Coke. I went cold turkey simply because it tasted horrible. I became an iced tea drinker and eventually a drinker of more water. I experienced Snapple. I tried cafe drinks at Starbucks. But how I longed for the icy delicious pop taste. The only thing that ever came close was a delicious cup of strong coffee.

After a year, I experienced other side effects to the medication and decided to go off it and back onto something more traditional. My doctor told me it would take about 2-3 weeks for it to exit my system so I carefully counted down. Then one night my friend John took me to see a movie at the Century Square Cinema and I practically ran to the refreshment stand – it was time. I ordered a large coke, light ice. OMG, it was so good. After a year, it was so damned good.

But I didn’t get back into pop as much as I expected, possibly because I had been exposed to all of these other beverages. And I had learned how much I liked water.


That was 2001. Fast forward to 2010 when in my manic frenzy, I decided to lose weight and gave up pop. I quit cold turkey again because I was symptomatic, not thinking rationally. Withdrawal was completely overwhelmed by my illness. I stopped drinking pop and in about 2 months total, I realized that once again – it didn’t taste good.

I existed on Gatorade, coffee and water (I ate food, too) for that entire year. I never counted Gatorade calories against my total because it was so essential to my health to drink it. For that, I am grateful because it could  have made me much more ill.

But after the crisis passed and my health stabilized, I realized that I didn’t miss pop any longer. I still drink ginger ale and an occasional Sprite or Sierra Mist if I’m craving a flavor. They taste okay,but not like they are supposed to taste. Iced tea is fine and so is lemonade, but I mostly drink water when I’m out. I never drink diet drinks or flavored water or anything like that. Just water and Gatorade. And coffee, of course.

So, what exactly is the lesson?

I learned that taste is something that is manipulated by the food and beverage industry. I had physical withdrawal from the caffeine which I managed, but it was the taste that I craved. So I had to search for new tastes to appreciate. Thank God I didn’t start drinking beer! 🙂

I also learned more about hydration – if I drink all of the time, I rarely crave something specific to drink. That’s helpful for my health. Allowing yourself to feel thirsty is a sign that you should be drinking more often.

I also learned to use my innate cheapness – if I feel an urge to buy a beverage, I calculate the cost. We were in an Uno’s one time and I realized I had ordered a raspberry iced tea and received no refills (I was complaining) which meant I paid $2.50 (!!!!!) for a few ounces of tea. That appalled me. For $2.50 at most Asian restaurants, I can get a nice pot of tea with 2 or 3 cups. So I’m definitely the girl who drinks water, no lemon. And at coffee houses, I drink just coffee and only buy cafe drinks if I have a coupon. Yes, I’m cheap but I’m also poor and don’t intend to become even more poor.

I invested in some good water bottles. I have one very large one for long expeditions, a nice 32 ounce bottle that fits into most of my bags and has a wide opening so I can cram it full with ice, then I have a “fancy occasion” sipping bottle Ledcat gifted to me that is a little more delicate. I have no problem drinking tap water so I’m good to go in most situations.

Fancy water bottle from Target.
Fancy water bottle from Target.

Finally, I learned my power to make conscious choices. If I order a Sprite, it is because I want a Sprite – not a thoughtless motion. And usually, I do that because my stomach is a bit upset which is information I need when it comes to ordering food (or not ordering food.)  So I pay attention to what my body needs and wants, then make a conscious choice. It doesn’t make me skinny, but it definitely makes me healthier.

But sometimes … when Ledcat orders a coke in a glass with ice, I look at it longingly. Once in a great while, I take a sip but it ALWAYS tastes wrong. So I have to simply live with the fact that Coke and I are over.

Oh, for the record, my taste for tomato anything has remained permanently impaired. I’m not a fan of plain spaghetti sauce or Mama’s gravy.


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