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One headache I don’t mind: Kicking the diet soda habit

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POSTED April 29, 2009 2:22 a.m.
I have a mild headache – and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s been 28 hours as I type this that I decided to go cold turkey. No more caffeine.
That may not sound like a big deal but I have a $2,022 a year Diet Pepsi habit.

Those 16 ounce bottles add up when you put away an average of four a day.

Caffeine is clearly addictive. I learned this all too well 15 years ago when I last dropped caffeine completely. The headaches weren’t as bad as the reaction I got for two days when people were alarmed at how pale I looked. After a year or so, I eventually went back to drinking caffeine. That won’t happen this time.

And if you don’t think it is clearly the soda industry’s main objective to keep you hooked with caffeine, don’t forget it was the real thing – cocaine – that was the “secret ingredient” in the original Coca-Cola soft drink.

So what prompted me to swear off the stuff this time and to do so for good? That’s easy. The past two years plus I’ve been focused on eating healthier by switching primarily to fresh fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, Boca burgers, and V8 Fusion to the tune of 3,000 calories a day. It is how I dropped from 195 pounds – what I thought was my natural set point for weight – down to 168 pounds.

At the same time I want to cut a little bit more body fat which is a non-vain way of saying I want to see if it is possible to build a bit more muscle definition. The odds of that happening are about the same as the State of California running a $15 billion surplus at the end of the year. Even so, I love a good challenge.

It also didn’t make sense that I was exercising daily and watching generally what I eat and still not really treating my body as I should. Let me explain. While I drink diet drinks – primarily at work – I also consume upwards of another good 1,000 calories in what I’d classify as junk food, primarily cookies and Lifesavers.

I’d be fine while exercising as I take on more water than the Titanic as well as at home when I hit water, Gatorade, and V8 Fusion.

It is a different story after I had my first Diet Pepsi. It leaves a slight after taste and made me a bit thirsty although I had just consumed 16 ounces of what was mostly water – funny what the right mixture of chemicals does for PepsiCo’s bottom line. It made me buy more and ultimately prompted me to hit the vending machine for the junk to go with it.

People for years thought I was eating healthy. Not exactly true. While I haven’t eaten any type of meat since I was 30 I did eat a lot of processed foods from canned soups to three boxes of Cheez-It’s a week.

The good news are the folks at Manteca Gas, Food & Liquor at Louise and Cottage avenues won’t suffer from my decision. Since the second week they were open, I’ve dropped by every day to purchase a pack of vanilla Basil cookies and a 16-ounce diet soda. As long as they have the 12-ounce bottles of V8 Fusion – the lazy man’s Jack LaLanne juicer – they’ll still see me.

The bad news is the government is going to lose $62.05 over the course of a year as the $1.79 bottle of V8 Fusion is not taxed because it is considered a food product.

The bigger losers will be the PepsiCo and the vending company that managed to bring in all sorts of wonderful stale items and pawn them off for around $1 apiece.

When all is said and done, I’ll end up saving around $1,900 a year even if I keep the daily stop at Manteca Gas, Food & Liquor.

You don’t realize how much the little things you spend money on add up. For years, I had a daily habit of a king-sized bag of plain M&Ms. No one believed I could drop chocolate candy – especially M&Ms - but I did. I ended up saving $546 annually.

I figured a little discomfort for a few days will be well worth it. Plus I will make sure every painful moment is implanted in my memory as extra insurance that I won’t renege on a promise to myself to never drink caffeine again.
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