Jun 28, 2013, 07:24AM

My Love-Hate Relationship With Diet Coke

I can’t quit toxic chemical sweeteners.

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Since the 1980s, my soda of choice (when Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer is not available, and it rarely is) is Diet Coke. I always thought regular Coke and its bastard stepchildren Coke Classic and Coke Zero were too sweet, and although I was never a girl who “watched her figure,” I figured drinking the “diet” soda was less fattening.

I got my first migraine at age 23. I was in the Old Executive Office Building at the White House, where I was interning in then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s office (long story for another day). The aura part of a migraine is the scariest; it’s what happens to you right before the headache comes. In a complicated migraine, you lose any combination of your vision and your speech, and in a severe one, you lose feeling on one side of your body; it’s basically a mini-stroke. Suffice it to say that I am fully aware that one day one of these things will kill me.

One of the treatments my neurologist has recommended (he was happy to write me a medical marijuana prescription, which is legal in Maryland though unfortunately we don’t have any dispensaries) is going on the Migraine Diet. I’ve been on the Migraine Diet twice over the years. It’s annoying. You have to cut out one potentially-migraine-inducing thing at a time from your diet for a few weeks and see if you still get the slamming headaches. Cheese, wine, chocolate, Chinese food… there are different food triggers for different people. I learned I couldn’t drink wine; the sulfites trigger migraines. This was fine with me, since there are no sulfites in Single Barrel Jack Daniels, which is what I prefer to drink anyway.

I learned with absolute horror a few years ago that Diet Coke was the only other dietary staple that causes headaches for me. Not migraines, just a bad headache. If Diet Coke directly caused a migraine, I wouldn’t drink it ever because that would be stupid; they knock me out for two-three days. The Diet Coke headache is like a hangover headache—it’s annoying, nagging, causes you to rub your temples, lasts for a few hours. I’ve read up on it and I know it’s the disgusting toxic nasty chemical sweeteners in the soda that cause the headache. I don’t buy cases of Diet Coke anymore. And believe me, “recovery” from Diet Coke was a nightmare. I had only been drinking one can a day, so I never would’ve thought that counted as an addiction. I got a full-blown migraine when I stopped drinking Diet Coke every day, but I felt a heck of a lot better once my body “detoxified.”

I’m not here to tell anyone to stop drinking Diet Coke. If I am in a fast food restaurant or at the movies where you pour your own drink, I stare longingly at the Diet Coke. No can or plastic bottle is as good as a fountain Diet Coke. Depending on the circumstances, I will still drink one. If it’s not past six p.m. (don’t want to be awake from the caffeine) and I have an 800mg Motrin in my purse (I usually do), I will drink the goddamn Diet Coke.

How stupid is it to have to medicate yourself in order to drink a soda? Yes, potential rude commenters, it’s fucking stupid. I know. I only do it once or twice a month. Because Diet Coke, evil as it may be, is fucking delicious.


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