Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Where's Milo? | Main | Might I Direct Your Attention Thataway? »

How I Kicked My Diet Coke Habit Squarely In The Ass

Whoa, friends. Whoa. A wild ride today all while my ass was firmly planted on my bed. I mean, I very nearly lost one of my main reasons to be condescending today so you can imagine my terror. It all started when I decided to write this post bragging about how I quit Diet Coke. I mean, of course I wanted to tell you how I did it in case it might work for you too but mostly I just wanted to be smug and stuff. Also, I put Flaxseed in shit I eat so, you know. I think we both know that makes me better than you.

Okay so wait. Let me explain. Until this summer I was guzzling Diet Coke like they planned to discontinue the stuff at any moment. Could not get enough. Diet Coke for breakfast (seriously, I had a Diet Coke instead of coffee) a Diet Coke with lunch, Diet Coke for a snack and a Diet Coke with dinner. That's what? At least four Diet Cokes a day?

It was a crutch, for sure. I'd drink it when I was thirsty and, when hungry, I'd treat it like a snack to avoid pilfering the cabinets for crap. And then, when I stopped eating meat I decided to phase out the Diet Coke as well, probably because I'm better than you but mostly because a long time ago, when I worked in a newsroom, a reporter told me that they (whoever "they" is) always pour Diet Coke on roads to clean off the blood spattered on the road after car accidents (Dr. Google says this is true!) The image never left me. Mud brown Diet Coke fizzing away bloody concrete. I imagined the same stuff going to work on my innards. It was time to quit.

I pretty much stopped right away because I had discovered flavored seltzer water. Polar Seltzer Water, to be exact. It felt poetic. You know, because Coke has been whoring soda glugging (and probably diabetic) Polar Bears for decades. I was taking the polar bear back, goddammit! So Polar Seltzer Water. The stuff rocks my world. I tried every flavor, and there are many, and finally committed myself to Ruby Red Grapefruit and Raspberry-Lime. I prefer just a hint of flavor, nothing too sweet for me. But Polar has it down, flavor-wise. They roll out special holiday-related flavors. Think Candy Cane, Eggnog, Mint Chocolate - they even have summer flavors like Mint Mojito, Granny Smith Apple, Ginger. Basically, you think of a flavor combo and they've got it.

I've been mainlining Polar Seltzer for the last six months, feeling all smug about myself what with kicking my Diet Coke addiction AND drinking a shit ton of water. Plus, I cut back significantly on beer consumption because, as it turns out, I just like to enjoy a refreshing carbonated beverage in the evening, a carbonation celebration, if you will, and downing a liter of Seltzer Water significantly curbs the reach-for-a-beer impulse.

So, seltzer on my nightstand, I plunked down on my bed here and was all set to write a really smug post gloating about my successes. And then, while perusing the Polar website to share some flavors with you I stumbled across their FAQ and decided to check it out seeing as how I'm such a Polar Seltzer devotee and all.

There it is. Fourth question down. Polar Springs uses aspartame to sweeten their drinks. I immediately took to Facebook to share my devastation, as one does whether it's a bad zit, a shot of your average dinner, a fart, divorce or an aspartame discovery, and lo and behold there is apparently a little thing called Soda Stream that has flown under my radar. Probably because my radar was all janky as a result of all the aspartame I've been consuming under the guise of health and hydration, I figured.

And thus my friends commenced with what amounts to a Facebook commercial for Soda Stream. Have you heard of this? Apparently folks are brewing up their own carbonated beverages and then flavoring them and everything? It seemed vaguely familiar. Like I might have jolted awake to a blaring TV at three o'clock in the morning and maybe witnessed some unbelievably happy bastard in a bad Bill Cosby sweater gloriously demonstrating how he makes his soda at home, but I can't be sure.

So in the midst of my Polar/aspartame devastation I got all hot and bothered about the Soda Stream. Look! Flavors! During my "research" my Facebook friends continued singing the praises of the Soda Stream and I was all, By God, Soda Stream it is!

And then! One of my Facebook friends, the very astute Jodie, suggested that I should reread the Polar FAQ, that she thinks just the Diet drinks are flavored with aspartame and not the seltzer waters, which are naturally flavored. Sure enough, as is my fashion with most things in life, I just blustered through the FAQ, saw aspartame and ran to Facebook when, if I had just taken the time to read it, clearly states that these fine purveyors of flavored seltzer water only use aspartame in their Diet Soda drinks.

Good news, to be sure, but now I really was in a quandary. Here I was, brilliantly conquering yet another hurdle in my beverage world. Not only did I quit the Diet Coke, but now I had triumphant visions of quitting the aspartame riddled seltzer water and happily make my own beverages pretty much like they did in the olden days. You know, when the pioneers made soda water and stuff? Like that. Just think of how condescending I could be around Serge, who still drinks Diet Coke.

Quite a beverage-tastic journey today! In summary, the good news is that I can still be smug as shit about kicking my Diet Coke addiction,especially around Serge. The not so bad news is that if I want to save the planet in addition to saving my innards I probably want to look into this fancy, new-fangled Soda Stream contraption as it would cut down on all the plastic and aluminum I go through in a week.

By the way, if like me, you had heard rumblings (probably from people just jealous of those of us who have quit the soda) that carbonated water is still bad for you because it can leech calcium from your bones and pretty much leave you looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I took the liberty of googling researching this carefully and here are several sites that say nice things about carbonated water:

Nutrition Diva says "although soda and other carbonated beverages have been associated with negative effects, carbonation is not harmful in and of itself. Drinking carbonated water offers the same benefits as drinking plain water." calls the fear of carbonated water causing osteoporosis or kidney problems "unfounded."

In fact, most sites I visited say the same thing: carbonated water is just as good as still water. Unless you believe "Martir19" over on who says with much assurance, "Carbonated Water will cause you to have anal itchiness. Never drink Carbonated water and go to bed right after... because you will wake up with smelly fingers."

Despite the very real possibility of anal itchiness, I'm sticking with my Grapefruit and Raspberry-Lime Polar Seltzers. I'm definitely eyeballing that Soda Stream, though, which would obviously reduce my beverage costs in the long run. Oh yeah, and reduce my ecological footprint (I am SO much better than you!)

What about you? What is your beverage of choice? Got an addiction you're trying to kick? Got a Soda Stream you're crazy about?

BEHOLD. My nightstand. Totally looks staged, right? Like, if you're going to take a shot of your nightstand of course you set Anna Karenina and The Unbearable Lightness of Being there. But I'm reading Anna Karenina, swear to god! And Serge bought me The Unbearable Lightness of Being based on all your stellar suggestions. That's my next read. Anyway, I just wanted to point out the damn cans, that's all.

Reader Comments (31)

SODA STREAM, SODA STREAM, SODA STREAM. Has paid for itself multiple times over, not to mention not having to dispose of all of the bottles.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermiriam

@Miriam - Do you make soda or do seltzer water? Do you use their flavors? Favorites? Got any suggestions for someone considering purchasing one?

January 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterMonica

For me, it's all about the Sodastream -- but the flavorings are weird, good the first taste, yukky after. So I pretend it's all Pellegrino, close my eyes and there I am at a cafe in Bologna...

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErik Butler

the osteo risk is with cola colored sodas, bc of the phos content (high phos in your blood, binds to calcium, and in response, your bones release calcium to even it out) i have heard the carbonation harms enamel on teeth (but i may have made that up!)

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertracie d

Obvi you don't visit the Bed Bath and Beyond in your nearest town because the store I live near has a video and huge display of this Soda Stream thingy as soon as you walk in. Is Polar Seltzer an east coast thing? Never heard of it. Is it a Walmart brand or is in all grocery stores? I've convinced myself to not drink "Pop" (as it's called in these parts) in the house, and only have it as a FOUNTAIN drink (much better in my opinion than the stuff in a can) when we eat out.
PS When I worked overnights at a radio station someone told me about McDonald's diet coke.... that's it different, better, that maybe it has CRACK in it. So before an overnight shift I would buy a large diet coke and it was AWESOME, just sweeter than the other cokes!! But alas, someone ruined it for me by suggesting that McDonald's straws are BIGGER than the average, so maybe I was just getting a bigger hit of the stuff... but it's still pretty close to liquid crack.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

I'm also in the process of reading Anna Karenina...but I keep interrupting it by reading other books too. I vow to finish it this year. My favorite beverage is Vitacoco - an all-natural, super-hydrating, fat-free, cholesterol-free, nutrient-packed, potassium-stacked, mega-electrolyte coconut water! I really like the pineapple flavor.
I order boxes of the stuff at a discounted "subscribe and save" price from

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrace Miller

@BonnieLee - Polar isn't at Walmart but it is at my local grocery store. I too have heard the McDonalds has the best Diet Coke thing and used to order it all the time too! Not that I went to McDonalds or anything...

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

Since you asked, my beverages of choice are coffee and water. Have one of those Keurig thingamajigs when I am too lazy to brew a pot. But try to keep the coffee down to a few cups a day.

Also, I loved this post. You are really funny. I am a laugh whore (giving or getting one), so thank you :)

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

Random almost related but disjointed thoughts: i am going back to read the rest of this post but HAD to write IMMEDIATLEY before I forget, that I was making another batch of secret ingredient 'dump' cookies ( I throw in ingredients I find in my mom's fridge). I had already dumped in some organic steel cut oats and honey when to my great surprise I discovered a bag of whole flaxseed! Yes. On the door. A whole bag of it! I was just about to dump some in the dough when my inner voice said "Wait! These cookies are going to wind up in the trash or causing some serious intestinal discomfort already. DON'T waste the flax!" So that's it...just another strange thing. Yesterday,while baking, I was pondering the phrase " over the moon" which I had recently read in somebody's baby announcement. I was wondering what that feels to be so happy that you would feel compelled to use those words. Seriously. Later that same day,I purchased a DVD called Waking Ned Devine. LO and behold that very phrase writting into the script. Over the moon. Must be an old Irish saying... Back to your post....

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

i own a soda stream, and i like it. i usually drink it plain, but sometimes add it to other drinks to make them fizzy (lemonade, cocktails, etc). there has been some minor operational drawbacks - i have the old 'penguin' model and it can be glitchy, and possibly wasteful of CO2 because of it's design.

i recently learned that the soda stream company's initial plant operates out of an israeli settlement in the west bank - a settlement that can be considered illegal according to several international accords and UN Council resolutions, although i am not sure if it's a settlement considered illegal by israeli government (which officially recognizes some as legal, and some as illegal, although i am not quite sure of the point of differentiation).

anyway, just thought i'd mention it since you're figuring out just how morally superior you are now...i find that i'm still kindof an asshole, whether i use my soda stream or not, political implications aside. especially since while i've cut down on commercial soda consumption i have not cut back on the number of 16oz cans of sixpoint beer i guzzle weekly.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersp

@sp - If I gave out prizes for best comments, yours would win.

@Gina - Over the moon. Hate it. In fact, did you ever read the post I wrote about it? We are totally soul sisters.

January 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterMonica

Ha ha SP that was awesome. I too got a soda stream about 6 months ago SPECIFICALLY to quit my Diet Coke habit. I figured it was the bubbles and not the sugary flavour that were addictive? I don't like the flavours you can add to it and just drink the fizzy water, and it's fantastic. I also love the moral superiority of not giving money to Coke anymore (problematic business practices in the developing world) and reducing my consumption of cans, plastic bottles, etc. (even if they're recyclable it's not clear that that actually happens). BUT I have found that I go looking for some cookies or something sweet around 4pm when I used to have my can of coke, so calories.

...and let's not kid ourselves, I never turn it down when it's available for free, at work or on planes or wherever else...

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

@Marie - Right? Why does the value of soda suddenly increase ten-fold when on an airplane? Adults sitting around pretending not to notice how close the drink cart is getting, rehearing their order in their head like its the only time soda is ever handed out...

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I love my soda stream! I only use it for bubbly water and i've actually never thought to put things in there to flavor it. But i might try some lemon next time i make it. My only complaint is that the one little bottle just doesn't hold enough. I need another one!

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercharity

Two words: Soda Stream. We love ours, have used it for 2 years and have saved a TON of moula. I like it plain or I mix mine with my favorite apple juice or pomegranate cranberry juice. I have tried their lemon flavoring and it is really good too.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstella

Read the Over the moon link and cracked up. SO corny. Makes the top of the corny phrases list. Well i know this one girl who is about 30something and she talks like she is from the 1940s. probably wears an apron. not that there's anything wrong with that. Not at all.... Just wanted to say; I like your side table there... the scene looks very natural actually with the kid's sippy cup of milk. Deeeelicious! Nothing wrong with staging a scene not that you did or anything. Anyway I think those soda machines are really nice if you have the space and you like soda. I personally can't stand too many appliances on counters and would need ot put it out of sight. I struggle with the coffee pot being there but it's no Keurig. I hadsome kind of popular selling slurpy type of drink maker with a built in spigot thingy and discovered black sludge all inside the spigot when I took it apart. It was like some kind of YEASTY GROWTH you'd see on the top of apple cider if you left it in your closet in the dark for a couple of months. Back to the sode stream. I understand than the ingredients in the flavored syrups are healthier than commercial brands.. My bf is up on these gadgets and told me that there is a website in which you can get the scoop on all of those 'Seen on TV' items ( when I get it I will let you know) As for beverages Adirondack brand, yes and it has that nice crisp light natural flavor without the artificial anything. I avoid bubbly or sweetened beverages on account of the fat and osteoporosis scare. One of my friends is about 35 and ONLY drank Diet Coke and Starbucks iced coffee beverages. For years. She had 2 babies and during both pregnancies suffered terrible sciatic pain. She was not overweight at all but over the past few years she had developed increasing complaints of joint pain affecting her back. neck, knees, hips. Because I was so intensely anti-aspartame etc I am sure that I insisted that she had brought all this upon herself with all of that stinking Diet Coke (drawing the phosphorus or calcium right out of her bones).She hated me I am sure. Bone scans revealed arthritis and joint deterioration which I would have expected from an old lady. "No my friend, you are leeching the minerals out of your own body. Damned Coke." I told her to just stop the insanity with all of this poison..I showed her plenty of supporting documentation. Poor kid. I have to get in touch with her. Bet she can't wait to hear from me.

my favorite beverage: gingerale, coke lemon and lime, don't have a watch, can't tell you the time.

January 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

"Mud brown Diet Coke fizzing away bloody concrete."

I think I hate you. Thank you for ruining all I love.


January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

You're way with words is still super superior! I'm gunna put down my spoon of flax and relish is your smugoriorness.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShannon b

Coffe, water, and wine. Occasionally I'll buy a bottle of giner ale or v-8. i am interested in soda stream...

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterteresa

Totally get a soda stream. Oh, the hours of retro refreshing fun! But can you still continue to buy Polar?

The flavors are delicious and it's a local company for me (a sense of pride for central Massachusetts). You can't drive through Worcester without seeing this fella:

Handsome, am I right?

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLo

I have a soda stream, but still buy la croix on occasion. Either bc I need more quantity (although I have 4 soda stream bottles) or I want a different flavor to mix with my vodka. ;)

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMishell

out of curiosity, did you choose the "unbearable lightness of being" because you needed a seamless transition from "anna karenina" (- - - - - - - - - - - - - attention! minor spoilers ahead - - - - - - - - - - given the eastern-european setting and, especially, the dog's name)?

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertafkaf

I LOVE my Soda Stream! I am not big on sugary drinks, so I don't buy the flavors they offer. I usually just squeeze a bit of juice from an orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime. Though, if I am in a sweet mood, adding a little bit of a fruit puree in the summer is quite nice. I love raspberry or mango.

It is also really fun for cocktails. Fizzy water, flavored vodka, and a lime wedge is a delightful combo!

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentererose

The only thing I drink besides spring water is tea. Hot tea, mostly green. I love Teavana teas, Republic of Tea, and Tazo brands. I have my husband and son into it too. You can brew the loose tea, or just get an electric kettle to boil for the teabags. Spent $150 on tea last week to stock up for the month. I add xylitol and coconut milk.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

Soda Stream is the shit. Just get one. Seriously.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLK

I just started drinking diet coke! I've never been a soda person, like NEVER but I quit drinking alcohol and coffee entirely about two months ago, and I found that a cup of tea on a night out just doesn't cut it. Ok, I'm not drinking lots of coke, but if I go out I'll have one. I had one at New Year's and that was my last. Despite adding diet coke to my habits, I feel a thousand times better without booze and coffee. It's incredible.

I'm reading Anna Karenina too! I was wary of it for years because I had read a lot of Dostoevsky (not checking the spelling on that) and just assumed it would be depressing as hell, but I love it. Can't put it down.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterluna

You're a truly good writer. And I love coke. And bland seltzer water. And that Kundera book is to me the only worthy one he wrote. He's totally overrated. Alright. Cheers then.

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMiss A

Have you drink hint fizz? It has flavor but no sweeteners at all.

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa

This story has be dying LMAO Loved it ! if you write a book ever in this style i would buy!

April 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKEEMSTAR

Just bought my Soda Stream yesterday - I've now actually been 24 hours without aspartame! I have a Diet Dr. Pepper habit I'm trying to quit! :)

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Sorry. Look carefully at the Soda Stream label. "Ace sulfame" is an artificial sweetener. I have quit buying Soda Stream products.

March 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>