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Artificial sweeteners and fizzy drinks - Liam's write-only LJ
December 11th, 2016
04:21 pm


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Artificial sweeteners and fizzy drinks
I used to have a very sweet tooth. In my early career, I lived on litres a day of strong coffee with milk and sweeteners, coupled with Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi and when it hit the market Pepsi Max.

I have problems sleeping -- I suspect DSPS -- and so I'm bad at mornings and usually groggy and sleepy. So the caffeine helped.

I adjusted to saccharin in childhood and quite like its taste. I like real sugar too, but I am equally happy with saccharine. I find all the other artificial sweeteners, including Stevia, rather unpleasant, though... But not as unpleasant as drinking the amount of sugar in most soft drinks. So I go for "traditional" Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi etc rather than Coke Zero, Green Coke, whatever.

But given the choice, tea. I stopped drinking almost all pop about 2003 or so when I gave up caffeine, and although I'm back on the caffeine now, sadly, I never regained my former fondness for fizzy sugar water, as conditioned into me by the Western industrial complex by age 4 or so.

My main fizzy drink now is soda water.

The association between the different legal mind-altering chemicals is fascinating.

For a while, around late 2004 to mid 2007, I did not use caffeine or alcohol or nicotine. (I gave up smoking permanently in 1995, alcohol in '04 for a few years, and caffeine in about '02 for a decade.)

It was fascinating. I ran regularly at that time, until pain from the metal bits in my shattered left leg and hip became too much. My main drug of choice at that time was endorphins from running. I lived on rooibos tea and decaf. No sugar, cakes or sweets, ever. (I stopped them decades ago.) No meat -- veggie since about 1982 or 1983.

I sickened people at parties, and lost quite a lot of friends through not drinking, which was sad.

It was also fascinating to walk down the street and see the vendors pushing them, often in certain associations. Coffee shops with sweet cakes, but little in the way of real actual healthy food. Tobacconists selling sweets and caffeinated sugary cold beverages. Pubs and cocktail bars also sell only sweet, often caffeinated beverages -- but not sweet foods. It's odd, and it only became obvious to me when I quit all of them. Walk down a high street some time and pay attention: newsagent or tobacconist, selling nicotine and caffeine and sugar; then a few doors later, a coffee shop, selling caffeine and sugar; then a few doors later, some licensed premises selling alcohol and caffeine and sugar. If you removed the places that primarily sell those 3 mind-altering substances (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine) and their henchman sugar, you'd remove a good quarter to a third of all retail places.

But I never noticed until I stopped using all three at once.

All had benefits from quitting them. But caffeine was perhaps the biggest. The only widely-available diet soft drink is Diet Coke and variations on it. All contain caffeine; the caffeine-free versions are never available on the high street, in bars, restaurants, corner shops, etc. Only in multipacks in large supermarkets.

And I limit my sugar intake and have done since my teens, because I have a tendency to get fat and I don't like that.

So, being off caffeine perforce meant I had to quit drinking pop too. There are no sugar-free caffeine-free drinks in pubs; in place of alcohol, you either get tons of sugar or caffeine. Or both.

So I switched to lime'n'soda, and occasionally grapefruit juice & soda. My taste for sweet fizzy drinks quickly left me. Soon, more than a few drops of lime was overpowering, and rare indeed is the barman who can make a lime'n'soda with, say, under a teaspoonful of lime cordial. More disgusts me, so I stopped ordering it. (That, and some places charging a fiver for it.)

But I still enjoy effervescent drinks, so straight soda it became.

There are others which aren't horribly sweet. Tonic, especially angostura and tonic -- but it's also full of sugar and vastly expensive in bars. I've seen well over £5/pint. It often only comes in tiny mixer bottles.

The only sugar-free caffeine-free soft drink I could get was plain fizzy water. Even soda water with its added minerals can be very costly.

So I got used to it, and grew to like it.

It was my (sadly, former) friend Moz who taught me the difference between soda water and carbonated water, and that the latter was usually much cheaper. She saved me many hundreds of pounds thereby!

So I got used to it, and now I like it.

I still take a little saccharine in my tea and coffee though. They're too bitter for me without. But I take about a third to a quarter as much as I did 20 years ago.

I tried life without alcohol. Life was still good, but very different. Nightclubbing and live music were very different, not all in good ways. I dislike wine, cocktails and spirits -- all I like to drink is beer (and real cider, also sadly very rare.) But I do love beer. So after about 2 and a half years, in the first of which I lost 25kg and in the second of which I regained 35kg while still living very healthily, I started drinking alcohol again -- but more juduciously.

Smoking was no problem. It must just be me but I found quitting easy and I've never looked back. Moderating intake of things is hard for me, but abstinence is easy. It just takes mindfulness and determination.

So, no tobacco, no cakes, no sweets, basically ever. No problem.

No alcohol was easy enough too but took some joy out of life.

No caffeine... ahh, now that was interesting. I felt the same, but I slept better, woke more easily, was more alert, my concentration and memory were better. In 2008 I did 9 months of a job with either a 7AM-7PM shift or a 7PM-7AM shift. The days were very busy and I had to rise at 5AM to get to work. That was murder. I could never have done it while using caffeine, because I would not have been able to go to bed at 9:30PM and actually sleep.

Getting up at 5AM doesn't feel like early morning to me. It feels like getting up in the middle of the night. Your whole life has to change to fit around it. It was doable but profoundly antisocial -- and it was only doable because without caffeine my sleep cycles were more plastic. I was more adaptable.

The night shifts were much easier for me, but going to bed at 8:30-9AM is weird. Again, being caffeine-free helped me to adjust my sleep cycles.

But in late 2012, I got a short-lived job which had an 8:30AM start. That meant rising at about 6:30AM for me. That is early, very blasted early. That, I could not do. I kept falling asleep in my chair at work. Qwertyitis (a keyboard-shaped rash on the cheeks), the whole thing. Drool on the mousepad. It was terrible and it was embarrassing. So I started having a coffee at work to keep me awake, and within days I was hooked again... and I still am.

I keep telling myself I'll quit again, but I never do it. Maybe 2017. Maybe later still.

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(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)
I have a Sodastream and drink at least a litre a night of tap water fizzed in it, with nothing added, I like the water (from Lake Vyrnwy and the River Dee, according to our water supplier's webpage).

I also find most soft drinks too sweet, and aspartimine tastes metallic to me. I do have half a dozen of the little mini cans of original Coke in the cupboard, in case I want a rum and coke, but as I bought them about six years ago and there are about four of the six left, it is safe to say I don't drink coke very often.
I like mint tea and herbal teas.

My vice is tea, of course. And beer.
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
Daft as it may sound, the idea of using a Sodastream without syrup simply hadn't occurred to me!

How does it compare, cost-wise, with those sub-10p (when I left the UK, anyway!) 2L bottles of fizzy "table water" from the supermarket?
[User Picture]
Date:December 13th, 2016 08:55 pm (UTC)
I have occaisonal caffeine. And occasionally sweetened drinks. But mostly I drink tap water, and that works for me.

It's mostly in bars that I drink diet coke, and the like, and that's mostly out of lack of options. And loving the taste.
[User Picture]
Date:December 23rd, 2016 04:55 pm (UTC)
For whatever reason I never have drunk sodas such as Coca Cola etc. My caffeine consumption is up there with the Finnish average i.e. high. Alcohol however, I have had the last two weeks AF and have been alcohol free much of the last couple of months, mainly because of the job which has at times consisted of seven-day 50-hour weeks; as in your case with the caffeine, it's sleep cycles (or there being no such thing as 'not a school night'). Am feeling a bit better for it, although I note your comment that you put on all the weight you initially lost when not drinking.
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