Moms addicted to Diet Coke (and the woman with the 7-pint-a-day habit)

Claire Ayton broke her seven pints a day Diet Coke havit. Photo: BPM MEDIA /Daily TelegraphClaire Ayton broke her seven pints a day Diet Coke havit. Photo: BPM MEDIA /Daily TelegraphHer name is Claire Ayton and she's a Diet Coke addict. The 36-year-old mom of two had such a debilitating dependance on the soft drink it nearly ruined her life.

For the past ten years, Ayton's 7-pint a day Diet Coke habit has cost her over $2500 a year. ''It was an everyday thing. I'd have one coffee in the morning and nothing else to drink but diet cola for the rest of the day," Ayton told the London Telegraph. "I was always thirsty."

She was also exhausted and lethargic all the time and gaining weight by the day. Over time she put on 42 pounds, which she couldn't lose. After countless consultations with doctors, she realized her heavy soda consumption might be to blame.

In addition to a possible increased risk of stroke, the chemicals in diet sodas have been suggested to cause a lack of energy and impulsive short-term thinking. In other words, the need for another fix, be it soda or food cravings. One study of 1,550 people found diet soda drinkers to have a 41 percent increased risk of obesity.

Ever notice how many moms drink Diet Coke? The brand relies on the mommy demographic for business (it outsold Pepsi in 2010 thanks in part to mom-centric Facebook campaigns and top-dollar ads during the Oscars). And moms rely on Diet Coke to get through the day. It's what some might call a co-dependant relationship.

Across the mommy blogosphere, Diet Coke is a written about like an illicit drug. "I'm back on the 'stuff'. Diet Coke that is," writes The Main Line Mom. "Last week I was really tired and I grabbed from the Diet Coke stash we keep for babysitters. It tasted good, too good; and just like that I'm hooked again. Now I feel like it might be physically impossible for me to get through the day without an afternoon Diet Coke break."
A blogger behind the site Mom and Wife has chronicled her love-hate relationship with the drink: "What I once started drinking because it was supposed to be better for me, turned into the cause of quite a few health problems. To name a few: brain fog, irritability, depression, weight gain. I stop drinking Diet Coke and began I feel normal again."For Ayton, a UK based teaching assistant, giving up the sauce required professional help.

To break her habit, she turned to clinical hypnotherapist Russell Hemming, who called Ayton's addiction the worst he'd ever seen. Her early withdrawal symptoms mimicked those of a serious addict. ''I had headaches at first and on the third day I felt as though I had been beaten up," she tells the Telegraph.

Replacing her habit with water mixed with chunks of orange wasn't easy but she's begun to gain more energy. Now she feels more clear-headed and says she's saving hundreds on her grocery bills. She's also starting to lose the weight. She's dropped 5 pounds so far.

''I have noticed over the last year how a lot of my overweight clients come in with diet drinks in their hands because they see it as a 'no-calorie' sweet treat; whereas slim clients tend to drink water," says Hemmings who treats soda-addicted patients like Ayton with a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis.

For busy moms who want to quit the habit without professional help, experts recommend a creative combination of replacement beverages. Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien suggests the occasional Stevia Sweetened Soda for a low-cal fizzy fix, and vitamin infused drink tabs for an energy boost. Caffeinated teas and seltzer water are also natural alternatives that scratch the itch during detox. And when it comes to mixing booze with your guilty pleasure, take it from Ayton, and stay strong.

''I used to have diet cola as my mixer in my alcoholic drink, now I have lemonade," she says. Baby steps.


Related:

Health risks for pregnant women who drink diet soda

Could diet soda make you fat?

4 reasons to avoid all sodas (even diet)

Are diet sodas America's new addiction?