Mum who drank 30 cans of Coca-Cola a day reveals how she beat her secret addiction after 20 years

15th Feb 18 | Real Life

Donna could have bought a house or a posh car with the money she spent on her beloved drink.

PA REAL LIFE - DONNA GUNNER  (14) Cropped

A mum became so hooked on Coca-Cola that she drank 30 cans a day for 20 years, spending an eye watering 50K on the sugary drink – enough to buy a two-bedroom home in County Durham.

Former benefit fraud investigator Donna Gunner consumed 1kg of sugar and 4,170 calories a day in full-fat Coke alone - more than double the 2,000 calories-a-day recommended for women by the NHS.

Ballooning to a size 22 and diagnosed with type two diabetes, Donna, 51, of Woolavington, Somerset, who even broke the running machine at the gym, because her blood pressure was so high, said: "I was totally addicted.”

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Donna before she lost weight (Collect/PA Real Life)

Continuing: "When I tried to come off it I literally went cold turkey. I got the shakes, headaches and cravings, like a druggy, but I knew I needed to change.

"I'd down 30 x 330ml cans a day, having two cans an hour. I had no idea I had a problem, but I'd wake up a couple of times in the night and crack a can open, craving the sugar and caffeine.

"Looking back, I feel disgusted at how much money I wasted and what I did to my body."

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna before her weight loss (Collect/PA Real Life)

Donna overcame her physical addiction 10 years ago.

But, even a decade on, Donna, now a foster carer and mum to Claire, 35, David, 33, Kayleigh, 31, and Phil, 27, admits she still wakes up in the middle of the night with psychological cravings - but swigs on a bottle of sparkling water instead.

"I used to get on at my mum Bet, 74, about how much she spent on cigarettes, but my Coke habit was just as bad, if not worse," she confessed.

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna looking slim and happy (Collect/PA Real Life)

Donna went on: "I'd buy Coca-Cola in multipacks at 7 a-go during the week. I'd do my weekly trip to the supermarket and then pop up to the shops a couple more times to top-up my Coke supply.

"I can't bear to think about all the holidays I could have been on with that 50,000.

"Thinking of all the things I could have done with that money makes me want to weep."

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna now runs regularly (Collect/PA Real Life)

During her 20 years of addiction, Donna admits that, from the moment she woke up, Coca-Cola was the first thing on her mind.

She recalled: "I'd have a can as soon as I opened my eyes, another two before I even left for work, another one on the drive in and then another with breakfast at my desk.

"The day would go on like that, having a few cans every couple of hours. Most people in the office had coffee, but I had Coke. I kept massive boxes under my desk and would give in every hour or so."

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna became so hooked on Coca-Cola that she drank 30 cans a day for 20 years (PA Real Lie/Ben Birchall)

But drinking 70 litres of the fizzy pop every week - enough to fill a bath - or nearly two cans per waking hour, took its toll on her body and at 5ft 2ins, she ballooned to 14 stone 7lb and a size 22.

Even her now ex-husband, who she separated from in 2015 and does not want to name, told people how much slimmer his wife used to be.

So, Donna started going to the gym, in a bid to lose weight and get healthy, but was given an embarrassing wake-up call.

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Collect picture of Donna on holiday in Bangladesh in 2014, aged 47 (PA Real Lie/Ben Birchall)

Still cringing, she said: "The exercise machines just switched off when I went on them and put my hands on the blood pressure tester.

"I asked the instructor what was happening, as I thought there was something wrong with the treadmill, but he said it was my blood pressure."I was so embarrassed and really realised I needed to do something about it."

Visiting her GP in 2008, Donna was told her blood pressure was off the charts and, after blood and urine tests, she was also diagnosed as type two diabetic.

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Donna and daughter Kayleigh (Collect/PA Real Life)

She recalled: "It was a huge wake-up call for me. I was told I needed to stay away from the gym while my blood pressure came down, and that I needed to cut back on my caffeine and sugar intake - which meant giving up my beloved Coke cans.

"I didn't tell the doctor how much of it I'd been drinking, as I was so ashamed, but I knew I had to do something about my habit."

Initially swapping full-fat for Diet Coke, when Donna finally went 'cold turkey' - giving up the Coke cans entirely - she says she felt "horrendous"."I got really bad migraines, had the shakes and felt really ill. I was like an addict coming off drugs," Donna recalled. "Cans of Coke were my drug and it was not easy giving it up."

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Donna is happy with her figure now (Collect/PA Real Life)

Then, last year, when she turned 50, Donna marked her half century by making a 'bucket list' of everything she wanted to do.

"I wrote down, 'fly an aeroplane, visit every continent and run a half marathon,'" she said.

"That's when I realised I had to do something about my weight as, despite giving up Coke, I weighed 14 stone and wore a size 20. I was eating four takeaways a week without even thinking about my waistline. So, I started jogging with my Merle Border Collie crossed with English Setter dog, Dexter, but, despite doing more exercise, I wasn't losing any weight."

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Donna’s weight ballooned (Collect/PA Real Life)

Visiting her GP, Dr Peter Foley, at Somerset's Polden Medical Practice, suggested Donna tried a low carb diet, called the Low Carb Program, which is specifically designed for type 2 diabetics.

Even eating a full fry-up for breakfast - complete with bacon, sausages and a fried egg - her weight plummeted and she went from a size 20 to a 10.She also jogs for three miles every day and has completed both the Bridgewater and Exeter Half Marathons.

"I'm running every day and feel like a completely different woman," she said.

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Donna is now healthy and slim (Collect/PA Real Life)

But, best of all, now weighing 10 stone 13 lb, Donna has reversed her diabetes and came off her medication in November. Now she only takes one daily tablet for high blood pressure.

Despite all her hard work and beating her physical addiction, however, she admits that cracking her psychological cravings has been much harder.

She confessed: "Even now, after all this time and all the effort I've put in, I still get a craving for Coke. I tell myself I don't like it, but I do. I'll still wake up in the middle of the night wanting a Coke.”

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna with daughter Kayleigh and son Phil in 2014 (Collect/PA Real Life)

Donna went on: "But now I have a bottle of sparkling water by my bed and I have that instead.

"There's no way I'm going to crack!"

Dora Walsh, head nutritionist and founder of Nutriheal and Nutritionist Resource member, said both sugar and caffeine are very addictive substances, especially when combined.

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Donna and daughter Kayleigh (Collect/PA Real Life)

Dora, who also said excessive sugar intake and consequent weight gain would most likely have triggered Donna's type 2 diabetes, explained: “Sugar is often quoted as being more addictive than cocaine. Once you start, it's hard to stop.

"It takes you on a rollercoaster of sugar high, followed by sugar low, which then prompts more sugar consumption to reach another high. This is classic addiction.

"Caffeine is a stimulant that people have also come to rely on, so much so that it becomes an addiction.”

coke coca cola drink weight loss
Donna drank 30 cans of Coke a day (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: "No-one knows the full recipe of Coca-Cola. It's been classed as a trade secret.

"But it's said the original inventor, a pharmacist, developed a tonic of coca leaf extracts and alcohol to wean himself off his addiction to morphine for pain relief.

"Coca-Cola became very popular, and some say it's addictive. We don't know exactly why – although we do know they have removed the cocaine!"

For more information visit: www.lowcarbprogram.com/FACT BOX:

  • MONEY:
    • 7 a day
    • 2,548 a year
    • 50,960 over the last 20 years - enough to buy a two bed house in Darlington, County Durham, or a high-end LandRover Discovery
  • CALORIES:
    • 139 calories per 330ml can, totalling 4,170 calories a day - that is more than double the recommended calories intake for women on Coke alone
    • 5m calories a year
    • 3m calories over the two decades
  • SUGAR:
    • 35g per can which equals 1,050g a day
    • 382kg a year
    • 7,640kg over 20 years
  • TIME:
    • Almost two cans per waking hour (based on 16 hr day)
  • AMOUNT:
    • 10 litres a day
    • 70 litres week – enough to fill a bath tub
    • 3,640 litres a year
    • 72,800 litres over 20 years

© Press Association 2018

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