Thursday, April 5, 2012

Heroin, Methadone, and Diet Dr. Pepper

I'm trying to kick my diet soda habit. It seems like every time I open the newspaper, I see another article about how bad diet soda is for you. It turns out that people who drink a lot of diet soda are more likely to be overweight, have heart attacks, develop diabetes, have their life savings wiped out by Ponzi schemes, and be selected for jury duty. And I definitely do not want to get jury duty.

The problem is that diet soda is seriously delicious. I don't know how carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, artificial and natural flavors, sodium benzoate, and caffeine can add up to something so tasty, but it does. Maybe there's a secret ingredient: Evil. Pure, carbonated evil. Throw some fake sugar in there and the result is nirvana. 

I do love caffeine. Fortunately, ingesting caffeine does not interfere with my ability to fall asleep at night. At bedtime, I lie down with the kids until they fall asleep and then I get back up again, except for the part about getting back up again. Really what happens is that I fall fast, fast asleep the nanosecond we turn off the light. In fact, sometimes I think I fall asleep while I am still reading them books. My mouth is making sounds, but my brain has turned itself off.

Anyway, since I love caffeine, but want to avoid the negative health effects of diet soda, I had the brilliant idea of switching to coffee. Some might liken this move to heroin addict switching to methadone rather than kicking the habit altogether, but I say...actually, I would say that comparison is right on target. My goal is harm reduction. I am the Netherlands of the public health world.

However, switching over to coffee is not going so well. I'm going to let you in on a secret: Coffee is gross, unless you add a boatload of sugar. And cream. And artificial and natural flavors. And maybe a little high-quality, locally-sourced, free-range sodium benzoate. Once you add all those, it's delicious. 

Even just seeing
a picture of it
makes my hands
Maybe I should just embrace my diet soda addiction in the same way some smokers embrace their socially unacceptable habit. I could take "drink breaks" from work every hour or so, and go out on the sidewalk in front of my office to take a few quick swigs. When I check into a hotel, I could ask for a soda-drinking room. To fully follow this model, I would have to smell awful as a result of indulging in my bad habit, as cigarette smokers do. Given the amount of sodium benzoate I've consumed, I probably already smell a bit funky.

I have made some moderate progress in my drive to cut out diet soda. For example, mark today on the calendar, because I did not have a drop of Diet Dr. Pepper! Seriously, mark it. This might be the only day that ever happens. 

It won't be easy, but if I truly care about my health, then I need to stop drinking diet soda. Instead, I'll help keep my body healthy by drinking water and milk. And every so often, sneak out on the side for a few quick swigs of sodium benzoate.

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