Diet soda. Now there’s a fraught topic. It’s tasty. It’ll kill you. It’s eating your brain. It’s calorie-free. It’s stealing your bone mass. It’s like mother’s milk. Yay. Nay. Whatever.
Four years ago, I ditched the drink. But when I started grad school, my stress level reached critical mass, and I indulged in a vice. I let diet soda back into my life. I let it back in in a big way. You could say I gave up water in favor of Diet Dr. Pepper. But, I’ve finished school now, and, at the beginning of April, four months after graduation, I realized I wasn’t entitled to that liquid crutch any more.
I’m not big on giving up food items. Aside from eschewing meat, which I did for, ahem, emotional reasons, I’ve never been successful when I’ve tried to cut something out of my diet. I quit, and then I crash, and then the forbidden food suddenly becomes my primary source of “nutrition.” So the plan with soda has been to slice it out completely for a while, and then, after a spell of purity, to permit the occasional bottle. You know, in a more reasonable fashion than using Diet Dr. Pepper as my chief method of “hydration.”
I’m in the loop about soda being bad for me. But I’m as human as we come, and I need leeway in my life. One of my greatest talents is justification; very proudly, I can vindicate anything. And when I come to the point where I feel it’s okay to allow a diet soda once in a while—to give moderation a shot—the way I’ll justify an evil drink here and there is that, for the most part, mine’s a healthy lifestyle. My exercise is much. I don’t eat meat. I swallow vitamins daily. I’ve never drank. I try to get a decent amount of sleep. I’ve never smoked anything. I visit the doctor regularly. I eat tons of fruit. I keep my mind lively. I engage in vegetable consumption every now and again. And since I’m no longer in the depths of divorce despair, using candy as a meal substitute is a less frequent happening.
When it comes to other people drinking lotsa soda, I land exactly where I land regarding other people eating meat: do as you will; the kinds of things you put in your body are your business. You're telling yourself that it's okay to suck down buckets of diet soda 'cause the first ingredient is "water?" Sure. Whatever. Okay. I am a master at telling myself stories. Personally, I employed that one off and on for years. Sometimes it's time to back off of certain things. Other times, like, say, during a couple years of graduate school, full-time work, designing stuff, and plowing through the trauma of a cheating spouse, it's time to have a vice, make mistakes, tell yourself lies, and justify.
Where I’m lucky in shedding my “need” for DDP—and I knew this would be the case since I’ve been here before—is that I feel a difference in just a couple days of abstinence. My skin’s not great to begin with, but diet soda makes it really suck, even when I’m sweating a lot in yoga, even when I’m adding in extra water. I’ve known that fact for years, but, with my life being as it was, that understanding wasn’t enough to get me to sever the dependent relationship. Fortunately, for now at least, it is enough to keep me from sliding back into the habit of spending every day guzzling gallon after gallon of that truly toothsome poison.