Reconsidering My Reconsideration

Diet SodaA while back, I shared with you my determination to ween myself off of my beverage of choice: Diet Dr. Pepper. Since I spent a couple of summers working on the grounds crew at Mt. Washington Cemetery, I’ve been a determined drinker of diet soda. At first it was Tab. Then came Diet Coke. For the last several years it has been Diet Dr. Pepper, sometimes splashed with a bit of vanilla when I get it at QuikTrip.

I’m pretty sure that drinking this stuff is better for me than swilling a bunch of high-fructose corn syrup, but I, as I shared earlier, know that I could do better drinking something exotic–like water. That’s why I set my eye on cutting back and then eliminating this drink from my life.

So how am I doing? I’m glad you asked. My progress has been–well, it’s complicated. Right after I wrote that original post, I cut myself back to my first-thing-in-the-morning super tanker from QuikTrip. Then, instead of refilling it on the way home, I’d opt for tea. This process worked for me for a few days. Then I planned to downsize the early-morning cup and eventually cut it out.

But this was when I was building up to run my half marathon. I didn’t want to mess my body up, did I? Surely that wasn’t the right time. And then we were moving toward the end of the spring semester. Why put extra stress on myself then? I could always cut back during the summer, right? Right?

You hear it, don’t you? I’m a veritable fount of excuses. I know what I need to do, but my mind comes up with a succession of rationalizations to keep me from having to do it. Deep down, I know that I’m just avoiding a change to a habit that I find comforting, but if I don’t look deep down, I can convince myself that this is really a good choice.

Excuses are a human specialty. Since Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent for their sin, we’ve been artists working in the medium of excuse. In Proverbs 22:13 we read, “The slacker says, ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the streets!'” Today, I suppose the slacker thinks it will rain or that there’s something good on TV.

I’d love to say that my excuse making with regards to diet soda is at an end, but it isn’t. Perhaps I’ll revisit that reconsideration eventually, but not today.

Reconsidering My Beverage Choices

Since my college years, I’ve been blessed not to struggle with substance addictions. I’ve tried smoking and never understood how someone could go to the trouble. Alcohol and drugs have not held any sway over my life. I can’t even stand the taste of coffee, so the caffeine-delivery system of choice isn’t on my radar. But then there’s diet soda.

Diet Soda

My liquid of choice is Diet Dr. Pepper. Every morning, on the way to school, I’ll fill up a huge QuikTrip cup. (And don’t judge me for my 54-ounce cup. They cost the same to refill as the 44-ounce version.) I’ll drink an inch or two off the top and then stash it in my office fridge for later. That refill lasts me until lunch. Usually I’ll get another giant refill on the way home. On some especially demanding days–defined as days when I pass by a lot of QuikTrips–I’ll add a third. That’s 162 ounces. Even allowing for ice, that’s somewhere around a gallon of Diet Dr. Pepper.

For years I’ve heard all sorts of scary things about these drinks. They have formaldehyde in them. (So I won’t need to be embalmed when I die!) They weaken your teeth. They actually make you fat. Yeah, the zero calorie drink makes you add weight compared to the sugar-filled version.

As it turns out, recent research from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that those who drink diet soda regularly tend to put on more belly fat as they age.

They determined that daily and occasional diet soda drinkers gained nearly three times as much belly fat as nondrinkers, after they ruled out other factors such as age, exercise and smoking. The diet soda drinkers added an average of .83 inch to their waist circumferences, while the nondrinkers added .3 inch. Daily consumers like me gained a striking 1.19 inches.

At present, I’m not struggling with too much belly fat, but I do know that age will tend to make it harder to maintain my six-pack abs. (Okay–I’m 52 and have never had, nor do I expect to ever have, six-pack abs.)

A story on NPR brought this information to me today in the course of describing the recent slide in diet soda sales. Apparently others have gotten the memo that I’ve missed.

Is there a proper Christian position on aspartame? Honestly, I think there might be. Might. If I have something in my life that is adding nothing particularly positive (aside from saving the funeral home some time) and that might be causing me problems down the road, shouldn’t I give it a hard look? How can I justify spending my money on something with only negative paybacks? In short, I really can’t. But common decency to those around me will prevent me from going cold turkey on the stuff.

I’ll keep you informed on my progress.