Welcome to the third part of my mini-series, The Soda Chronicles. This is Part Three, or Why I Switched from Diet Soda Pop Back to the Sugar Stuff.
In our last episode, our intrepid hero Charlie had seemingly found everlasting happiness with diet soda pop. It had no calories. It tasted good. And, best of all, it really impressed the ladies.
But after a while, doubts about these diet drinks began to creep into Charlie’s brain. Sure, they were calorie-free. But, as is so often the case in the Dieting World, the word “free” had brainwashed him. Only a fool truly believes anything is completely free, and Charlie is clearly no fool most of the time.
So he grabbed a Diet Coke and took a look at what was in it.
|Water||As we learned before, water is awesome. And Diet Coke is mostly water. Mostly.|
|Caffeine||Diet Coke has 3.75 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce, which is about one quarter of what you’ll find in your typical cup of coffee. For Charlie, it was never about the caffeine. Worse things than that keep Charlie up at night.|
|Caramel Color||Gives the soda that wonderful coloring. Unfortunately, it’s been shown to contain the contaminant 4-methylimidazole, a known carcinogen. Hey, but at least Charlie never has to worry about getting cancer.|
|Aspartame||Ah yes, now we’re really getting to the controversial parts: artificial sweeteners. Depending upon whom you talk to, artificial sweeteners are either absolutely and one hundred percent perfectly safe (The Artificial Sweetener Industry) or they’re the debbil (Helen “Mama” Boucher). My guess is the reality is somewhere in between. A full discussion of this topic could be an entire series of blog posts in and of itself.|
|Acids||Two of them: Phosphoric and Citric. Sure, not the kind of acid you’d try to melt The Terminator with, but they are the kinds that, after thirty seven thousand cans of the stuff, just might start affecting your tooth enamel.|
|Natural Flavors||Just walk down your typical grocery aisle and try to find a food that does not contain “natural flavors.” While this term makes them sound perfectly healthy and benign, the truth is, “natural” simply indicates that it was derived from something in nature. Like mint leaves. Or ground up beetles. Or dirt. Just think, even Soylent Green would have legally listed “natural flavors” on the label. Bottom line is: you have absolutely no idea what’s in it. Your best bet there is to contact the manufacturer directly. And they’re not obligated to tell you either.|
Okay, so it has a few potentially bad things in it. So what? So does pretty much everything we eat in our modern civilization. And some people get sick. And other people never get sick. And all of them seemingly eat and drink the same stuff all the time.
But that’s when Charlie realized, there was a big difference between “people” and himself. He read up more on diet sodas (and there were no end of studies done on them). Most ironic of all were the ones that suggested they make you gain weight.
But how could something with zero calories make you gain weight? In short: the zero-calorie drink itself doesn’t. However (to make a very, very long story short), something about these drinks makes people eat more. That old joke about ordering the “four Big Macs and a Diet Coke” isn’t actually a joke after all.
Still, though, all the studies in the world merely “suggest” things: there’s rarely any definitive proof. Further, there’s always some other study out there to contradict earlier findings. But now we’re right back to Charlie’s realization: there’s a big difference between “people” and himself.
So he listed the pros of Diet Sodas (“they bring pure happiness”) and the cons (“they might be killing me”) and eventually decided that artificial sweeteners might not be quite as benign as the Artificial Sweeten Industry has led us to believe. And because Diet Sodas were calorie-free, it was certainly okay to drink a thousand of them a month. What the actual number was, Charlie had no idea, because as meticulous as he is about logging what he eats every day, he very rarely logged Diet Soda, because, hey, what’s the point?
That’s why on September 30, 2014, he decided to switch from Diet Sodas back to High Octane Sodas. The full plan was: drink water or tea all week, then maybe on the weekend, just once, have a “real” soda. Because it had calories, he’d be a million times more conscious about how often this would happen and he’d never, ever forget to log it. And, best of all, he wouldn’t have to give up delicious, wonderful soft drinks for good.
It seemed like the perfect plan. What could go wrong? Well, tune in next week and find out.