Great American Coke-Out

June 02, 2009

The cola, not the drug, although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you the difference. Despite my success in giving up cigarettes, I've never been able to shed my nasty Coke habit. I'm simultaneously talking about Coca-Cola and all sodas since I'm from the south and there's no difference. All sodas are Cokes, but Coke is my soda of choice.

"Choice" isn't exactly the right word, though. My mom (she didn't know any better) fed me Coke in my bottle when I was a toddler. She drank Coke instead of coffee. It was a big part of our lives from before I could walk. I'm pretty sure "Coke" was among my earliest words.

In college, I switched to Diet Coke and have never looked back. A Coke and a Cigarette where my two major accessories in school. At times, the amounts of the stuff I drink are copious. I guarantee you I drink more Diet Coke than you do, no matter who you are.

I gave it up for awhile, along with all caffeine, when I quit smoking. But Diet Coke quickly reasserted itself in spades, as a substitute for cigarettes.

I think it's a much harder habit to shake for the following reasons:

1. Ubiquity. Cokes are everywhere. At some restaurants, you really can't find anything to drink other than soda or water. That's gotten better in recent years, but sodas are still the drink of choice at the movies or at fast-food places. Unlike cigarettes, which have been shoved outside and away from respectable folk, Cokes are around every corner and can be consumed anywhere.

2. No Stigma. Nobody's bothered if you drink a Coke around them. No one makes you go stand outside to finish your Coke. No one looks down on you for drinking a soda.

3. Why Quit? Unlike quitting smoking or dieting, quitting Diet Coke doesn't seem to confer any immediate or near-immediate benefits. Weight loss? No way. Despite what some nutritionists say, I've never noticed a serious correlation between my weight and my consumption of Diet Coke. Health benefits? What are they? There have been reports about the sweetener used in Diet Coke causing everything from memory loss to drops to excessive toenail growth, but these are uncorroborated and don't appear in peer reviewed journals, or on the news. Cigarettes plainly state their health risks on the package, but it's not so clear with Cokes. When I've quite Cokes in the past, I've noticed no changes in my health, one way or the other. Of course, longterm, who knows?

I'm not actually interested, at all, in giving up much of what's IN a Coke. I'm not prepared to give up caffeine, I probably won't be entirely rid of artificial sweeteners, and I see no reason to give up bubbles.

So why bother to quit at all, then? Well, my current impetus for quitting is this:

Coke is involved in some pretty vile stuff in South America, and I can't stand the idea that all my many beverage dollars have helped hire mercenaries to kill union organizers. Seriously. Check it out.

There are other reasons, too:

Though I don't want to entirely give up caffeine, a reduction in Coke consumption will very likely reduce my caffeine intake.

And, while and don't expect to entirely be rid of artificial sweeteners, I think the sweetener in Diet Coke is especially bad for one's health.

They're expensive. The price for a bottle of Coke at a convenience store is outrageous. The money I will save is kind of ridiculous, when I add it up.

Plus, with the amount of exercise I do, I could probably stand to develop more of a taste for water.

So now that I'm public with this, we will see how it goes. If you see me drinking a Diet Coke (or, god forbid, Pepsi), please point and laugh!

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