Imagine this: You’re minding your own business, sipping a bottle of orange juice, when I saunter by with a Diet Coke in hand. Maybe we know each other, maybe we don’t. It doesn’t matter to me because I have a bone to pick with what you’re doing either way. “You know that stuff makes you fat, right?” I say, while pointing at your orange beverage like it’s the Kryptonite of skinny folk.
You would probably think me a rather rude and abrasive individual, would you not? You might wonder what kind of parents raised such a holier-than-thou monster with such poor manners and people skills. Fortunately, I don’t make a point out of shaming people with my unsolicited opinions on their eating and drinking habits, even though I actually do think drinking orange juice in large quantities is unhealthy despite its nutritional claims. You could get your day’s worth of Vitamin C from a single orange instead of opting for a meal’s worth of calories and a crap-load of carbs in a single drink. Still, why would I ruin someone’s day by insulting him to his face about what he’s in the midst of ingesting, especially since it affects me in absolutely no way? That said, I’ve had everyone from co-workers and friends to strangers on the street and people behind me in line at the grocery store tell me what they think of the Diet Coke in my hand: “Your brain still treats it like sugar, so you’ll still gain weight,” a girl said recently to me at a house party. She sipped her PBR with a smirk after, like she was the wise hipster Buddha and me the town fool who believes in any myth or superstition thrown my way.
“I’m pretty sure that if it was going to make me fat, I’d be enormous by now,” I pointed out. “I’ve been drinking about eight cans a day since I got sober, and that was over two years ago.” I hoped my remarks might quiet my new friend, but that was not the case.
“Eight cans a day?!” she freaked. “Your liver must be a mess!”
“If it’s Diet Coke that kills me, then know this…” I said, as I leaned forward and whispered, “…there is no God.”
I know I get defensive. And I also know that it’s unfair of me to use the fact that Karl Lagerfeld drinks about 10 Diet Cokes a day and even has a Diet Coke butler as an excuse to drink as much Diet Coke as I like. I’m sure having as much caffeine as I do might explain why I have pimples in my early 30s, but it’s also a lot less damaging to me than the way I used to treat my body. I often catch myself responding to negative comments regarding my Diet Coke consumption by listing Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Warren Buffett as Coca-Cola enthusiasts, as if they are somehow proof that it’s the drink of the gods. It makes me sound ridiculous, but I find it equally disturbing to listen to people cite random studies by universities they can’t even name from shock-value articles by crappy news sources that claim Diet Coke has negative effects on health and weight. Do you know what kind of people participate in those kind of studies? I do, because I used to participate in studies all the time when I was a starving grad student just trying make a dollar. Desperate, crazed people participate in studies, and they are by no means the norm. I once had some kind of semi-harmful chemical injected into my blood before a CAT Scan just for $150, and I’m not even sure what the study was for. If you put that old poor and starving version of me in a room with Diet Coke and a buffet table of food and asked me if the Diet Coke made me want to eat more, I would have just woofed down the free lunch and said “yes.”
I’m sure some studies do reveal the odd true tidbit about Diet Coke, but I’m pretty sure iced tea could seem more harmful if we conducted enough research geared at finding out whatever it is we want to assume about it in the first place. News flash: Wine is healthy again, apparently! But who cares? Most things could kill us, make us live longer, fatten us up, or make us skinny if we just found the right lighting to tell that story, right? I know that I’m personally going to live longer drinking Diet Coke than I would drinking what I was drinking before. I’m also going to live my longer life without the beer belly I used to have, too. But I’ll never be the person at the party pointing out to you that the beer in your hand will make you fat and might just kill you. You’re probably just trying to enjoy yourself and don’t need that kind of unwarranted buzz kill. That, in my opinion, would just be terribly rude.