Diet Coke

Diet Coke is like mother’s milk to me.

When I was about eleven, my dad was diagnosed diabetic. And since then, there has always been Diet Coke in the fridge. One of the symptoms of diabetes is an unquenchable thirst and sugary fizzy drinks aren’t allowed, so Diet Coke has been Dad’s default for 25 years or more. It’s also been my default.

There are only two drinks in the world I genuinely like: Diet Coke and milk. Water is gross and I only drink alcohol because being drunk is fun. I don’t think anyone genuinely likes the taste of alcohol. Diet Coke is my happy place. (I’m going to use Coke Zero and Diet Coke more or less interchangeably here, though these days I tend more towards Coke Zero.) As a teenager, I would have had a glass or two a day. As time went by that increased. Now, on a typical day, I’ll have three bottles, or about a litre and a half. It’s my source of caffeine. I don’t drink coffee, and I rarely drink tea. And tea calms me, it doesn’t give me the bit of jizz I need at the start of my day like Diet Coke does.

I am under no illusions that it’s healthy. It’s essentially a bottle of chemicals and it is entirely unnatural and would be totally unrecognisable to our ancestors as food. It is also entirely unnutritious. (Spellcheck tells me that the correct word is innutritious, but that doesn’t sound like a real word to me, so I’m sticking with unnutritious.)

And people are very judgemental about Diet Coke. When I order Diet Coke, they order real Coke with a virtuous tone, as if chemicals + sugar is somehow better than chemicals + chemicals. I’ve been asked why I’d have Diet Coke with a pizza, or with a chocolate brownie, or with chips. Well, I drink Diet Coke because it’s what I was reared on and because it’s what I prefer. And also because it’s better to be seventeen stone overweight than forty stone overweight. If I’d had drunk as much real Coke as Diet Coke in my life, I would be bedbound now, or dead. So the next time you laugh at someone ordering a Big Mac meal with a Diet Coke, go fuck yourself.

Studies have shown that people who drink Diet Coke tend to gain weight, and the clean eating brigade have grabbed onto this as proof that you shouldn’t drink Diet Coke if you’re trying to lose weight. However, most diets and attempts to lose weight tend to result in weight gain over time, so of course using Diet Coke to lose weight leads to weight gain. The only blind test I’ve heard of was one where teenagers weren’t told whether they were drinking real Coke or Diet Coke and the ones who drank Diet Coke ended up lighter. The doctor who conducted the study suggested that the best contribution lawmakers could make to public health would be to ban full-sugar fizzy drinks and replace them all with diet versions.

Artficial sweeteners are like vaccines. Some people are just determined to believe that they are crazy unhealthy in spite of medical evidence. There was a discredited study linking aspartame to brain cancer, but it lingers in the same way the discredited vaccines-cause-autism study has. Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, are among the most tested substances on Earth, and they’re fine. They really are. Well, they’re fine insofar as any chemical foodstuff is.

Shrug. People can believe what they want to. Science still hasn’t decided if milk is safe. Or sugar. Or gluten.

But I am going to start reducing the amount of it I drink. It is an awful lot of chemicals. And it does make me burp more than I should. And I’ve had sleep problems for years. And I’ve calculated that I spend about £1500 a year on Diet Coke. Which is a lot of money to be handing over to a big evil corporation, which I could be spending on tickets to West End musicals. And, like all artificial sweeteners, it has a mild laxative effect, which was fine when I was stuffing myself with stodge and bread all day every day, but since I’ve started my diet there’s been a lot less bread and a lot more vegetables, so even a mild laxative effect is quite noticeable. And I need to drink more water. I’m only managing about two glasses a day, which is a lot more than I was having, but which isn’t enough for someone who’s losing weight. I famously only pee once or twice a day. My body needs water.

I’m going to aim to cut down to a bottle a day. And no Diet Coke after 7:00 pm. And eventually, I’ll go down to a can. And eventually, it’ll just be a monthly treat. Eventually.

The diet is going well. I haven’t gone over my allotted calories once in four weeks. I weighed myself today. I’m down another two pounds. So from a starting point of 27 stone 7, I’m now at 25 stone 8. One pound off two stone.

And thankfully I’ve found it easy.

I’m still going to the gym too. Today, I had meeting with a trainer in the gym for one of those free programmes. The trainer was a butch woman with big muscles, a shaved head and a belly. She read me in seconds, telling me I could listen to my Britney while I was on the cross trainer.

She seemed disappointed that I wanted to lose weight, telling me that some people (her?) liked to be big and were comfortable with their bodies and that she had a cousin my weight and he could pull a bus. I don’t want to pull buses. I just want to pull boys. And also tie my shoelaces and do all the other things thin people do. She was lovely though and she got me sweating more than I’ve sweated since I joined the gym. I’m going to be a much more focused gym-goer now. My body feels filleted now, like a butcher’s been at me, and I love it. It’s the best type of tired.

Anyway, there’ll be a gushy post later this week, but for now I’ll leave it there. Tired but happy.

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