Now that I have your attention with the not-quite-true clickbait headline, allow me to backpedal ever so slightly, before I drive on. A more accurate thing to say would be that skinny or in-shape people don’t drink Diet Coke.
Now I should elaborate. In the last week or so, I’ve had three Diet Cokes. The week before I think I had three too.
If you’re in the vanishingly small percentage of my readership that doesn’t know me, this is an insanely low number. A more normal day in the recent past would have included a 32 oz. fountain soda and either a can or two additional, or a second fountain soda. Or three.
But not anymore. That ship has sailed. I’ve been far more moderate on soda now for at least a month, and I only see the trend continuing.
So what’s changed?
Well first, I want to drop some weight. I’m not insanely big or anything, but I’ve got high blood pressure and I’m sick of worrying or thinking about it. The number one way to reduce your BP, like a lot of health issues, is to lose weight.
But there’s more to it than just that. After all, there’s no calories in Diet Coke and I could still probably lose weight while drinking it. But there’s a more fundamental psychological change at work here that I think is really important to highlight, and it centers around the stark, startling fact that is the title of this essay. The fact that I really haven’t wanted to admit.
Fat people drink Diet Coke.
I don’t like this. I don’t like it one bit. I grew up drinking Diet Coke, and a lot of my family does. But it’s also almost true. Almost (see first paragraph again).
At the simple, physical level, Diet Coke makes a big difference. Let’s start with the fact that no liquid beats water for your system. Meanwhile, regular Coke provides an insane infusion of sugar and can completely overload your system. Lots of regular Coke leads to diabetes, pure and simple.
Diet Coke is.. something else. It’s not sugar, it’s sugar-like. It doesn’t have calories, but does have a substance that your body perceives as 100-1000x sweeter than sugar (aspartame). The result of this still seems somewhat unknown. It appears bad, but it’s questionable whether it leads to diabetes faster or slower than regular Coke.
Whatever the case, it most definitely does not help you lose weight. It’ll slow you down. If you want to lose weight, you should drink water and maybe some green tea.
“It’s easy to stop smoking, I’ve done it a number of times.” —Mark Twain
But the main issue with Diet Coke is purely psychological. The problem is that people that drink Diet Coke are using it as fuel for their delusion that they’re doing something good (or at least not doing something bad).
Said more bluntly, drinking Diet Coke is very subtle, self-directed posturing.
Your body actually wants that magical combined hit of sugar, caffeine, and carbonation that comes in a red can. (Even if you don’t like the flavor of Coke, that thing you like in Diet Coke is the combination of sweetness, caffeine, and carbonation.) You crave it, because it’s got lots of dopamine-driven goodness. But you can’t have it. You have to be “healthy”. So you grab a Diet Coke, which has lots of caffeine and carbonation, but no sugar.
And you feel good about yourself. Because you did something virtuous.
This feeling of virtuosity is the reason that Diet Coke is so, so, so much worse than regular Coke.
The truth is that people that drink Diet Coke are deluding themselves into believing they’re doing good by choosing something better than what is possibly the most addicting liquified version of everything that is bad about human diets. And this delusion hides yet another layer of meaning behind the choice.
The virtue that Diet Coke drinkers are claiming is the virtue of being healthy. But we don’t just want to be healthy. We want to do it effortlessly. We want the magic of skinny and in-shape people that seem to never even think about what they eat or what they’re doing. Have you ever occasionally seen a very skinny person have a regular Coke as a treat or a snack? For some of them (those bastards), it’s the same as eating the occasional candy bar. And we crave that experience - to do it like it’s no big deal.
In this way, drinking Diet Coke is an excuse. It’s a way to posture the idea of “being skinny” without wanting to think about it or do anything about it.
I’ll say that again, it’s an excuse. If you want to lose weight, you probably don’t just wish you were skinny. That’s probably what you think you wish. What you actually wish is that you were skinny and you never had to really think about it. You wish it were effortless and magical.
Well put that aside. If you’ve ever struggled with weight - or even if you’re simply an endomorph - it’s never going to be true. You aren’t in the magical 2% of the population that can do whatever they want and never see a difference.
Oh yeah, and even that is likely a farce. The fitness industry has done an impeccably good job at perpetrating several myths on the population, and one of them is that the secret to an incredible body is 7 or 15 or 30 minutes just 3 days a week. Even for one of the lucky few humans that naturally sit at something like 12% body fat, the work and diet requirements to get down to the 6-8% body fat ranges that allow one to grace a magazine cover is several hours of work, consistency, and commitment every single day.
So evaluate your own psyche - and what monsters lie there - and give up Diet Coke. If you want to make it to 100, as I do, it’s a key step along the way.