This morning, I walked into Bruegger’s bakery and surprised the girl behind the counter. “Diet Coke?” she asked, reaching for my mug.
“Actually, I’m going to try some coffee,” I replied, trying to feel brave. I’m a regular at this place, and I always have my “bottomless mug” filled up with Diet Coke, no ice. So she must’ve been surprised that I ordered coffee, though she didn’t say so. She guided me through their different roasts: hazelnut, house, french roast, french toast. I settled for hazelnut.
It smelled good. I’ve always loved the smell of coffee.
But I’m leery of drinking it. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. It’s too bitter, it makes me jittery, it tastes horrible unless I dump in a cup of sugar and even more creamer. Then it’s unhealthy, and I don’t like drinking my calories. That’s been my excuse to stick with Diet Coke.
And here I am, trying to drink coffee for the first time in years.
Ironically, my first published short story was entitled “Coffee.” It’s about a girl who gives up coffee in favor of water after a close friend’s death. (It’s symbolic, okay?) Go figure that I’ve never cared for the substance.
I stare at the Bruegger’s mug with the vile substance swirling in it. People in movies and on television drink their coffee black, so I cautiously take a sip.
I grimace. My daughter’s watching; she wants to see the face I make, she says. “Go, Mommy!”
It needs sweetener. I look at the nutritional info on splenda and nectresse (the two non-sugar sweeteners I have available) and opt for nectresse. I’m not sure it’s a great choice and tomorrow I’ll try to do without artificial sweetener.
It’s still not fabulous. I’m still grimacing, and wondering, like I did the one time I had a wine cooler, do people really drink this for fun? I decide that creamer might help tone down the bitterness. Thankfully, a few teaspoons of skim milk helps the coffee go down.
I miss my Diet Coke.
I drank my last Diet Coke yesterday, after a lecture from my doctor about the dangers of diet sodas. I drank it slowly, wistfully staring at the liquid chemical cocktail that has been my constant companion since I was a tween. I’ve known the pleasures of diet drinks since before I met my husband, before I went to college, even before I went to high school, so this farewell drink feels sad. Parting is such sweet sorrow, Juliet claims, and I agree.
In my defense, I’ve cut back—way back—on how much soda I drink. I used to average around 100 ounces of Diet Coke a day (and wonder why I was so jittery and nervous all the time). Recently, I’ve been down to around 36 ounces a day, with water as my other beverage of choice. Now I was looking at zero ounces. The last drops of Diet Coke were gone.
I burned a candle after I finished the drink. It seemed appropriate enough, since it was in a little coffee mug and supposedly smelled like cafe latte. (It smelled like generic vanilla candle to me.) So the candle was supposed to be both in memory of my favorite drink, and in anticipation of tomorrow’s coffee drinking pleasure.
My doctor would be so pleased.
Even a quick internet search revealed that Diet Coke is unhealthy. Obesity, kidney issues, headaches—all linked with high doses of Diet Coke. It’s pretty much all chemicals, after all—nothing that remotely resembles anything in nature—so why wouldn’t it do wacky things to our bodies?
I’ve known all this before. Dr. H isn’t the first doctor to lecture me on the horrible effects of my addiction to artificial sweeteners and caffeine. But then he trotted out the results of a recent study. High doses of Diet Coke can increase the risk of depression thirty percent. Thirty percent!
Part of me was shocked, part of me was contemplating kicking the silver can to the metaphorical curb, and part of me was wondering how he always remembers study results and statistics. Last time I saw him, he recited the benefits of kale. Previously, he’s told me about studies relating to fish oil and postpartum depression, and a multitude of other data that are simultaneously interesting and head-scratching. (Who thinks of doing scientific studies on some of this stuff? Not me.) How on earth does he remember all this? Is that an inborn talent, or a skill they teach in med school?
The second half of what he said was interesting, too. Coffee—in moderation—can possibly lower your risk of depression by ten percent.
As my doctor kindly pointed out, I’m on several medications for my bipolar disorder. One has some potentially serious side effects, including a neuromotor disorder that is irreversible. It’s one that I’d like to stop taking. But my addiction to diet soda is possibly making my depression worse, which means I have to take the medication, which means I’m at a higher risk for this neuromotor issue with a name that I can’t pronounce. Is the Diet Coke worth it?
And again, what came to mind was the quote from Richard Foster: reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. They are the same words that prompted me to give up Facebook, and now they help me decide to ditch my beloved silver-canned drink.
My husband was leery. He probably remembered the last time I gave up Diet Coke. That time, it was for Lent and I gave up all caffeine. Miserable experience (for him and for me). I was exhausted and cranky and well, you can read the blog post. But I figure that if I can drink one small cup of coffee a day, without all the high sugar and full fat add-ons, then I’ll get some caffeine and should be fine. I only drink water for the rest of the day.
I can’t see how I’ll ever be a more than one cup of coffee a day type of person; the stuff just doesn’t produce that must-have-more craving in me. But if I ever do start drinking more than one, I’ll consider ditching caffeine entirely.
So. Here I am. Drinking coffee. And realizing that it isn’t half bad.
If you’re interesting in reading about the Diet Coke/depression study, here’s a link: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/diet-soda-drinkers-depressed-article-1.1236431