As far as vices go, I’m not exactly overloaded, at least in terms of wild vices that will lead to my downfall and eventually a heartwrenching yet ultimately inspiring true-story movie. I do drink what has to be an unhealthy amount of Diet Coke. Yet somehow I don’t see that translating into an award-winning screenplay. I mean, would you watch How I Said No to Aspartame: The Kate House Story? Nah. Neither would I. Unless the studio cast Philip Seymour Hoffman for it, perhaps as my soda-abuse counselor. That guy is like cinema GOLD.
All joking aside, I really should try to wean myself from Diet Coke. I did go cold turkey when I was pregnant and nursing. But the day Aura wiped the last drop of breastmilk from her mouth, I had a can in my hand. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t like coffee. So I justify my soda habit as “my coffee,” the way I get my caffeine fix.
I’m not kidding myself, though. I’ve read enough about aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to know that they can’t be helping my health. And whenever Aura edges my glass toward her and asks if she can have a taste, I answer with an unequivocal “No!”
“Why not, Mommy?” Aura will ask, having been allowed to sample other carbonated beverages on occasion, including root beer, which she now believes is the nectar of the gods and potentially almost as good as chocolate milk.
“Diet Coke’s not good for kids,” I explain, passing her a bowl of organic broccoli and a plate of free-range, antibiotic-and-hormone-free chicken.
“But is it good for grown-ups?” she returns.
“Well…it depends…hmmmm. Maybe not,” I stutter, disgusted that kids these days are so LOGICAL. I tell you, it’s this focus on critical-thinking skills in American education. The U.S. school system will soon be the ruin of the good old-fashioned parental lie.
Yet I’m just not ready. There are some afternoons when only a swing through the drive-thru for a large Diet Coke, so bubbly and delicious in its fountain-drink form, gets me through the rest of the day. I have a sip and I’m better in so many ways. A better parent! A better wife! A better friend! (I believe Meg Ryan presented this exact same argument in When a Man Loves a Woman. Or maybe it was Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. Someone said something, I know that.)
But I do need to make some changes to my diet. As a first step, I gave up chocolate this week. There’s no specific reason, except that I eat way too much sweet stuff and most of it seems to have chocolate in it. Sometime last weekend, I decided that if I cut out chocolate for a little while, then it would follow that I would also cut down on snacking and desserts.
Four days in, I’m on the fence as to the success of this plan. Turns out you can bake and buy all kinds of yummy stuff that does not include chocolate! Macaroons, for one. Large bags of toffee bits, for another. (Do not be fooled by the toffee-bit manufacturer’s claim that they are for baking. After all, baking is a state of mind. You put yours in your cookie dough, I put mine straight into my mouth. Que sera sera.)
It’s not easy, though. Everywhere I look, there’s chocolate. The grocery store is obviously a minefield. The restaurant at the children’s museum is teeming with cacao-based treats. Even the mall! You walk into a candle store, you’re immediately surrounded by Chocolate Chip Cookie candles and Chocolate Cream Pie candles and Triple Chocolate Candied Chocolate Drop candles. I will never again be shocked by the American obesity rate. I now see that it’s a miracle the United States still has a population at all. With all these candles burning, tempting us to hit up the cookie jar, it’s a miracle we haven’t keeled over collectively, the resulting THUMP! softened by our sweet-scented rolls of fat.
You know what? I kind of like it up here on my new, chocolate-free soapbox. If you bring a Diet Coke with you, it really does feel just like home.