Saturday, June 10, 2006
Nemesis

I walk a pretty straight line in life. I've never smoked, I'm not a big drinker, and I rarely take any drug harder than extra-strength tylenol. I don't have any problem with smoking, drinking, or recreational drug use; I just don't generally indulge in any of them myself. But nobody gets through modern American life without getting hooked on something. and my fix is soda pop.

God, I love soda. I love the way it burns going down. I love the way it makes my world a happy place. But I hate what it does to me. Soda is the key to everything else in my life: when I'm hooked on it, I'm hooked on everything. And when I get off it, everything else improves. My mood is better, I have more energy, I sleep better, my skin clears up, my mind is sharper. I cease to crave anything at all. It's a much better way to live. Then, eventually, I start thinking that I can probably handle a little bit -- a couple of cans a week wouldn't hurt anything, right? -- and before I realize what's happened, I'm drinking three or four cans a day and everything else has gone to hell.

So, for about the tenth time, I'm quitting soda. And I'm super-especially quitting the mass-market kind. In fact, I'm going to try and cut as much high-fructose corn syrup out of my life as possible. 'Cause that shit is the work of Satan.

The food industry says that HFCS is completely normal sugar with no unusual properties. Others say that HFCS is a sugary aberration that metabolizes differently than regular sucrose, bringing various negative consquences. My only evidence is anecdotal, but I'm solidly on the side of the anti-HFCS lobby. I know my soda, goddammit, and I can only stomach a small amount of sugar-based soda at a time. The corn syrup stuff, though -- I can drink that all day without even thinking about it. Personally, I think it's not coincidental that the rise of HFCS directly coincides with the invention of the 42-ounce paper cup.

The first day is marked by an immense desire to run out and buy a six-pack of something, anything. There's also usually a lot of headaches involved. Sometime during the evening I break down and have "just one," which turns into three. The next day I do it again, and the day after that. On the fourth "first day," I actually make it through. The second full day is about searching for substitutes -- this is the day when I discover how utterly awash the world is in HFCS. It's in juice, it's in every juice-like substance, it's in ginger ale, it's even in some seltzer water. It's in some soy milk, it's in chocolate milk (which is just as well since milk and I don't always get along), it's in tea and coffee drinks. If it's anything other than water and you can drink it, it's probably got HFCS in it. Diet sodas are right out -- they're arguably even worse for you than sugary sodas, and taste like ass to boot. And heavy childhood consumption of diet soda, I'm convinced, is how I got here in the first place.

By day three I've resigned myself to plain tap water. For the rest of the week, my life is joyless. I eat a lot of pasta and chocolate. If I can get through that first week, I can get through a month. And if I can get through a month, I'm in the clear. Eventually I can get to the point where I drink soda like other people drink beer -- on the occasional outing, in company, at a restaurant, at a club, etc. But it takes a while to get there, and even then it's a calculated risk. I know it sounds awfully dramatic for such an innocuous substance -- nobody ever lost their wife/kids/house/car over soda. But for me, it's the key to the rest of my life. With it, I'm a mess; without it, I'm healthy and in control.

What I'd really like is to learn not to enjoy soda at all. And I'm sure drunks would like to learn not to enjoy vodka. So maybe it's probably best to stick to the feasible and just try to close my ears to PepsiCo's siren song. Damn you, demon soda... in between making sweet, fizzy love to you, I'll curse you till the day I die.
12:31 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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