Farewell, Doctor

I stopped buying sugared soda for the house ages ago. Even when I had the metabolism of a man in his mid-Twenties, some sense of self-preservation noted that drinking as much as a liter of Coke a day was incompatible with long life. It’s a hazard of self-employment. One likes to have a tumbler of drinkable liquid at hand and when the tumbler is empty, it’s a wonderful excuse to walk away from the keyboard. It’s why successful crime novelists are alcoholics.

I’m in my Forties and through no fault of my own, I’m free of any health issues. I have my blood pressure taken regularly and it’s so normal, the nurses at the Red Cross couldn’t be blamed for suspecting fraud. Ditto for everything else I get checked yearly. True, I’m carrying an amount of excess weight equal to a dog with an outdoor lifestyle, but otherwise I seem to have gotten away with a lot.

Which isn’t entirely good news. Have you ever saved a piece of junk for so long that now, it’s actually become valuable and you can no longer just throw it away? That’s the case with my health. Both of my parents (and, by birthright, me too) lost the genetic crapshoot.

A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that sometime in my Seventies, I’ll need life-saving surgery that could have been prevented if I’d been placed on an aggressive course of daily medication in my Sixties, which could have been avoided if I’d made drastic lifestyle changes in my Fifties.

Or, I could make simple, gradual changes here in my Forties, and stick to them.

Diet soda was the most recent victim to this line of thinking. I banned sugared sodas from the house way back in my Twenties after realizing just how much of the stuff I was drinking, and how absently I’d fill and re-fill the tumbler next to my keyboard.

Are artificially-sweetened drinks bad for you? Well, yeah, definitely, though the science is often contradictory. They’re definitely better for you than the same quantity of sugared soda, but the “I taste something sweet” input triggers many of the same metabolic responses that make sugared soda a problem.

In truth, I axed Diet Dr Pepper from my shopping list simply because I was drinking a lot of it and I wasn’t certain that it was serving any purpose for me that couldn’t be fulfilled by a healthier substitute.

When I recognize that I do something out of habit — like go to the kitchen and fill a tumbler with soda — I try to work out why I do it. That applies to good habits as well as bad or neutral ones. I’m not a wet robot. Or if I am, I’m programmed to disregard that conclusion, which means I ought to respect my creator’s wishes. I digress. What do I enjoy about my regular constitutionals? Quantifying it will help me maximize that pleasure and minimize the downsides.

I drink Dr Pepper

(Aside: to fully appreciate how big a part of my lifestyle Dr Pepper is, note the spelling. Real Doctor Who fans know that the lead character’s name is “The Doctor,” not “Doctor Who.” Real Dr Pepper drinkers know that the name of the drink isn’t “Dr. Pepper.”)

…because at several times during the day, I like to drink something that provides sensory input beyond Coldness and Wetness. Makes sense. Okay, so do I savor the flavor of Dr Pepper, or any of the other diet sodas I normally buy?

Mmm…not really. At best, they taste “almost right” and at worst…not.

I switched to flavored seltzer, experimentally, restricting the soda to mealtimes. When I ran out of soda, I tried to not make a real point of buying more during my next trip to the market.

As of a couple of months ago, I acknowledged with some small regret that the seltzer was fulfilling the Fizzy and Flavor-ey mandates of the soda just fine, and therefore there was no reason to keep buying the other stuff.

Maintaining and revisiting a list of Mission Rules works for me, for whatever reason. I’ve updated my Beverage Protocol:

  • “Staple” house beverage will be flavored seltzer or club soda. May be consumed in any quantity, as desired.
  • No sweetened sodas of any kind will be purchased for the house.
  • WITH the sole exception of one 12-pack of Pepsi 1893, delivered once a month via automatic Amazon.com subscription. No other source of this beverage is allowed.
  • Sweetened soda consumption is permitted outside of the house (with meals, etc.) (legacy rule)
  • Consumption of sweetened sodas should be carefully monitored in all of the above exceptions.

The Pepsi 1893 Exception seems like a way of weaseling out of something. It’s made with real sugar and it tastes amazing. It’s a real sip-and-savor soda, not something that’s gulped down, absently, while watching a movie.

It actually strengthens this set of Mission Rules. Sometimes, I truly want a beverage that tastes amazing. Or, it’s been a bad day and I need a little pampering. Or, I’ve cooked a particularly wonderful meal and bubbly water just won’t cut it.

It’s been a couple of months and I’ve experienced no specific improvement to my well-being. I could sell this blog post somewhere if I wrote “And after only two weeks, I finally finished writing that opera…plus, I fell off the observation deck of a three-story building and walked away unharmed!”

But, sadly, that’s the way these things usually go. I make these changes merely because they’re obviously good ideas. There’s no miracle solution to everything. The whole point of making these small changes when I’m relatively young and healthy is so that I won’t be desperate for a miracle solution when I’m older.

All I have to do is mutter to myself “My strength is the strength of ten because my soul is pure” when I walk down the beverage aisle, stroll straight past the 2-liter bottles on sale for (bastard!) a dollar each (must buy 5), and fill the cart with one-liter bottles of store-brand seltzer ($1.18 per two liters).