I came across a really disturbing article on CNN yesterday. Basically, the claim is being made that diet soda is just as bad and perhaps even worse than regular soda. Just looking at the headline I was inclined to disbelieve, since it is inconvenient to me and my way of life. There have been so many medical studies, particularly about what incurs or deters cancer, that have to be retracted later that I have largely stopped believing in all of them. It seems to be an unfortunate combination of uninformed journalism and the fact that human bodies are so complex that it is hard to carry out rigorous studies on them.
As I read on, however, the findings started to ring very true, particularly how the artificial sweetness tricks the body into thinking it is about to get calories from sugar. Then when those sugars cannot be digested and turned into energy, the body compensates by going into a kind of fugue state and increasing one's hunger until one gives in and has some kind of snack. (I suppose this would probably be the same issue with chewing gum, so that's worth thinking over as well...) I have felt that my blood sugar levels are somewhat out of whack, and I have had tremendous hunger pains when I know objectively that I have eaten enough.
The good news is that I am not completely addicted to caffeine, though I do lean on it. Most of the studies have found that, when controlling for volume, coffee has 5 times the caffeine of soda. Black tea has 1.5 times the caffeine of soda, though obviously herbal tea (which is what I normally drink when having tea) has much less. Usually on the rare occasions I get sick, I was able to stay off soda for a week or so without suffering too much.
Part of me thinks it is kind of pointless to try to change my life at this point (and that I have already given up (or never started) so much -- meat, alcohol, coffee, smoking, no drugs other than the occasional second-hand buzz at concerts) that it just seems unwise to try to give up soda and diet soda completely, even if I do partly replace it with tea. I probably would have to stop going to all the going-away parties at work (and there have been a lot of them!), since there is no reasonable alternative to alcohol or soda when you go to a bar after work. (And no matter how you try to downplay it, you start coming across as a Sanctimonious Sam). However, I can sense that there is something off with my body's balance, which has been worrying me for a while. I'm going to slowly move into this phase (and I will drink up all the soda I've already paid for), but I'll try to switch over to tea (probably black tea in the morning and herbal tea in afternoon and evenings) and see how it goes. If it goes particularly well, then maybe I'll see about cutting back at the snacking at my desk and the late-night snacking. On the other hand, I may just end up so edgy and unpleasant to be around that it isn't worth continuing down this path.