I regularly make a morning stop at my local McDonald’s for a Diet Coke. And as soon as I walk in, the nice person behind the counter recognizes me and hands me my cup while ringing me up.
Okay, I lied. They hand me two cups, because one Diet Coke isn’t quite enough. Also, my nickname is Two Diet Cokes. They don’t know that I know they call me this. They try to keep it quiet, but I’ve heard them say, “Two Diet Cokes is here, can you ring her up?” And nobody will ever convince me to stop.
Fountain Diet Coke is my favorite (especially from a freestyle machine) but really, I’m not picky as long as there isn’t too much ice because it’s all about the soda here. Ice is a supporting actor, not the star of the show. I’ll take it in a can, bottle, or however I can get it. If I’m headed to a party, I’ll bring my own beverage, thank you. If I’m going on a road trip, the first priority is to make sure I have enough Diet Coke. And when I left the country last year, my biggest concern was whether there would be Diet Coke where I was going. Thankfully for the person traveling with me, there was.
My three teenagers tell me, almost daily, that my Diet Coke habit is horrible. That I’m literally drinking “petroleum” and that my habit is going to lead to some big problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) is looking into doing additional research after releasing findings that aspartame (the artificial ingredient found in thousands of sugar-free products) as possibly carcinogenic to humans. YIKES but that’s probably not going to sway me!?! My family gives me a hard time when we all get together, as if their reminders of how bad Diet Coke is for my health would actually get me to stop after all these years. You’d think they’d know by now I’m not listening.
I’ve been indulging in this carbonated beverage every single day since I was 14. That’s 34 years of Diet-Coking and not one problem. In fact, it’s one of the biggest highlights of my day. I don’t care if anyone thinks that’s sad. It’s all about the little things.
I’m not a coffee drinker, so my Diet Coke energizes me. Actually, it's more like it gives me life. I’ve never craved anything the way I crave its bubbly sweetness. I can’t have pizza without it. French fries have to be accompanied with Diet Coke, and there is nothing like cracking open a soda at the beach. Basically, it goes with everything. If you disagree, that’s fine. You are entitled to your (very wrong) opinion.
Of course I’ve heard all about the health risks of drinking diet soda. My kids send me articles and TikToks and studies all the time. I’ve heard diet soda is bad for gut health, is linked to weight gain, and makes you crave sweets. And it’s not that I don’t care about those side effects, but honestly, none of them have happened to me. If they do, I’ll rethink my soda addiction. For now, it makes me incredibly happy and surely, my kids don’t want to deal with me if I haven't had my fix.
We all have a vice. Mine happens to be Diet Coke. I look forward to it every day. And while I do go through extremes to get it (the other day McDonald’s was out of Diet Coke, so I drove to the next town over to get my carbonated deliciousness), I don’t care. If you want to be part of my life, you have to accept the fact that stopping for a Diet Coke is mandatory and I’ll likely leave you behind if that’s a problem for you.
Diet Coke has seen me through a lot. It was there for me when my three toddlers were all in diapers at the same time. It’s my savior when I’m at a bar with friends since I don’t drink. It’s been there for me after a tough day or when I need an afternoon pick-me-up or when I go for a drive to clear my head. There’s something about walking around with a cup the size of a paper towel roll when I’m window shopping. I realize it’s not on-trend like those cute little iced coffees everyone likes to shake are, but nothing does it for me like a tall, cold Diet Cola.
I’ve been relying on it for 34 years now. No matter what anyone says or how many reports come out telling me how bad it is for me, I’m not going to change something that brings me so much pleasure.
Katie lives in Maine with her three kids, two ducks, and a Goldendoodle. When she’s not writing, she’d reading, at the gym, redecorating her home, or spending too much money online