06/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Quitting Soda Cold Turkey

This is my coming out party. To my close friends, family, and colleagues, this will come as no surprise, but, um, I drink soda. Specifically, Diet Coke. Sometimes I manage to quit, but then I always come a'crawlin' back.

In Mexico, regular Coke is made with cane sugar and it is delicious. A glass bottle of ice-cold Mexican Coca-Cola is not to be missed. Here in the US Coke is made with High Fructose Corn Syrup, something I really don't care for on a whole lotta levels, including its taste. It leaves a slick sugary burn on the back of my throat, and frankly -- blech. (for more on the merits of South American Coke, check out this post on the Atlantic Monthly Food Channel). So, here in the US I forgo regular Coke, and I opt for the Diet, with its Nutrasweet tang (for more about the sweetness levels in various fake sweeteners, read this article in the Times Dining Section).

After a brief bout with the cancer (a little one, "the best kind," said the oncologist), I looked at my life and asked myself where this could have come from. Logically I knew that sometimes cancer comes uninvited, with no place set at the table and no friendly welcomes. But what if, what if, I wondered, there was something I was eating/drinking/doing that brought this on?

By that point I was a pretty much a model of real food eating--mostly organics, almost nothing processed. I didn't smoke, I didn't drink much, and I exercised like crazy. All of which, I realize makes me sound pretty un-fun. But, but I'm a blast, I am! I digress...

In a medical-panic-fueled-frenzy, I wondered if my Diet Coke thing--let's call it that--was the problem. Sweetened with the questionable aspartame, laden with fake colors, nutritionally bereft, but oh-so-good with a slice of pizza, was Diet Coke the culprit?

I quit cold turkey, finally started guzzling water like you're supposed to, and felt pretty darn good about. Sure there was the fact that I now had no vices, and had maybe lost the little bit of edge I once possessed. But I felt like I'd cut out a little pernicious growth of hypocrisy, just like my doc had snipped out that pesky tumor.

This lasted six months.

In the 2 years since, I have gotten on and off the ol' soda wagon more times than I can count. And when I titled this post "quitting soda cold turkey," it was more aspirational than real, and I'm just now as I write this going through a trying-to-kick-it cycle. Or thinking about trying to kick it, maybe, say, after the weekend. Or maybe the following weekend. We'll see.