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Thursday, May 26, 2005 - 10:40 p.m.

Just because its initials are the same as mine doesn't mean I have to like it

I suppose it was just another sign of growing up, another milestone passed along this road of life. It's one of those things where you might not realize its importance right away, or might not realize there's any significance to it as you make the choice. But then it hits you: This is something new. This is not something I've done before. I'm maturing. I'm growing up.

It happened to me on Tuesday.

I drank a Diet Coke. Willingly.

And I didn't hate it.

I'm a Coke man, through and through. I'll drink one at eight in the morning if I'm eating something salty, though I don't need the jolt to start my day. (Nor do I need coffee. I'm a pretty good self-starter.) I have no problems drinking one at 11 p.m., as some do, fearing they'll never be able to fall asleep. There may have been cases where it did keep me awake, but I never made the connection. I guess I haven't learned in that regard.

I've had Diet Cokes before, but I'm pretty sure the reason behind those instances fall under one of these explanations, most of which have included wincing or whining on my part:

1. The waiter brought me a Diet instead of a regular Coke. Sometimes I've sent it back and requested the souped-up version; others I've sucked it up -- literally, through the straw -- and taken a break from the sugar. At least until it's time for the refill.

2. There are no more Cokes left at the party. I'm sure there was a summer picnic or backyard barbecue or two at which all the Cokes and Sprites and other offerings I might drink have been exhausted and I've gone with the Diet. I suppose such a situation could have included water or beer or some other option, meaning I did choose the Diet Coke, but that's still not the same as what happened on Tuesday.

3. I'm a guest at someone's house, and there are no Cokes available. Fairly common, I'm sure. I've done the same with Coors Light and orange juice with pulp in it too.

But this past Tuesday was purely a choice made on my own. Premeditated, even. As I left for work just after my early lunch at noon, I thought, "I should bring a Coke for later." Then I remembered the Diet Coke I'd brought in with the intention of gifting it to a co-worker who would appreciate it, as I had done with the rest of those left over from the Super Bowl party, as this one was. That's when I decided I'd have it.

Around 4 o'clock, the hunger kicked in and I went to the fridge for the drink that would wash down my crackers. I could've stuck with water, I could've put 65 cents into the soda machine for the red can with the silver ribbon. But I didn't.

I chose Diet Coke.

In the back of my mind -- actually, in the front of my mind more and more -- I know that I need to really start watching what I eat and drink. It's clear that I'm not going to lose 15 pounds on exercising alone. My cholesterol's not going to go down from drinking more water alone. I've started to realize that I can get along just fine without a bag of potato chips or Oreos always available at home. I still crave them, but not nearly as much as I used to. I don't know the last time we had a bag of Oreos in the house, but it's been five or six months. I'd rather cut out the pure junk and leave room for what I can't see myself cutting cold turkey -- cheese, hamburgers and pasta, in particular.

So I'm going to try an experiment next week. Sometime in the next few days, probably by the end of the upcoming holiday weekend, or at least the middle of next week, I will exhaust the case of Coke in our pantry. I don't have a backup in the house.

And I'm not going to buy one. Not yet. I'm going to see if I can go a week without it. It will have to be a conscious decision each day, because it would be too easy slip up and leave the office for lunch and ask for a Coke with my slice of pizza. But it will be that much easier without it at home as a temptation and a crutch.

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