I drink Diet Coke. Now do me a favor and shut up about it.

I drink Diet Coke. I drink a lot less than ever before, but I still drink it. 

People are exceedingly fond of telling me how unhealthy this beverage is. You cannot imagine how often I am told that this beverage is bad for me. Diet Coke drinkers can attest to this.   

I have some serious problems with this. 

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My primary problem is that people only criticize what they can see. They see the Diet Coke in my hands and open their stupid mouths.

Yet no one can see a person failing to exercise, so warnings about a sedentary lifestyle are left unsaid. As a result, on the same day that I spend 45 minutes running on a treadmill, 30 minutes walking my dog, and start my morning with 100 sit ups and 100 pushups, some sedentary jackass who hasn't elevated his heart rate since the first Bush administration admonishes me about the unhealthiness of the Diet Coke I drank at lunch. 

I hate that.  

That same person is probably walking around with a coffee laced with an artificial sweetener, the same one that can be found in Diet Coke. But because the four packets of Equal or Splenda in their coffee are invisible, coffee drinkers who consume just as much artificial sweetener as me walk the world unmolested while Diet Coke drinkers are criticized at every turn.

I hate that, too. 

The same person criticizing me for my beverage of choice probably hasn't had a yearly physical since he went to summer camp as a teenager. But since we can't see a person failing to schedule a physical, or failing to check for lumps, or failing to floss, or failing to get a mammogram or colon screening at the appropriate age, or failing to wear a seatbelt, these people get away with their unhealthy choices, and I don't.

I hate that, too. 

Diet Coke has also been on the market for 35 years. It's not exactly a healthy choice, but it's got a decent track record of not directly killing its consumers. I am not saying that it is good for me, but it ain't the poison that everyone claims it to be, either.

I exercise every single day. I don't drink alcohol. I have never smoked or used an illegal drug in my entire life. I get an annual physical. I go to the dentist twice a year. I floss daily without exception. Wear my seatbelt. Wear a bike helmet. Take a multivitamin. Meditate daily. 

And yes, I drink Diet Coke.  

So if you plan to open your stupid mouth and criticize my choice of beverage, check yourself first. Your less-than-healthy behaviors are probably just invisible to the rest of us.

It’s easy to criticize what people do. It’s often what people don’t do that matters more, yet these inactions are often ignored. So leave me alone, you inactive, moronic toadstools.

I was recently sitting at my desk in my classroom, drinking a Diet Coke while correcting papers. A colleague walked in, and as we wrapped up our conversation, she commented on the soda that I was drinking. image

“You know, Diet Coke really isn’t good for you. You drink way too much. You should think about switching to something healthier.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve actually cut back on soda quite a bit since the beginning of the year.”

My tone was warm. My response was benign. But beneath my calm exterior, I was annoyed. Completely and thoroughly annoyed. Here’s why:

People find it exceedingly easy to criticize a person for action taken but rarely consider the reverse.

Yes, I drink Diet Coke. And yes, despite the Food and Drug Administration's approval of this product and its 33 year history of consumer consumption without any apparent links to leprosy or tuberculosis, carbonated beverages – and Diet Coke in particular – is poison in the minds of many people.

I understand that water is probably better for me than Diet Coke, but that doesn’t mean that Diet Coke is going to kill me. Just like the coffee and alcohol that most people consume on a daily basis  (and I do not) probably isn’t going to kill them, either.

Nevertheless, I’m also able to see that too much of almost anything can be bad. Recognizing the excessive quantity of soda that I was drinking in a given day, I chose to cut back. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have almost completely stopped drinking Diet Coke in my home. As a result, I’ve cut my soda consumption by more than half, and other than the nights when we are eating pizza or pasta for dinner, I rarely miss it.

But here’s the thing:

I happen to know for a fact that the woman who commented on my soda consumption does not exercise. She doesn’t jog or play a sport or belong to a gym. Other than the occasionally stress-filled work situation, she may never elevate her heart rate beyond a resting position.

Yet how often does someone criticize or even express concern for her lack of physical activity? Almost never is my guess because it’s almost impossible to comment on something that can’t be seen. Unless you followed this person for a week, peering into windows of her home at all hours of the day, you would never know that she lives a relatively sedentary lifestyle.

But my Diet Coke consumption? That’s obvious. The soda is in my hand. On my desk. Stuffed in my refrigerator. It’s easy to comment on my soda consumption because you see it. It’s a positive action.

So people comment on it and criticize it all the time.

But who is living a healthier lifestyle?

The person who exercises on a treadmill or elliptical machine for 45 minutes at least four times a week, does push ups and sit ups every day, practices yoga (poorly) and meditates every morning, and plays golf and basketball and runs in the non-winter months. And drinks Diet Coke…

… or the person who restricts herself to water and all natural juices but does not exercise in any way?

If you don’t think that my lifestyle is probably healthier (and you should), can we at least agree that it’s too close to call?

I’m often criticized for my eating and drinking habits. The lack of vegetables in my diet. My somewhat limited palate. My choice of soda over every other beverage.

But I also know that I’m being criticized by people who never exercise. Who watch 30 hours of television each week. Who haven’t read a book in ten years. Who can’t name the three branches of government. Who spend hours on hair and nails and makeup but not a single minute maintaining a healthy heart. Who can name every member of the Kardahian family but don’t know the name of even one of their state’s Senators or a single member of the Supreme Court.

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It’s so easy to criticize the overt, public actions of a person, because it’s what we can see. We can point and frown and criticize.

But it’s often the things that people don’t do – their inaction and underlying stupidity – that ultimately mean more but go unnoticed because they are not conveniently wrapped in a plastic bottle or red label.

Why our Thanksgiving Day table was better than Whole Foods will ever be.

Like Whole Foods, our Thanksgiving table, located in the home of my brother-in-law’s parents, was piled high with delicious, attractively displayed  food.

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Unlike Whole Foods, there was also Diet Coke on the table, a product which Whole Foods will not deign to offer its customers.

Best pizza in town, yet I can’t get a Coke to wash it down. It makes no sense and is just one reason why I avoid shopping there.

I prefer my food without the side order of pretention.