Toastmasters speech #7 – Addicted

I’ve got something to confess. I’m a Coke addict.  Not the Colombian powdered kind but that sweet dark fizzy nectar. It just makes me happy.  I know it’s bad for me but I love the way it tingles – almost burns – my throat as it goes down.  I like it really fizzy and really cold.  I need to gulp it down as soon as I’ve opened that can or bottle otherwise I deem it too warm or too flat and I don’t want to drink it. I’m a purist – I can’t stand it mixed with alcohol. And it tastes best out of glass but I’m not averse to the old McDonald’s post mix with lots of ice.

And no Pepsi is NOT Coke. I can’t stand it when I’m at a bar or café and I ask for a Coke and they give me Pepsi. If I wanted a Pepsi I would have asked for one –  they can’t hide it from me. I could do a blind taste test and I’d be able to tell you if it’s Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, caffeine free Coke, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi etc etc etc…you name it – I’ll know it – I’ve drunk them all.

So I know I sound like a bit of a weirdo. It’s a bit embarrassing really – because it’s just a soft drink. It’s not like it is cigarettes or heroin but until about 2 years ago I had been drinking it daily for as long as I can remember. I know it’s not good for me with all the sugar so generally I switch to the diet variety. It’s definitely nowhere near as nice but somehow it still does the job.  Back when I was at university I was drinking up to 3 litres of Diet Coke a day. Luckily – there are exactly zero calories in it – as well as zero of anything good for you, but had this been the full fat variety I would have ended up the size of a house. It takes 20 minutes of walking to burn off one can of Coke and tonight I want to demonstrate just how bad it is.  You’ve probably heard about how there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can? Here is proof.

Here’s a can of regular coke. And here is a can of diet coke. Can you see how the regular can sinks? That’s because there are 39 grams of sugar in it. It’s heavier. There is so much sugar in fact that Coke delivery trucks can only take a certain % of full fat Coke versus the diet variety because it weighs so much more. In fact for every slab of Coke there is about 1kg of extra weight just in sugar!

So, you can see why I switched to the diet stuff.  But… Is the diet stuff any better? Apparently it’s not. There is growing evidence that it may in fact be more damaging than the real thing. When I was trying to get off it (it really does sound weird doesn’t it!) I read up about the issues of aspartame – the sweetener used in the diet drinks – to try to talk myself out of consuming something so artificial. It turns out that aspartame becomes unstable at high temperatures and changes its chemical structure.  In the first gulf war there were soldiers that got sick with signs of formaldehyde poisoning and some attribute this to drinking diet coke that had been sitting in the hot 40 degree plus sun. I don’t know if it’s entirely true but it put me off a little!

So are there any benefits to drinking Coke or Diet Coke? Well I’ve heard it can cure malaria, and you might be able to clean you old coins if you leave them soaking in it all night – but really there are just the negatives such as:

–          Caffeine that cause jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, breast lumps, birth defects, and perhaps some forms of cancer.

–          Phosphoric Acid which can interfere with the body’s ability to use calcium, leading to osteoporosis or softening of the teeth and bones.

–          The Aspartame / fake sugar consumption with over 92 different known health side effects including brain tumours, birth defects, diabetes, emotional disorders and epilepsy/seizures.

–          And of course the sugar that causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, premature aging.

Unfortunately though, an addiction is an addiction and even though I know how bad it I still struggle to not drink half a big bottle of coke if a friend brings one over. But I am a lot better now – I was in South America, back on the hard stuff – the full fat as I call it – because I couldn’t find any diet variety and a guy I had been travelling with gave me a big lecture and said ‘you’re going to get diabetes’ and that scared me.  It turns out that one can per day will increase your risk by 85%. I hate needles and I didn’t like the prospect of injecting myself for the rest of my life so I decided that I would stop drinking it when I returned home to Australia. And I did. I went cold turkey and in a whole year I had less than 7 cans. Pretty amazing when you think that at one point I’d been drinking more than that in a day.  I just decided I didn’t want to end up sick. I’m not 100% cured, but I’m almost there.

So my advice to anyone who feels they relate in anyway to my story of addiction – even if it is just a soft drink – is to do your research. It’s all very well to know something is bad but all too easy to ignore what you don’t want to hear. But when you really study all the stuff that goes into what you consume – such as the Caffeine, Phosphoric acid, the volume of sugar and the Aspartame –and the problems it will end up causing you, it may just help you become a former addict like me.