The undeniable facts about the safety of Diet Coke.


I sat down at the table with friends, enjoying our get-together at the diner. The waitress took my order for a Diet Coke. She left. A friend spoke up.

“They say that Diet Coke increases your chance of getting diabetes by a factor of seven.”

“I heard people were getting seizures from the aspartame in it.”

“Today the news said a lady died after drinking 10 liters of Coke.”

“That’s nice. Enjoy your glass of city water filled with chemicals like fluoride,” I replied.

Are you kidding me?

Not much for alcohol. Never smoked. Don’t do drugs, and barely take aspirin. I exercise at the gym three times a week. I walk to work briskly every day, which comes to around 3/4 of a mile daily. When I get home, I try to avoid sitting and work at a standing desk. I go for walks when weather allows. I don’t eat much red meat at all, mainly poultry if any. I drink plenty of water, and often it is in the form of green, white, or herbal teas. I don’t drink coffee. In other words, I’m not health-obsessed, but I do alright.

My two vices?

An occasional Diet Coke as a treat a couple of times a week (and not even full cans!) and chocolate.

There are two important facts about life:

  • I am going to die.
  • You are going to die.

Let’s just be honest: people who point out the inadequacies in my eating and health regimen are merely quibbling over the bet they’re placing that I’ll die first. You’re telling me I’m killing myself and it’s my fault. You almost hint that I can take the blame for any physical ailment coming my way. I propose that cellular degeneration and the natural order of things might get some blame, and not just that Snickers I ate yesterday.

Snow White’s poisoned apple is a metaphor for supermarkets.

“Oh, but it’s a quality of life thing.”

The fact that I’m not fixating on the perfect purity of my food and not doing it to those around me means I have a pretty good quality of life.

When I eat a burger, I am thankful I have food, and that I don’t have to go out and gut the cow myself.

As I’m standing in the grocery store, I think of some of the poorest people in Nicaragua I’ve seen living and scrounging for food near the garbage dump. I get a bit upset at the arrogance that says the strawberries or apples or oranges stacked in heaping piles before me are “not good enough” because they are not organic.

I am repulsed by the idolatry that my body is so precious that I must find something more healthy and pure, that these non-organic fruits lack enough nutritional value for the little god that is me.

How does it work, that having a bountiful supply of food before me is seen as the enemy instead of a blessing?

Do I think I’m better than those people in poverty, so I deserve optimal “natural” food? Or, do I think that everyone deserves it, but because not everyone is in a place to access it, rice and corn mash are good enough for their kids but definitely not mine? When you donate food to the food pantry, do you donate the expensive organic carefully-sourced food that you insist is the only acceptable thing to put in your body and that you feed yourself and your family, or do you get the cheapest canned and boxed food at the store?

If your diet requires it, great. If you prefer it, fine. If you think it’s the only way to go, have at it. But don’t lecture me especially while we’re in the process of eating. I shouldn’t have to defend my digestive history.

The fear industry is the strongest industry at work today.

Out of the fear industry, many things have developed. Like being afraid of our food.

It ends up being an us-against-them battle waged against supermarkets, farmers, and anyone not making that gross runny organic yogurt that makes me throw up in my mouth (true story). It says the hell with “everything in moderation.” It implies that moms who let their kids eat Lucky Charms are basically evil beings inserting a Pixie Stix IV in their arm and laughing maniacally.

It creates Perfect Parent Food Guardian whose kids must not have a drop of corn syrup in their body, ever, until they’re 18. No hint of chemical or artificial anything must touch their lips. The child will glow with good health and surely be a better citizen and thinker because no malnourished human in the history of mankind has ever achieved greatness.

Go ahead. Create a different kind of eating disorder which associates food with fear and danger, and disease solely with choices people make so when someone gets sick they can gently suggest they deserved it because they’d eaten Oreos that one time four years ago.

The jogger still dies young of the heart attack. The vegetarian still gets cancer. The butter-eater and wine-drinker and cigar-smoker lives to be 98. You can’t predict.

Typhus wasn’t much fun.

We had a discussion about a similar topic at work, while on break, and a coworker came up with probably the best summation I could say in response to those who are hardcore anti-any kind of modern food, anti-vaccine, back-to-the-pioneer-times ideology: Typhus wasn’t fun.

Here’s a list of other things that aren’t fun:

  • Diptheria
  • Whooping Cough
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Tetanus
  • Malaria
  • E. coli and other gut ripping illnesses
  • Hand-washing clothes and hanging them on the line even in the dead of winter
  • Living on the northern plains without fruits like oranges and bananas (among other delicious foods) technically not being in the “locally sourced” category
  • Killing a buffalo and using its guts for string, making pemmican, and creating a house out of its hide
  • Starvation
  • Trichinosis
  • Using ice-boxes instead of modern chemical-supported refrigeration
  • Non-electric sewing machines for all of your clothing needs
  • Butcher a pig, cure the meat, make your own lard
  • Chinking your cabin walls with animal dung and mud, and twisting prairie grass for heat because hey, let’s be honest, your home has a lot of toxicity built into it.

It’s easy to decry technology and its evils from your comfortable perch in the midst of it.

FYI: Honeybees were introduced to North America by Europeans, and tomatoes introduced to Europe by explorers. Do you really wish the Italians hadn’t gotten their hands on tomatoes? I love marinara. I love honey. I’m glad food hasn’t remained locally sourced only.

Pretty glad I can just go to the store and buy butter instead of doing this.

Pretty glad I can just go to the store and buy butter instead of doing this.

I don’t know if you’ve ever bothered to talk to someone who’s really old and had to do some of that live-off-the-land stuff, but you ask them if they want to go back to doing things by hand and they, like my grandma told me once when I asked if she missed the “good old days”, are probably going to come out in favor of automatic dishwashers, cake mixes, and Crisco. It wasn’t an alt-lifestyle option, but the only option, and given modernity, they leapt for it.

It’s called progress, because it is.

Yes, we have some diseases that are a result of the excess of our modern diet low exercise levels — that’s not the argument I’m making here — but the lack of progress had its own diseases and they were really ugly, too, with shortened lifespans overall.

Is it possible that I might make small choices and choose some chemical-free home products and eat more vegetables and try to buy locally and avoid GMO here and there when viable and still dig into a bowl of mac and cheese or douse the bathroom with Febreze when times call for it? That I might enjoy making my own bread but once in a while, buy a loaf from the store or order a pizza? That having a Diet Coke once in a while when I go out is a treat? Or is this just an all-or-nothing proposition? It seems that every moment is a lecture moment for the food police, whose forgiveness and grace policies are non-existent.

What goes in your head?

Maybe people ought to be more concerned about what they’re allowing in their head, rather than just their mouth. Shall I get after you for what you do and don’t read? Shall I lecture you on the shallow life of pursuing bodily health and not a robust mental existence?

Turn the TV off, unplug the internet, and shut out the voices convincing you that a world of unimaginable plenty isn’t good enough, isn’t healthy enough. Eat the food you have in moderation. The quality of my life, and my health, is fine. Someday it might not be. The same is true for you. Whether I drop over dead tomorrow or live to be 104, I’m not going to enjoy it any more by skipping the Diet Coke or excessive chocolate consumption. Keep your own guilt.

If I’m not in need of a drug-abuse intervention or confined to my bed because I weigh 900 pounds, it’s not necessary to say something about what I should or should not be eating, unless I ask you. Just about anyone eating overtly unhealthily isn’t doing so from a lack of knowledge, but other reasons. You’re not helping with those other reasons, I promise you. You might even be making them very much worse.

Enjoy the food you enjoy. Don’t enforce that on anyone else but yourself, especially when you’re sitting down to eat with them.

UPDATE: So this post went viral (July 5, 2013)

Read the Anatomy Of A Viral Blog Post series.

475 responses

  1. See, this is exactly the kind of thing that I think should go on Medium instead of on an individual blog: more people should read it than the ones who get to do so just because they happen to read the blog in question.

    (Note that this isn’t the same thing, even remotely, as “…because it will increase your readership.” The point isn’t what this kind of thing, more widely read, can do for you. It’s what it can do for readers, even just potential ones.)

  2. You may be correct. I am still struggling with what to do with Medium. I so want to hold onto my own content on my own property, and I think double posting (direct word-for-word copy) is lazy…

    Perhaps I’ll consider this the “draft” and redo it a bit tighter on Medium. Thanks for the nudge. My habit is my own blog first.

  3. Mine too. But this is really good, and you clearly worked too hard on it to let it remain a hothouse flower nobody ever gets to look at. Clumsy metaphor but you get the idea.

  4. In view of this post I am reminded again of Romans 14:2 – “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” I am contemplating pouring out my next glass of carrot juice in the sink….and pray that my faith will be strengthened…and then possibly substitute a quart of Cherry Coke and an OHenry bar. Boy do I long for the good ol’ days of chocolate malts and cheeseburgers at the local greasy spoon. But I do still enjoy salads, fruits, and veggie burgers….even though it confirms my weak faith.

    A great column, post, whatever you call it. Very insightful. I concur…these purists (only organic, no vaccines, nothing genetically modified) should take a trip to a 3rd world country and see what most of the population eats, exists on, and are thankful for.

  5. You mentioned tomatoes…

    On my property grows a plant that has a fruit that looks like a little orange-yellow tomato when fully ripe. It’s deadly nightshade (AKA belladonna). Both it and the tomatoes we love are in the nightshade family. One reason that tomatoes have fewer pest than some other plants is due to this familial link.

  6. All the people I know who are granola, organic type food nazis are urban yuppies – the only people who could afford the granola organic nazi lifestyle.

  7. Loved your text. By the way, yes there is an eating disorder associated with “extreme healthy” eating habits, it is called orthorexia. People obssesed with food qualtiy, act as if eating “well” is a virtue, and sometimes eating “Well” is the only quality they have.

  8. Interesting post. One thing on that: (1) Tomatoes are Mexican (the name comes from Nahuatl word, tomatl) and are one of a horde of great things from the New World, like maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, manioc and our all-time favorite, tobacco.

  9. I see your point, but as someone who suffered greatly until I changed my diet and way of living, I can tell you that many of my friends and family have looked askance at me and asked questions like: Why don’t you eat like the rest of us? What’s wrong with this food? Grandma ate it and she lived to be….on and on. So I just shut up and say, “Let’s talk about the weather.” Insensitivity runs both ways.

  10. I feel like this was confusing the issues of people who are smug about their food choices & don’t know how to let someone have privacy with their own food vs. someone informed choices of what to eat/drink/splurge on.

    I totally ate a Zero bar today on a mama break, but in general try for organic, grass fed, non GMO, blah blah. Because it matters. Food choices matter. I’m going to die. Everyone is going to die. Yes. But as a cancer survivor and someone who is thrust into the world of food allergies & intolerances with my daughter, I have seen first hand how food choices matter.

    I’m not smug & annoying about it. I don’t judge mom’s who bring their McD’s to a playdate while I pop open my daughter’s Planetbox. I don’t. (although I might silently curse them as I crave fries for the rest of the day.) It’s just a different choice. Or maybe that was their splurge meal for the week. Whatever.

    I guess I agree with your overall thought, but also believe that what we put into our body is important & felt like that perspective was mocked a bit.

  11. Ugh, and then I wrote “informed choices” which sounds smuggy but I meant as more all the stupid research I’ve done lately on food b/c of health issues etc. vs. the way I personally used to eat & thought was healthy.

  12. Outstanding! At one point in my life I lived in a wood-heated, unplumbed mountain cabin, and grew or raised virtually all my family’s food. Then we turned our own animals into meat and froze, dried or canned our own vegetables. If we wanted to be warm, we cut the trees down, cut them to stove lengths, split them, and built and maintained a fire. We still have a garden and raise our own beef and pork, but let me tell you, central heating, indoor plumbing, grocery stores and things of that ilk make life BETTER. You can get by without, but you spend all your time providing yourself with the necessities. And who doesn’t want a better life?

  13. I would like to shake your hand. Or buy you a Diet Coke. Or maybe hug you.

    This hit home for me for many reasons. I work in agriculture, and represents ALL facets of the agriculture industry. Big, small, conventional, organic, and all sorts of segments that fall in between agriculture stereotypes. I often feel like I’m caught in the middle of a big tussle, neutral ground in a roiling debate that’s quickly approaching a boiling point.

    Sometimes, being Switzerland is exhausting. I love all of agriculture and all of its many forms and faces.

    Additionally, as someone who has beaten an eating disorder, this knocked my socks off. Food is something that is deeply personal to most people, often moreso than we’d ever like to admit. And while I’m realistic that very few people eat as healthy as they should, shaming anyone for it is wrong. It’s hard enough to navigate the murky waters of individual well-being without everyone and their mama adding their two cents without any better incentive than to feed their own insecure egos.

    And, healthy looks different on everyone. For instance, because of my history with eating disorders, I typically NEED to eat red meat at least a few times a week. I’m anemic, and can often tend toward protein deficiency. This is just ONE example, but I could go on for days.

    Instead, I’ll stop here and say what a well-written, thought-provoking post this is, and express my sincere appreciation to you for sharing it. Best wishes to you, and keep up the great work.

  14. Hi Julie,

    Ha! Your post reminds me of the folks who ran a run group I was in a few years ago. When I said that my favorite post-run food was Oreos, they lectured me about the transfats in them, and one even helpfully suggested that I buy some brand they sell at Whole Foods instead. I politely pointed out that eating a couple Oreo cookies after a 16-mile run wasn’t going to kill me — and, if it did, at least I would die happy. They looked shocked and shut up.

  15. You have such a mocking tone of parents trying to teach kids healthy eating. Shame on you! It’s not inciting fear to promote health. Instead of saying, “candy is the devil,” I definitely teach moderation and teach my kids how to make a better choice by reading labels. Our bodies are temples and poisioning them with chemicals, GMOs and pesticides is NOT going to go away just by not thinking about it. Give me a break. We don’t need to know your exercise routine and diet coke habits just to hear a preach about how we should talk to others about food. If you changed food to “cigarettes” in your posting it would be a joke! Just keep smoking! Do what you want! Just change your thoughts about smoking and life will be great! People will one day and wake up and realize their food is being poisioned by corporations looking for a stronger bottom line. After waking up they will throw this junk food to the curb like we have done with cigarettes… you are honestly so sad to write a post encouraging people not to talk about healthy lives. I feel sorry for you. Stop writing judgments about people judging others.

    • Sorry you were offended, Jeannie, but you might want to re-read a few paragraphs of this post carefully before you judge me for mocking while telling me to stop judging right afterwards. At no point do in discourage healthy lives. In fact, I encourage it, in the vein of moderation. Along with a healthy mind, part of which is perspective. If you’ve ever been to a third world country and seen abject starvation and hunger, you would understand some of what I’m saying here. Thanks for reading.

  16. I really enjoyed your post (shared by @aimeewhetstine). Mental health is as important as physical. I coach people to define and implement a lifestyle that brings them wellness on their own terms, while educating on the importance of physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

    Table manners include proper utensil usage as well as refraining from negative comments on other’s menu choices:) My advice? If you don’t believe in Diet Coke, don’t buy it, drink it, or smoke it.

  17. AT the time I was born, my mother had polio. We grew up eating dairy products that did not include 2% or skim milk.We had “real” milk. We ate meat and potatoes, every day, and lots of it. Our parents, friends, neighbors, relatives etc did not carry around a box of sanitary wipes. My mother had this old farm saying , something about “let the earth run through you”. Most of the time, we used the 5 second rule: if you dropped something, you picked it up, wiped it off and ate it, unless it was dropped into something obviously inappropriate.
    And yet people had far fewer food and environmental allergies then than they do now. We did, admittedly have coronary artery disease at much higher levels, but science and modern medicine have made tremendous advances in that area. And yes, I had one of those grandfathers who lived to 92, drank wine daily, and probably would have lived longer, had he not fallen asleep with a lit cigar. Am I suggesting any of these are habits to emulate? Not exactly. What I am saying is that in our zeal to kill every germ in sight, while we have solved many problems, we have created a fair number as well. Some of the vaccines we give our children may be more harmful than the diseases they were supposed to protect them from. It may be time for us to step back, and take a look at what political agendas have been injected into scientific thought on a whole host of subjects. Science is empirical. And reality is what it is. We’re all going to die. And I don’t think my choice of organic produce over the regular every day stuff had anything to do with the fact I had a serious, nearly lethal cancer, the fact I’ve survived it for nearly 12 years, or that I still eat red meat, real butter and the less expensive produce. More likely, exposure to toxic burning things of all manner for years, working as a firefighter, probably had something to do with that. I doubt diet coke will get me to my grave any quicker than regular coke. Or Pepsi. Or Dr. Pepper.

  18. Great blog.
    This year, I put in my first home-grown garden. I was relishing the fact that we would, for the summer at least, have lovely organic salads and vegetables and plenty of those. A couple of days ago, I had a moment of horror when I realized I hadn’t checked to see if the compost I had added was organic. OH NO! Here we were, eating a beautiful, fresh, dark green spinach/leaf salad and now I was depressed that I may have ruined it somehow.
    My point is, we go too far. You made a great point that obsessing about the little things is excessive. Our fear and worries and resulting STRESS are more likely to send us to an early grave than the small allowances we make.
    Thank you for the article, it was timely!

  19. Isn’t it fab when a post goes viral 😉

    I’m liking your direct style of writing – no nonsense and matter and fact and yes, give me the occasional can of diet coke but keep me away from the handwashing 😉

  20. I liked your post. I was born in 1955. I’m at the age now where if I eat something ‘bad’ for me it just does not matter. I will be dead more sooner than later. I shop for organic as much as I can so that the up and coming farmers can compete with the big agra farm business. I do not think using all these chemicals is a good thing.I want organic to give the big guys a run for their money.

  21. Preach it, sister! My only quibble would be that treadle sewing machine — it was a miracle for the women who had to put in every stitch by hand. Otherwise? What you say.

    • @Canon: Since my dad is a REAL farmer, I’m aware of Monsanto. This wasn’t a blog post about Monsanto, patented seed, etc. This was a post about moderation and perspectives on food. Thanks for reading.

  22. Great article. I love this line, “I am repulsed by the idolatry that my body is so precious that I must find something more healthy and pure, that these non-organic fruits lack enough nutritional value for the little god that is me.”

    I have felt that way so many times in certain company, but you articulate it so well.

  23. I’m wondering folks, if rather than arguing about whether you can afford organic or not – you should focus a bit on the whole picture. The Farm Bill subsidizes those High Fructose Corn Syrups that sweeten everything (read your labels); tomatoes shipped from Florida use what could be called slave labor to produce (Tomatoland – the book); our farmland is being eaten up by development and the average age of the farmer is 58 or 59. The food system and all its availablity and ease of preparation etc. etc. is killing our soil and without soil, there will be no life on this planet. Call me extreme, but we need to begin thinking about eating WHOLE, REAL FOOD grown by farmers, not just for our health, but the health of the planet. Think seven generations. This is a brief, and not too indepth paragraph… but there are plenty of resources out there. As far as diet coke goes. I haven’t had a can of soda since 1972 short of a rootbeer float every four years or so. I chose not to drink it because I would much rather eat something that has nutrients in it and flavor instead. So, give some thought to how the food you eat gets to you and by whom… before you judge those of us that are supporting small diversified farms and farmers in the state.

    • Interesting thoughts, @spidersue. I really want to point out here that 1) I grew up on a small farm in North Dakota, 2) I’m not unfamiliar with the farming issues you and others describe, 3) this really isn’t a post about the state of agriculture, Monsanto, and subsidies. This is a post about the “food police” who prowl around and lecture and make others feel less of a human or guilty about what they eat, perspectives on food and hunger, the value found in technology and progress (no, it is not all bad), and stepping back and rethinking die-hard beliefs about whether you ought to make someone feel horrible because they happened to like Oreos, for example. Again, I cannot state enough that I am *very* familiar with small farming, since that is where my roots are. This is not a blanket post on the state of agriculture. Please don’t make it into that. Thanks for reading.

  24. Great article Julie! I caught this on the “viral” surge, and I am grateful that I did. Thanks for injecting some common sense perspective into some of the “food nazi” behavior. We have the safest, most accessible food in the world.
    I am not going to debate the different technologies as some of your readers seem to want to do I certainly have opinions, but that was not the point of your post in the first place), but when our biggest health problems are obesity and chonic diseases caused by abundance, as opposed to starvation, parasitism, and infectious disease, I feel very fortunate. Some people are just determined to be unsatisfied, and I think at some level they are sustained by it. Great blog!

  25. This is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read. Feel free to eat whatever you like. Don’t accuse me of being a snob because I don’t wanna put that shit in my body.

    And if you don’t like your friends, get some new ones.

  26. I would also argue that even if I AM confined to bed because I weigh 900 lbs, it is still none of anyone’s business what I put in my body. z

  27. I’m fat. My brother’s thin. He has some judgements about that (that I don’t share.) He drinks Diet Coke not because he likes it, but because he wants to drink soda but feels the sugar would make him fat, i.e. “unhealthy”. So yeah, given that context I kinda like to point out to him the hypocrisy/irony of using artificial sweeteners to achieve that. I don’t condone concern-trolling, but sometimes it’s not always just about that, is my point.

  28. Thanks for this article! Feeling validated in so many ways. After my healthy, always-ate-right, exercised-three-times-a-week father died from cancer the same year I graduated from college, I think my whole mentality towards food shifted. We all will die at some point in our lives…it could be tomorrow…it could be in 50 years. I don’t know the day, but I do know I’ll be enjoying the food we’ve been blessed with and sharing it with my family and others. It may not be all organic or completely free of fillers, pesticides, MSG’s or ABC’s…but it will be good! Thanks for this post where you said what I’ve been feeling so much more eloquently than me!

  29. I really loved this, other than the bit about avoiding GMOs. The food snobbery is just so arrogant. People assume that I don’t “know” (in quotation marks because it’s often not even remotely factual) all that they know. I’ve heard all this shit before. And they are truly hung up on purity above all else. You can eat well most of the time, but if you occasionally go crazy with Oreos or ice cream or pizza or anything else that isn’t 100% nutritious, it’s like you’re “dirty” in those people’s eyes. I’m all about sustainable eating– I need to eat in a way that is sustainable for me.

    The thing is, I know sometimes I go overboard with unhealthy food, so I wouldn’t let my kid have pretty much anything with added sugar or salt until he was 3, because I wanted to make sure that he would fully understand the concept of a “sometimes” food before I introduced it, and I didn’t want him to take it for granted. He loves fruit and veggies and brown rice and all kinds of healthy foods, and I’m so glad. I want eating healthy to be almost effortless for him, so I’m not a Homer Simpson live-alike, and I know healthy eating is important, but it’s not healthy if the pursuit of it is making you sick, and it’s even worse to appoint yourself the Food Savior and evangelize at every manufactured opportunity.

    Most of those “you”s are directed at the people described in your post, others are generic, just in case that was unclear. Anyway, thank you for this post. I find it satisfying to see some positive feedback here. My area could seriously use some people who agree with this.

  30. Although there is nothing wrong with being concerned for one’s health, there becomes a point where it becomes paranoia. Yes there’s an awful lot of terrible foods out there, but there’s a lot of decent food too and it’s not, ‘organic’. We should be glad and thankful there is even food on our tables, why wasn’t the old response to complaining children, “There are starving kids in China, eat your broccoli.” At the time there WAS starving children (And still in the western portions of their nation). During the Japanese-Chinese wars people were brought to the point of cannibalism.

    We live in a very tolerable society, socially, economically and physically. So although we might see many problems in the future and undoubtedly some of them may very well happen, enjoy the every once in a while soda! It’s not going to kill you.

  31. Great article (even though I hate diet coke!). I just want to echo what others said about your comment about GMOs. They are dangerous in a way that goes far beyond body and food purity and are threatening our environment to the point that we may not be able to produce food from our soil in the future. I try to think with my dollars and spend money on food and items that support local farmers and businessmen, not Big Ag, Big Food, and all the other corporate welfare giants.

    • @JBC I’m not actually a huge lover of Diet Coke, either, which is why I drink it so rarely. A bit of irony in all of this, I suppose. I do want to point out I don’t actually come out in favor of GMOs in this post. I list them as things to try and avoid when you can. I’m not sure why that particular paragraph is getting missed. This is a post about moderation, i.e. doing the best you can and not being made to feel badly about yourself by those who are extremely pernicious about food and get after you when you don’t always make the best choice. But thanks so much for reading. Appreciate it.

  32. “The jogger still dies young of the heart attack. The vegetarian still gets cancer. The butter-eater and wine-drinker and cigar-smoker lives to be 98. You can’t predict.”

    Chronic cardio isn’t healthy, much less in the joint destroying form of jogging. Vegetarians miss out on critical B vitamins and healthy fats, sometimes causing serious mental issues (the National Socialists were militant vegetarians). Butter is extremely healthy so long as you’re dairy tolerant and the cows are grass fed. Nothing wrong with wine in moderation. Cigar smoking… can’t help you there.

    The big problem is that we’ve had credentialed idiots telling us what is healthy and getting it wrong, so we get the predictable backlash of confused people throwing up their hands and eating whatever the heck they want. Plus federal farm subsidies make industrial food-like products appear cheap, at least until Type 2 diabetes and various other chronic ailments kick in. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re deliberately ginning up business for the Medical Industrial Complex.

    Read “Practical Paleo” for a good overview. Read “Folks, this ain’t normal” because it’s awesome. Eat a nice steak make from grass fed cattle, not sickly tax subsidized GMO corn fed feedlot animals. Have a sweet potato slathered in butter from pastured cows. Throw in some organic veggies seasoned with sea salt (yes, they lied about salt being unhealthy too). Maybe even have some fries cooked in tallow, as God and Ray Kroc intended. Bacon? Yes please. Trust me, not suffering here.

    But stay away from petrochemical neurotoxins. Artificial colors, flavoring, BHA/BHT/TBHQ preservatives? Almost all are petroleum derivatives and big causes of ADHD. Try to avoid fluoride. Try to avoid bromine, which is another reason to avoid bread that switched from healthy iodine to bromine dough conditioner in the 1970s. (Iodine deficiency is a huge problem and industrial iodized salt is woefully inadequate in the face of plentiful bromine, fluoride and chlorine.) Stay away from soy and its phytic acid (antinutrient) and phytoestrogens. Avoid corn, soy and canola oils in favor of olive, coconut and animal fats. Favor real honey over refined sugar when you have to have sweetener.

    Ask yourself why things that are healthy just happen to grow really well on small farms and don’t give industrial ag any advantage.

    Sanitation is good, and responsible for nearly all of modern health progress. Just don’t overdo it. Immune systems need training. And the liberal use of antibiotics, the tactical nukes of medicine, causes all sorts of havoc. Sometimes you really do need to nuke something but it shouldn’t be the first think you reach for. Vaccines are a whole ‘nother complicated rant.

    All I know is that I look good for an old man. Wish I’d figured this stuff out when I was young and it mattered.

  33. Yeah… I get it, Julie… but may I just add that I have felt similar sentiments on the other side. If I choose NOT to eat or drink food that is detrimental to my health of the health of my children, then I should be free to do so without being labeled as “too precious” or accused of living “a shallow life of pursuing bodily health and not a robust mental existence.” I shouldn’t have to “defend my dietary history” either, or explain why every event that I or my children attend, be it a party, soccer practice, book club, music recital, etc. does NOT require candy, cupcakes or pop to make it a success. Also, I may respect your arguments a bit more if you had mentioned the other reasons that some of us “food police” are so passionate about what we put into our shopping carts — and mouths. Our food choices have a huge impact on our environment, how millions of farm animals live and die, how millions of farm workers are treated and compensated, and how we, as a nation, will be able to afford the spiraling costs of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other preventable diseases caused by poor nutrition. And then there’s this: No matter how much we like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists free to consume as much bad food as we damn well please, we are actually interconnected and interdependent on each other. The choices we make as individuals affect our collective health and the sustainability of our entire planet. (Kind of like vaccinations, but let’s not go there.) :-) Nonetheless, thanks for putting it out there and writing what you believe.

  34. You seem too educated and intelligent to not understand the damage done to the human race by the the agricultural and processed food revolution based on what you call “food.” Diet Coke is not food. Hell, what we know as corn today– especially round up corn– is not food. No, it is not good enough for us to eat– it treats us like we are the insect whose stomach it is designed to destroy. Do you think that children of impoverished countries always ate corn? Or that children in Asia always ate rice? In fact, they did not. Every country had their own agricultural revolution right along with the western world and went from hunting and gathering to planting massive crops of nutrition-devoid so-called food.

    Your disgust towards parents who don’t let their kids eat corn syrup is beyond offensive and judgmental. It poisons our organs. And food dye? Are you serious? THAT IS NOT EVEN REMOTELY A FOOD. It causes hyperactivity in normal kids- do you know what it does to the victims of this autism epidemic we’re in the midst of? Just because something is edible and blessed by the FDA doesn’t make it a food.

    Are you aware of the explosion of food allergies, asthma, ADHD, childhood diabetes, autism and aspergers due to these vaccines and GMO foods that you defend? Do you not know any children impacted by this or is your head in the ground?

    People aren’t eating organic because they think it’s nutritious; they eat it so they don’t trigger cancer cells in their body to infest them throughout. You don’t seem to know the difference between eating local and eating indigenous– eating local is about allowing the fruit to ripen on the vine and not spending any money on fuel shipping it to you. It doesn’t have anything to do with where the plants were introduced from.

    The butter eater and wine drinker living to 98? That’s because they’re real, whole foods with tens of thousands of years of history of being consumed by the human body. The cigar smoker? Well, if he’s eating so well he’s probably keeping those cancer cells suppressed. My grandfather smoked a pack a day from the age of 12 and lived well into his 80s.

    That said, you sound otherwise exceptionally healthy and if I had an exceptionally healthy friend who wanted to drink partial cans of diet coke 2 times a week, I certainly would not judge. I also don’t think it’s proper to criticize anything someone eats while they’re in the middle of eating it.

    Most people who drink diet sodas do so all day long, and the rest of their diet is equally appalling, so you are far from the norm. I think there are a lot of grossly unhealthy eaters who feel justified based on your post but 99.99% of them aren’t making all of the other efforts that you do.

    And I don’t even care if they do feel justified by your post because their nastiness isn’t my problem– I only worry about me and mine. I’m happy to provide information to anyone who seeks it, but when I see a post like this, full of hatred and misinformation, it makes me cringe at who you’re impacting. Maybe those people had open minds and were seeking the truth, but instead their heads are filled with this garbage.

    • @Robyn Please review the article and see if anything you just described has anything to do with the point of the article. If you think this post is full of hatred, then this is clearly a sore spot for you, and I’m glad you read the post so you can get a feel for what many people are tired of: constant lecturing about food and the assumption that if you don’t agree, you are not educated and intelligent and that you just need a lecture and some more “information” to be better at eating. That is not accurate. Thank you for reading.

  35. This article is so bizarre I’m almost at a loss for words.

    I’m not sure that “Put unhealthy things in your body because you can” and “Allow your friends to poison themselves in ignorance because their are poor people in the world” are valid arguments.

    • @George “I’m not sure that “Put unhealthy things in your body because you can” and “Allow your friends to poison themselves in ignorance because their are poor people in the world” are valid arguments.” are exactly the arguments I’m making here, are they? Additionally, one man’s ignorance is another man’s (or woman’s) desire to live a life of moderation. Don’t mistake anything here for ignorance. If that’s the takeaway for you, you’ve missed the point. Thanks for reading.

  36. Yes, yes, and yes! I “went organic” after being diagnosed with Stage I triple-negative breast cancer. However, I am not vegan. I am not 100% “organic.” I drink wine. And I enjoy the occasional diet coke myself.

  37. I am sorry, but at 65 years of age, and hearing and watching those around me falling like flies to cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other diseases that ‘were not as prevalent’ before all this crap was added to our foods… or when the food was actually food, and not just made up of fake ingredients… and ARE CAUSED by these same things. Meat used to be good, until the antibiotics and chemicals were added to make them grow faster and get fatter… but all those same additives do the same to our bodies. Such negativism is not healthy, and to me, it sounds as if you are in great denial of letting go of those things you have come to find comfort in, which is how they get us hooked in the first place. Besides, if you are only drinking a “half a can”, then are you wasting coke, therefore wasting money (so I guess you are loaded?), and also wasting the aluminum (do you recycle, or is that a hoax and a bother, as well). Chemo kills. Aspertane KILLS. Pesticides, kill. All of this stuff “they add” is not good for us, and the choice to just do what you want and be irresponsible is, yes… YOUR CHOICE, but telling others to be as ignorant and carefree about life, is irresponsible in my view. It’s like religion. You can believe what you want, in your home or church, but it is not right (or fair) to go out into the world and say that what YOU BELIEVE, is the right way, or even a good way, when it might just not be… scientifically. Sorry… I don’t believe a word you said.

    • @Oldrnwhyzer1 You are welcome to not believe a word I said, but that doesn’t change the truth of what I said: Moderation is good. And no, I am not financially “loaded” and busily taking one sip of Diet Coke and pouring the rest of it down the drain. Diet Coke also comes in tiny little miniature cans. Your statement “Such negativism is not healthy” I completely agree with. Please go back and reread the comment you just posted to see if you can detect any positivity located there. Thanks for reading.

  38. I both agree and disagree here… yes, we are all going to die, and we should certainly be grateful for what we do have even when it isn’t as “pure” as it could be. And of course it is fine to drink and eat junk foods in moderation. I agree with the commenter who waited to expose her child to refined sugar and such until he was about three; this lets them develop a taste for natural foods so they may tend to prefer them as older kids. And they should be allowed to have treats here and there so that there aren’t these “forbidden foods” that tempt them. And yes, it is hypocritical to tell people while they are eating something that it is bad for them. Chances are high that they do something that could harm them, too – oh, like driving a car. 😉 Just for a frame of reference, I think that governor who wanted to ban all large soda sizes was very wrong.

    However, I think if we just accept the way things are that the big corporations – who don’t have our health in their best interest – will continue making unhealthy foods the norm and continue doing things that harm our healthy food supply. We do need to try to work towards a better way regarding food production. Junk food is better than no food, non-organics are better than no food, absolutely. But shouldn’t we do the best we can do (as a general rule, allowing for treats, deviations due to whatever reasons that come up in our lives)? All anyone can do is try their best, but that will look different for many people, and it is also not easy when the food industry makes healthier foods harder to obtain and afford.

    But stressing about it – yeah, that isn’t going to help anyone’s health. Work towards improving the way things are, grow some of your own food, do the little things you can, but above all, trust in God that you are doing the best you can in a fallen world.

    • @Erin I think that’s what I was saying here in pointing out the value of moderation and doing what you’re able to do, with a level of forgiveness to yourself and others, when you make choices. I completely agree. We should do the best we can, but not stress about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Erin.

  39. And I should have read more comments. JBC, Brian, and ShutUpMama, yes – all excellent points. I, too, at only age 33, see a huge difference in the availability and expectation of having candy at every single children’s event. It has gone from an occasional treat (a lollipop in the bank drive-thru) to an almost everyday thing that kids expect (a reward for good behavior at school, for instance). People have offered my not-yet-one yr olds lollipops before. that kind of thing just didn’t happen everywhere 30 years ago. It used to be a big treat, something special!

  40. Julie, as a self-professed private person who isn’t wanting to handle the viral nature of this post, why don’t you just take it down rather than accusing every single person who doesn’t agree with you as missing the point of your post? We all got the point. The point is that anyone who goes above and beyond the norm to eat well and protect their kids from garbage in the food supply is arrogant and smug. Anyone who disagrees with you is devoid of reading comprehension skills. You can’t figure out why people are jumping on your GMO statement? Because it’s WWIII out there trying to get this poison out of our country. Because your statement of “trying to avoid GMO here and there” does not at all sound like someone who remotely understands the dangers of eating roundup corn or soy and it does not sound like you try to exclude it from you diet. You don’t get how that comes across? You don’t understand that the old adage of “everything in moderation” doesn’t apply to food-like substances that aren’t even food?

  41. Where are the facts, as the title of the article promised? This is just a reactionary piece. I get it, food nazis suck, but there is no way you can tell me that the chemicals found in diet coke are anywhere near considered food. Police officers keep cans of coke in their trunks because it is really great at getting bloodstains off the road after an accident. Fact.

  42. I am also one who doesn’t drink coffee, tea (rarely), smoke, drink but I do drink one Pepsi a day. I stay away from diet drinks because the substitute sugars give me a headache. But those who drink them, should know that the shelf life of diet sodas is less than half of real sugar filled sodas. The sugar substitute stuff if it has expired can turn into tanneric (sp?) acid which is not good for you . (shelf life for diet drinks is usually 3 months…..regular soda is 6 months for a reason).

  43. Thank you for sharing; this nation has gone off the deep end on more issues than I can count – When a first grader gets suspended from school for hugging a classmate, you know something has gone terribly wrong.

  44. I agree to an extent (I try to be crunchy organic type and vote more left than right but I drink Coke and believe in chain gangs!!!). It reminded me of the person who doesn’t wear a bike helmet but insists on organic apples – guess what is more likely to kill you?!? Basically I think the big problem here are people who have a holier than thou attitude and like to criticise everyone around them. I would never criticise you for drinking diet coke. The people you were eating lunch with were rude. That said, I like to choose organic food etc. if and when I can because I choose to believe it is a bit better for you. The “appreciation of food on your plate because some people have nothing” argument is valid but I still think big companies do like to pawn their wares on the poor so I have issues with that (I have family in third world country so I know whereof I speak…). Anyway, good job for the thought provoking post.

  45. The “We’re all going to die anyway” logic is not sound. Your children will eventually die but should you expedite the process by letting them play in the street or not caring for them when they are sick? Why then would you willingly feed them carcinogens, chemicals, and GMOs?

    As for the bit about locally sourced food, transplanting seeds from another continent to grow at home is completely different than importing food from thousands of miles away, most of which is done on the back of slave or close to, slave labor.

    Although it is difficult and complicated to base our consumption choices on ethics, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  46. I find it amusing how many people are commenting on your post–either favorably or critically–and feel compelled to mention that they try to eat organic, or avoid GMOs, or are anti-big agriculture, or whatever. The point of your article is, as I see it, two-fold: (1) be moderate and don’t worry so much, and (2) shut the eff up about what other people are doing and eating. I agree with you 100%. And I don’t think anyone–including you–needs to know what my eating habits are in order for me to let you know that I agree! It speaks to our own insecurities when we feel it’s necessary to let you and the other readers know that we are not 900-pound, bed-bound consumers of Oreos, and therefore entitled to eat without being judged. While I think your post is pretty perfect, I even got the sense from you that you felt a small desire to let us know that you only have Diet Coke as a treat, as if somehow your healthy habits make the message more palatable. Frankly, if you had Diet Coke with every meal and never exercised at all, your message would still be important. Whether one is fat and sedentary or thin and active has, in fact, no bearing on the shared desire we all have to be loved and supported by those we share to spend a life–or just a meal–with. I don’t want to be loved in spite of my meal choices any more than I want to be loved because of my meal choices. Or what I wear, or how I parent, or what I drive, or where I vacation, or if I worship. I think the most important part of your message is that we could all afford to shut up a bit more often and simply enjoy the company of others without worrying about or judging their choices. I appreciate your post, and I hope that my support of your message is completely accepted in spite of the fact that everyone will just have to guess whether I’m supportive because I want everyone to leave me alone about being grossly overweight and unhealthy, or because I think everyone deserves to eat what they want without having to fend off criticism and commentary.

    • @Rachel Excellent points. You’re correct; I, too, started with caveats. I think we do that to lessen the accusations and such that you describe. Your points are well made. Thanks for reading!

  47. AWESOME, VERY well said. concur, agree, endorse, applaud, and will share on my facebook just because it’s awesome.

  48. One addendum to what I wrote earlier… whether the attribution goes to Oscar Wilde or Julia Child, this quote seems particularly apt to me:
    “Everything in moderation — including moderation.”

  49. Thank you, a thousand times over, thank you. You have managed to put my own rambling thoughts into the most beautifully worded essay. You are my hero, Julie R. Neidlinger. At least for today. :)

  50. Julie, I love this article and how you put things in perspective…I have a few links here that some of the “informed” people making comments here should read…of course if they can’t “read” your blog post in its entirety and understand the point you are trying to make, then they most likely won’t read the articles from the links I’m attaching….

    First of all, I see people making comments linking artificial sweeteners and preservatives to ADHD and hyperactivity in children (which I’m in no way trying to argue against, but simply wish to put into perspecitve)…for that I have two links…one is about the French approach to ADHD, which is based on the premise that French children don’t need drugs to control their behavior, all they need is strong parenting (read as ADHD is extremely over-diagnosed in America):

    The seond link is for Brian becuase of his dire warning, “stay away from petrochemical neurotoxins. Artificial colors, flavoring, BHA/BHT/TBHQ preservatives? Almost all are petroleum derivatives and big causes of ADHD. Try to avoid fluoride. Try to avoid bromine…” I’m guessing he read the buzzfeed article:

    Unfortunately, all of this misinformation was debunked by an organic chemist…if anyone cares to digest some actual information, you can read his article here:

    Secondly, I find it amusing how “robyn” basically attacks your intelligence by saying, “You seem too educated and intelligent to not understand the damage done to the human race by the the agricultural and processed food revolution based on what you call “food.” But then goes on to state that, “The butter eater and wine drinker living to 98? That’s because they’re real, whole foods with tens of thousands of years of history of being consumed by the human body.” Really?!? Butter and wine have been around for tens of thousands of years?!? Where exactly did you get your information Robyn? Because the last time I checked, Native Americans were living on the North and South American continents for well over ten thousand years prior to European colonization without butter and wine…both butter and wine were introduced around the advent of agriculture in the fertile crescent, which was a little less than ten thousand years ago, and I find it hard to believe that they rapidly spread throughout the globe in such a short span of time…regardless, that isn’t tens of thousands of years…For goodness sake robyn, please read this article on the “paleo diet” and evolutionary physiology:

    Way to not back down Julie…thumbs up to you and your disgusting habit of drinking half a can of diet coke and throwing the rest away, and not recycling…*gasp

  51. I nominate Ms. Neidlinger for Secretary of Health and Human Services…or mayor of NYC.

    I’ve made these arguments to my holistic-nazi friends before–if it weren’t for preservatives, insecticides, industrialization etc…we wouldn’t be able to get food to people in need (among other things). There was so much more to your piece that resonated with me. Nicely done, Julie.

  52. Julie, as a writer, I’m sure you’re aware of the phrases you used within your post that would conjure up feelings of snideness (on your part) to readers who make a conscious effort to steer clear of processed, GMO, or high-fructose corn syrup food. As a writer, you no doubt knew that this would rub them the wrong way. And as a writer, there must have been a moment where, instead of being inclusive, you realized you were being exclusive for the purpose of proving that your personal *moderation* choices were somehow *better than* or *healthier than* everyone else’s, because someone said something to you about Diet Coke.

    For example:

    ” I get a bit upset at the arrogance that says the strawberries or apples or oranges stacked in heaping piles before me are “not good enough” because they are not organic.”

    For someone who chooses organic (and I am one of those people), I don’t do so because it’s “not good enough for me.” I do so because it’s not good enough for the earth, for the people I feed, for the industry of food. I choose it for myself, as well, of course, but that is secondary in my choice. Surely you must be aware that “voting with your dollar” does, in fact, work. And I vote with my dollar NOT to have Round-Up in the food supply. I vote with my dollar, because I care about what food is offered and available to EVERYONE at every grocery store. The more people vote organic, the more organic is grown.

    “I am repulsed by the idolatry that my body is so precious that I must find something more healthy and pure, that these non-organic fruits lack enough nutritional value for the little god that is me.”

    How in the world is caring for your own body considered idolatry? If you do not have the health of your body, your ability to contribute effectively to society is weakened. This point is unnecessarily inflammatory, and suggests that if we are conscious of our own food decisions, we’re worshiping a false god of some sort. The hypocrisy, really, in this statement is where I stopped being on your side and started feeling like I was being looked down on for caring about my own effectiveness (through my own health) as a human being. I don’t eat the way I do because I think I’m going to live forever. I eat the way I do because it assists me in being the best ME I can be on a daily basis. Is it idolatry that I choose real, organic food because I notice a marked decrease of my mental function, my energy, and my overall health any time I eat artificial sweeteners, processed foods, or high fructose corn syrup? Should I do those things just to remain “humble?” Is “moderation” weakening yourself in order to stay on par with some arbitrary way that “everyone else” is?

    “It ends up being an us-against-them battle waged against supermarkets, farmers, and anyone not making that gross runny organic yogurt that makes me throw up in my mouth (true story). It says the hell with “everything in moderation.”

    While I wholeheartedly agree with you that the culture of fear around food has become a monster in its own right, I’m not sure your suggestion that being conscious of your food choices at all times somehow excludes “everything in moderation.” For me, moderation is eating real foods that I make myself 90% of the time and eating out at locally owned restaurants the rest. Moderation, for me, is a homemade brownie before dinner if some night I really feel like it. It’s not, oh, I dunno … “We haven’t had Taco Bell this week. Let’s do it. Everything in moderation, right?” Everything in moderation is different for most people. For me, buying a bag of Doritos isn’t moderation – it’s excessive and unnecessary. I don’t deprive myself by not buying Doritos. I simply don’t want them (like I don’t want 99% of processed food out there). Someone else may think a bag of Doritos every grocery trip is moderation. And that’s fine. But to try to define what “moderation” should mean for everyone out there is why you’ve gotten a few people pretty upset.

    Finally, and this is the point that I want to drive home wholeheartedly and with everything I have to offer as a thoughtful human being:

    You say that things are better now than they were during homesteading times (where people slaughtered their own animals, or hung their own clothes, or grew their own food), but you fail to notice that other people have picked up the “nasty jobs” that we (you) are “too precious” to do.


    Other people slaughter your meat for you. But it’s still being slaughtered by people who hate doing it (trust me, they do – I’ve lived in slaughterhouse communities most of my life). The animals you are grateful for (I’m just guessing by the tone of your post that you don’t make an effort to buy pastured meat) live horrible lives and die terrible deaths; whereas, before they were part of the family farm, well kept and cared for until they were ready for humane slaughter that kept people VERY aware of the animal’s sacrifice in order for them to eat.

    And sweatshop workers crank out parts and put together your electronic washing machines and driers, so you don’t have to go through the horrid labors of hanging your own laundry out to dry. And then they go home and hang their own laundry.

    Every choice you make has repercussions, and most of the time if you choose not to be responsible for your own choices, those repercussions will fall on someone else. Someone else who does it simply because you have a dollar to spend, from which they will receive a penny, if they’re lucky.

    This begs the question: Is life really “so much better” now – are we really “so much happier” now – or have we just decided that instead of trying to learn how to “chop wood, carry water” until we understand our own effects on the world around us, we’ll just take those those “unsightly tasks” and push them into the shadows of our world where we don’t have to see the harm we’re doing to other people and our environment? Is “moderation” caring for yourself, doing your own work, or is it making someone else do it for you?

    So, while I understand what you were trying to say – I really do, and there are absolutely places where we agree – I fail to see how you can be confused when someone takes the words you chose to use (again, as a writer, you’re aware of the feelings those word choices will evoke) and finds that you’re judging their choices with vitriol and smug self-satisfaction that your beliefs are somehow *better than* theirs, because … hey … why on earth should anyone think the body they were given was *precious*.

    I’m sorry other people have made you feel like your choices are something worthy of judgment or something to be embarrassed of. That’s not a good way to feel, is it?

    • Grew up on the farm. Butchered chickens. Our pastured cattle taken to the local butcher, popped in the head with a bolt, per USDA standards, and packaged up for beef. Raised sheep in 4-H, for meat. Deer hunting/gutting.


      “I’m sorry other people have made you feel like your choices are something worthy of judgment or something to be embarrassed of. That’s not a good way to feel, is it?”

      What was that about patronizing and judging?

      And…thanks for reading.

  53. The reason it went viral is because all the kooks who believe every junk science meme about Aspartame are all handwringing that their narrative is under attack. Keep up the good work.

  54. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Friends and colleagues are forever warning me about the danger of eating red meat, eating red meat cooked on a charcoal grill, eating friend meat, eating any meat, eating white vegetables,eating gluten, eating dairy …. With all the worrying they do, I’m surprised they have the energy to lift a fork.

    Then I tell them about my grandmother, who passed when she was 98 after a life of frying everything, eating real ice cream and drinking lots of coffee. She died of complications of pneumonia. The week before she died, she was up in the top of her barn. tossing hay bales into a truck to drive out to her cattle.

    Then I eat my grilled burger and have a chocolate shake.

  55. “Just about anyone eating overtly unhealthily isn’t doing so from a lack of knowledge, but other reasons.” I totally disagree with this statement. As our culture OVERALL we think low-fat yogurt is healthier than full fat, we think diet soda is healthier than regular, we assume alternative sweeteners are healthier than white sugar, we think eggs will be bad for our heart, that soy milk is good for us, when it is incredibly hard to digest. I suffered for years in intense pain because I did not have the proper knowledge. I almost lost my health completely-sure we all die of something-but tell that to the mother who can’t take care of her baby and has a hard time standing in the shower because she is so weak who changed her quality of life and children’s quality of life through food. Tell that to the mother whose baby did not have one bowel movement for three weeks and counting and cried round the clock-tell that to the mother who fixed it through food-tell that to the mother who cleared her baby’s itchy, itchy eczema-her baby who was too little to scratch it on his own and was miserable-through food and new knowledge and understanding. “I am repulsed by the idolatry that my body is so precious that I must find something more healthy and pure, that these non-organic fruits lack enough nutritional value for the little god that is me.” I am repulsed by the idea that giving the best possible quality of life to my children who are allergic to almost everything and loving them by giving them a healthy, functioning mother is considered idolatry. I call it thankfulness that God led me to the right resources and knowledge to help us experience joy and relief from suffering. I give to the food banks from the grocery store through donation and I hate giving processed foods and think about that every time but I live paycheck to paycheck through buying the food my family needs to survive and I think it is better I give what I can to people who have NOTHING than turn away because I can’t give something better. Yes, we have always had ugly disease but there are other sides to the story. Some of the worst diseases faded out right at the time water supplies were being cleaned up. From the information I trust: Typhoid Fever actually died out without a widespread vaccination, Smallpox soared AFTER a mandatory vaccination was enforced, Polio and Diptheria were already on the decline BEFORE vaccinations were introduced. And finally, I don’t agree that it is appropriate to lecture others on their food choices while they are eating, but I DO believe it is my responsibility to inform those who are willing to listen about the lies and deception we have been brainwashed with and offer others HOPE. Have your occasional treat ma’am, I encourage you to do so, but just as you don’t want to be lectured by me, I don’t want to be told that I blame others for their suffering and that I am unforgiving and graceless when I desire nourished children and families and relief from a growing epidemic of chronic diseases that are devastating lives simply because the government, major food and drug companies feed us lies for their own profit.

  56. What ever happened to the public water fountain? And why is it that when I do find one, an thankfully drink from it, my friends are grossed out? Bring back the icky water fountains so people stop drinking from plastic bottles.

    • @Violet – It’s interesting you mention the public water fountain issue. I noticed that last year when I was traveling, wondering where in the heck were the water fountains. They are more difficult to find, perhaps perceived as the phone booth: not longer necessary? Anyway, thanks for reading.

  57. The same people who won’t allow their children to eat sugar and feed them only organic will quickly tell us the poverty is no excuse for not doing well in school.

  58. I agree to a certain extent; I don’t judge anyone for what they do. If you want to smoke cigarettes, that’s your choice. If you want to eat 50 doughnuts a day, that’s your choice. As long as you understand what you’re doing is unhealthy and still choose to do so. And, as long as you don’t use any Medicare so I don’t have to buy your Jazzy Scooter; and, as long you don’t use the same health insurance company I use, so that I don’t have to pay higher premiums. And, keep in mind that in the United States, people who can do anything in moderation are rapidly becoming the exception rather than the rule.

    Maybe you do not need to eat organic to be healthy. I’ll let that one go. I work out a lot, and generally eat healthy. I eat a lot of vegetables, but also eat my fair share of Ben N Jerry’s. However, I am fully aware of what I eat. I also possess some serious genetic advantages and work out pretty hard. But, I feel the public should be educated about what goes into their bodies. Just as the tobacco industry spent decades concealing the truth from consumers, so is the soda industry (and, all the other industries that profit from soda, including everyone from fast food chains to grocery stores to farmers) doing the same. And, this is where I take issue with your article.

    True, there have been a lot changes in food technology in the last 40 years. There have been a lot of changes in our dietary habits. There has also been an exponential increase in obesity and obesity related health conditions (including diabetes and hypertension). At the same time, health care costs are growing because of all the patients with these issues. You know, progress.

    There has also been an exponential increase in ADHD. What does consuming a bunch of food and beverages all day that spike your blood sugar, then cause you to crash have to do with your ability to pay attention or hyperactivity, you ask? Well, don’t ask, just give your children amphetamines. And, let’s keep selling sodas in schools. Because, you can trust kids to make rational choices about what they eat, just as you can trust kids to make rational choices in all other areas of their life. That’s why we let kids drink alcohol, vote, and drive. Because they’re so rational.

    One of the people who commented on this article said, “All the people I know who are granola, organic type food nazis are urban yuppies – the only people who could afford the granola organic nazi lifestyle.” Maybe he has a point. Studies show that obesity and obesity related diseases exist at a disproportionately higher rate among those in lower income brackets. Oh, and the reason it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy is because all these unhealthy foods containing corn are subsidized by the government to keep costs down. Furthermore, industries are geared to churn out unhealthy food. If consumer demand forced them to retune, they would retune, and “niche markets” would become the main market. But, ignorance keeps things the way they are.

    This article is called, “The Undeniable Facts About The Safety of Diet Coke,” but does not cite a single fact stating that Diet Coke is safe. Rather, it cites a bunch of opinions that the author is annoyed because people keep telling her that Diet Coke is not safe. Just as I’m sure smokers would get annoyed if people kept telling them smoking was bad, but that would not change the scientific fact that cigarettes are unhealthy. It’s fine to recognize that you don’t need to eat organic to be healthy, but you should also recognize that scientific fact that drinking soda is incredibly unhealthy, even “Diet Soda.” If you recognize that and still chose to drink it, that’s fine. That’s your right as an American. But, if you’re going to call it safe, then you’re lying to yourself and your lying to your readers.

    The public should be educated about what they eat and drink. In the case of soda (and other ridiculously sugary drinks), there have been multiple studies that have shown that it is just as detrimental to your health as cigarettes. Only, instead of dying at age 40 from lung cancer, you die at age 40 due to complications from diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. I’m not talking about you (the author), but I’m talking about the 40+ percent of Americans who can’t seem to do things in moderation or do not have the genetic advantages that you likely possess.

    For the past 100 or so years, we thought the nutrition was a simple equation: Fat and Calories consumed plus or minus Fat and Calories burned equaled total weight gain or weight loss. Just as in food technology, there has been a lot of progress in this department, and we have seen that it’s more complicated than the QUANTITY of fat and calories. What is equally as important is the QUALITY of the fat and calories.

    In particular, sugar (and substances your body treats like sugar, such as refined grains) in the insane amounts found in soda and breakfast cereals, has been shown to lead to obesity and all sorts of health problems. When you drastically spike your body’s blood sugar and allow it crash repeatedly, you’re destroying your body. If you want to see a great series on this, check out, “The Skinny on Obesity,” by Dr. Robert Lustig.

    And, when people see the word, “diet” on their soda, they are under the mistaken impression that it is somehow healthier than regular soda. People are unaware that there have been several studies done that have shown that artificial sweeteners have the same detrimental effects on health as regular old sugar (or, the dreaded High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is just highly concentrated sugar from corn; the equivalent amount of regular sugar is just as bad for your health as HFCS). This includes studies where they gave laboratory animals regular soda and diet soda (and a control group got no soda) and found that same weight gain among the rats given diet soda.

    Of course, people have a tendency to seize on genetic outliers: They see that person that can eat whatever they want, and never have any issues. And, people have a tendency to seize on these individuals and say, “See, this guy didn’t get fat from drinking soda; therefore, I’m going to ignore the millions who did.”

    Again, if you want to splurge and enjoy your life, then fine. But, don’t call Diet Coke “safe,” because it is not. It is incredibly unhealthy for you, and offers no nutritional value in return. Oh, in addition to spiking and dropping your blood sugar and making you obese, it’s also incredibly bad for your teeth. I would challenge you to find a single medical doctor or nutritionist who recommends drinking Diet Coke. And, don’t think that getting angry at people telling you it’s not safe because they’re not perfect can in any way change the fact that drinking diet soda is bad for you.

    I don’t judge people who chose to be obese. As long as you don’t use any Medicare, because then, my tax dollars are paying for all your additional medical costs.

    • @Patrick James: Thanks for your thoughts and opinions, and adding to the conversation. One note about the headline: it’s meant to be a bit facetious. As in, the purpose of a headline is to startle and grab attention and get the article read. I’d say, in this case, it certainly did that. In any case, thanks so much for reading.

  59. @Jonathan: I know the psychological changes that happened to me when I stopped consuming artificial food additives. It wasn’t what I expected either. ADHD is just the most common symptom presentation, not mine. Severity varies wildly. Some people can tolerate a lot, some go off the rails after the tiniest speck, I’m somewhere inbetween. Should any of this stuff exist simply to make cheaper food-like products? Should you assume that the government wouldn’t allow it if it were harmful? (No on both counts, just to be clear.)

    If these supposedly authoritative studies are correct, why are ADHD, autism, cancer, obesity, etc so rampant?

    Robb Wolf pretty much says it all about this authoritarian mindset here:

  60. If you don’t give some people direction on what to eat, how can you hope to make improvements in the way our society and culture treat food – and more importantly, the people who are eating it. I can certainly understand that it is rude on an individual level to point out someone’s eating habits as being inferior to your own, or from a place of self righteousness. I can also understand how it may look when a society turns up its nose at edible food while others are starving.

    I have to say though, that I think the point is being missed. The poorest people in the US, and probably in some other developed countries as well, eat the least nutritional food. It is one of the ways that they are oppressed in our society, and it is because our government subsidizes crops that are used in the production of nearly all (or possibly all) heavily processed food. Encouraging the current status quo of our food production methods means that this oppression will stay the same. In a capitalist society, with a government that is heavily in the pockets of large agricultural companies, one of the few ways to challenge this status quo is to actively purchase foods that are less processed.

    You are right that it is not entirely ignorance that fuels the unhealthy food habits in our society, and I think that quick judgements of people living these lifestyles should be avoided. However, the way to promote improvement in these peoples’ lives and in our society is not to silence the discussion on what is good or bad for people to be eating. Obviously, you drinking diet coke a few times a week is a very small issue. You are not personally killing the planet or yourself.

    You mentioned imported foods – or foods that aren’t locally grown. This is one way that our current system is, at times, oppressive to individuals in poor and developing countries. I think one of the best examples of this is currently quinoa. The incredible demand is stripping its region’s soil of nutrients, the workers who grow it receive far less for their crop than the profits made by foreign companies, and the impoverished locals are being robbed of food that could benefit their society. But even outside a directly human impact, importing foods from all over (for our own selfish convenience) has very many negative impacts on the environment. And obviously, impacts on the environment have the strongest impact on people in developing countries who rely on what they can reap from the soil. For god’s sake, we can live without every grocery store in Colorado carrying mangos. And again, if you don’t make some kind of effort to buy more locally produced foods (if you have the means – it is more difficult for lower income families), then the current system will remain in place and continue to do harm.

    Yes, we have an abundance of food, and yes we take it for granted, and yes we should consider ourselves lucky that we aren’t starving. Why does that mean we shouldn’t try to influence changes to the system on a personal level? Guilting people is generally not the answer, but ignoring the problem isn’t, either. How is it progress to blindly accept what has been put in front of us and maintain the status quo? How does moving towards more locally and sustainably grown crops mean that we have to revert to health standards from the 19th century? No one should go around nagging everyone they know about minor issues in their diet, but there needs to be a level of awareness about the impact of our decisions. Quite frankly, if you are not at least somewhat aware of the consequences of your actions, then your right to freedom of choice is suspect. Meaning the general you.

    There is sensationalism in our society, to be sure, but there is also a high level of complacency. A lot of people consume much they way you do – with an honest attempt to make good decisions accompanied by the occasional less-good decision. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. On an individual level: not such a big deal. When you consider the many millions in this and other western countries consuming this way: a much bigger issue (and that’s not considering the people who don’t make any effort – or who can’t). To address this, we can’t stop the narrative. They aren’t made-up problems, they have a real impact, and they deserve an honest, open, and vigorous discussion. I could be wrong, but your article strikes me as a force that might discourage some individuals from having that discussion with themselves and others.

    P.S. your argument regarding honeybees and tomatos doesn’t actually address the argument against current issues in our technology. That happened hundreds of years ago, they weren’t constantly transporting tomatos from the Americas to Italy, and both can be produced locally. Ironically, there are major issues with honeybees at the moment because of modern food production methods.

  61. I actually went back and forth in my head about whether I agreed with all of this or not. Part of me says, “ya, I love chocolate and if anyone told me I’d die tomorrow from eating it… I’d stuff my face with chocolate.” Then the other less hormonal/emotional part of me says, “ya, I love chocolate but if someone who cares about me really feels like I’m doing something bad for myself by eating it… I’d think hard about eating it again.” We do a lot of things that don’t make sense. We stuff ourselves in fast moving shuttles (cars, buses, trains, planes) to and from work. We sit in front of glowing screens for hours, matching colored candies (damn you, Candy Crush Saga), checking to see if anyone’s posted on our cute picture of a puppy, and other very, very important technological things. In general, our culture is full of extremes. We want to paint everything in black and white. This happens with our food choices, our child rearing, our politics… even down to what we wear and what phone we carry around. We pick a “team” and stick to it, come hell or high water. You’re “right” for choosing to eat organic, GMO-free, foods. You’re “wrong” if you drink coffee. You’re “right” if you’re Republican. You’re “wrong” if you’re Democrat. You’re “right” if you have an iPhone. You’re “wrong” if you have a flip phone. Unfortunately, life is NEVER in black and white. We live in (oh, I have to) 50 shades of gray. (Sorry.) But seriously, we do. Nothing is completely wrong or completely right. There are stupid choices and smart choices out there, but pinning them as “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong”…. it makes for some pretty snotty people. The kind of people who expect you to instantly change your life and put down that goddamn Diet Coke. Or the kind of people that get offended when someone tries to tell them that their Diet Coke is actually just sugary liquid poison. It goes both ways. And that’s where we part, Julie. As much as I don’t like being told what to do, and as much as I don’t like being judged, and as much as I resist putting myself in those extreme categories… I also want to think the best of people and I want to think that their intentions are coming from a good place. I don’t want to assume that someone giving advice is doing so condescendingly. Of course, I do know a hand full of people that would leap at the chance to tear someone else down. But some people… they’re just looking out for you. It is not about being “right” or “wrong” for them. It is just about giving you the information about something they know or heard. They’re trying to enrich your life, just like you’re enriching theirs by being in it. -from a Spelling Nazi (who probably needs to stop “enriching people’s lives” by correcting their to, two, and too)

    • @Crystal – Good thoughts (and respect for managing to get a best seller book title in them). I can’t say I disagree, for the most part. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. But if you had even a glimpse of some of the emails I’ve received the past few days and the comments for this post that I am choosing not to publish on my blog, you would understand when I tell you that no, not all people have good intentions for you from a good place. Not all. It is certainly something each person will have to come to a decision on, on their own, how they view such interaction. Your’s is positive, and that’s very respectable. Thanks so much for reading and adding to the conversation.

  62. No good comes, huh? So what’s the good that has come from your post? You didn’t publish my comment because it had backbone to it and you didn’t want to be exposed.

  63. I read this Saturday and have been debating with myself what I should say that might add to what you’ve said. I’ll start with this, “Thank you!” You’ve hit the nail right on the head in something that can be read in 5 minutes. We can debate the things you have written because we don’t worry about food.

    It’s nice to have options, and we have them in abundance in this country. If you go somewhere where that isn’t the case you’re likely to find a different scenario. We are lucky enough to live in one of the few counties where even the poor people are fat. Some might comment on the statement that I just made, so be it. The bottom line is they aren’t starving to death.

    I could go on, but most likely it will fall on deaf ears. You’ve already pointed out that people have taken sides, and I realized that 10 years ago before anyone really knew who Monsanto was (and before they bought out 2 whole companies that I used to work for).

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective! Trust me, there are people that agree with you that are afraid to admit it (the “fear industry”). But when people speak up, the fear industry loses it’s power!

  64. I think people need to make their own choices, and if you want a diet coke now and then, then have one. My biggest concern about your blog posting is: why is it important that I die? This makes me a little nervous 😉

  65. Nice thoughts, seriously. I’m a Coke Zero fan myself.

    Keep in mind that not all introductions into other cultures are benign. The starling was introduced in America by a nutcase who wanted every bird in Shakespere to be in America. The starling is currently a pest that’s pushing the bluebird out of the ecological niche. Also never forget the rabbit was introduced into Australia as a food source. It’s also currently considered a major pest and hazard.

  66. What a refreshing read! Thank you for helping to assuage my guilt every time I glance longingly at a chocolate bar, or (horrors) give in to my sweet tooth. A french fry every now and then…..and accompanied by diet Pepsi ( sorry, like it better than diet Coke)
    Of course food grown in the ground is healthier, and that is a given.
    Moderation in all things…………….Blessings on your for being the voice of reason.

  67. Julie, thanks for writing this article. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer two years ago at the age of 30. I struggled with what I should eat throughout my aggressive cancer treatment. And yes, I had those people telling me to only juice my food, or go to an all raw diet. And also those who told me that chemotherapy is deadly. Your article speaks to me more than the average person. I too eat some organic foods, and like my salad and fruits and veggies, but I also love Coke slushies and brownies. I choose to vaccinate my daughter on my own schedule because that’s what I choose to do, even if some people see that as wrong. So thank you again for shining light on a subject that usually doesn’t get talked about. P.s. I am now cancer free :-)

  68. I came back from living in China and felt exactly the same way about the excessive control freakishness that I see around eating here in Canada. We have a really safe food supply in comparison. We can drink water out of our taps and eat without fear that it has melamine in it, etc. I decided to eat without fear in China too and so the obsessiveness of my Canadian friends when it comes to food policing and informing themselves with increasingly alarming “there’s only one way to eat and live” fundamentalist websites seems a little absurd.
    I really enjoyed this post and thank you for writing it.

  69. What you apparently are missing here is that many of those folks warning you are warning you because you deserve to make informed choices about what you eat/drink. You may be okay with eating GMO foods, or diet coke. Not everyone is. Especially when it’s been proven to cause cancer. People (you, me, the world) deserves to know what is going into our bodies so we can make informed choices. The fact is, companies that are making the GMO foods are making a giant profit by ruining organic food by cross pollination and causing cancer. Get over yourself. Be glad these people care enough to try to convince you not to eat that stuff and furthermore to stop supporting bio-tech companies who are taking over and ruining the food supply.

  70. Furthermore, someone on here made reference to the food in China. One, China turns away many of our GMO foods when they are shipped there. Either way, if we all just sit around, happy with our abomination of food, then we will end up just like these countries where you don’t know if it’s safe to eat the food. Do some research here. This is a bigger deal than the writer obviously thinks. The fact that 30 million bees were found dead in Canada due to GMO pesticides crops… well, ask yourself, do you really want to turn the other cheek on this when it could mean that eventually all natural food will be ruined and seeds will be owned by bio tech companies. Why do you think all of the protesting? It’s not like those of us who protest against this stuff are just a bunch of idiots. We might just know what we are talking about. Hence many of us getting involved with this having never been involved in any type of activism. Learn what happens to GMO food, learn what it can do to you, see if you don’t become an activist.

  71. Absolutely spot on, what a great (and honest) blog post. I used to work at a natural health company; we were paid to talk about why Diet Coke was evil (among other things) and sway people into a natural way of life. You can’t imagine what a relief it was to get out of there and get back to enjoying the odd ‘unhealthy’ treat, free of guilt.

    Everything in moderation, I say!


  72. Exactly. Have thought pretty much the same thing many times. To first order, food is better than no food.

    But I try to keep an open mind… several of our kids and many others now have special diets. Maybe there’s something to avoiding gluten or whatever, but it’s a luxury to be able to be picky.

    And a part of me wonders if this is just the latest twist on our nominalist culture’s incessant drive to put labels on everything – as if the label makes it so!!

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