There was a time long, long ago when I was going to Sacramento State full-time while juggling three-part time jobs, a wedding photography business and a stint on the Western Placer Unified School Board that I actually went 32 hours without sleep.
I had the unfortunate luck to have had five classes all at once with major projects due. At the same time I was being considered for a full-time photography gig with reporting on the side — if I had time — at what was then the daily Press-Tribune in Roseville.
I really wanted to be a reporter. I had spent the last semester of my senior year in high school covering Rocklin City Council meetings and serving as a back-up reporter for the Roseville City Council. Given they were night meetings that often were more like marathon survival sessions it put a crimp in my social calendar.
I basically had none. The year after high school I managed to make my days of six hours of sleep or less on four or five days a week seem like I was in a self-induced coma. It wasn’t unusual to log two days a week where I was lucky to get three hours of sleep. I clearly wasn’t your typical teen when it came to seemingly hibernating half of my life away.
It didn’t help I was commuting to Sacramento State from Lincoln. I thought I had beaten the system when I managed to secure all 15 units on a Tuesday and Thursday schedule.
But the five major projects that included an extensive paper on Beowulf — now you know I was nuts (or still am) — was shaping up as my Waterloo.
So I did the only thing I could do. I turned to Pepsi.
I was downing at the rate of six 16-ounce bottles a day. During the 32 hour period in question, I doubled my daily consumption rate.
Little did I know I was channeling Hugh Hefner. Those that were on his staff noted at his peak the Playboy magnate downed three dozen bottles of Pepsi a day. His, however, were the old-fashioned glass bottle standard of 12 ounces each. Still if the stories are true he was taking on more Pepsi in a week than the Titanic took on water when it sunk.
It was clearly the caffeine that did it for me when it came to keeping me awake.
I’ve never drank coffee but I’m sure if Starbucks baristas and I could go back in time I could drink the latte crafters under the table in an ounce-to-ounce showdown with them sipping Grande cappuccino after Grande cappuccino and me swilling 16 ounces of returnable glass bottles of Pepsi.
Needless to say this was in by Macy parade days where I ballooned up. It doesn’t take many years of empty calories combined with hit and miss meals often times out of vending machines at Sacramento State to repeat the mistake I corrected by dipping from 240 pounds down to 190 pounds before the start of my eighth grade year.
After high school and before I hit 30 and came to my senses. I had ballooned up from 190 pounds on my last day of high school to 320 pounds on my 29th birthday. I decided I was going to change things.
Along the way to 320 pounds I got monetarily hooked on Jolt Cola.
It debuted in 1985 with the irresistible advertising tag line of “all the sugar and twice the caffeine.” It made Mountain Dew seem like a health drink in comparison. Back then an 8 ounce can of Jolt Cola delivered 10 teaspoons of sugar, 71.2 milligrams of caffeine and 167 calories. It made other soft drinks seem like you were sipping water. Soft drink historians consider Jolt Cola the first energy drink.
To say Jolt Cola was aptly named would be an understatement. You could feel your heart pounding after drinking an 8-ounce can.
It may not surprise you if I told you the cornerstone of my going from 320 pounds to 220 pounds in six months was simply replacing my regular soda consumption with diet soda. The last 40 pounds I dropped in the year prior to turning 30 and reaching 190 pounds was by changing up my eating habits and — drumroll — exercising.
It was about six years later I started to think that maybe consuming caffeine via diet drinks wasn’t all that smart. So I decided to go cold turkey.
Anyone who has done that after consuming caffeinated items in large quantities for years knows exactly what they will be reading next. I was fine for about three days but then it hit me. I started getting severe headaches, I actually got the shakes, and the color drained from my skin.
I didn’t last a week. I gave in as I couldn’t take the caffeine withdrawal any more.
The episode made me tone down my consumption of soft drinks and start mixing the regular diet drinks with decaffeinated diet soda.
I really hated the taste of decaffeinated diet soda. It was metallic, much like the taste of the original diet soda dubbed Tab that first appeared in 1963.
Coke, by the way, announced it is canning Tab this year much to the chagrin of its loyal fans that refer to themselves as Tab-aholics.
The decaffeinated soda mixed with “straight” diet soda allowed me to stop drinking soda for all practical purposes 22 years ago without getting the shakes or headaches.
I say for “all practical purposes” because I will sip some of Cynthia’s Pepsi when I finish my meal when we dine at a Mexican restaurant. And I’ll occasionally have a can of Pepsi when I’m at her place.
It isn’t exactly social drinking. After going 18 years without drinking any soda my “heavy” consumption month is now two 12 ounce cans between months of not drinking a drop. I used to drink that much every 90 minutes that I was awake.
It’s a far cry from the days when I was not just part of the “Pepsi People” but one of the leaders of the “Pepsi Generation”.