Obesity in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Recent data shows that 2/3 of adults are either overweight or obese; and children are increasingly becoming overweight too. One large contributing factor is drinking beverages that are sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other corn syrups (e.g., soda pop, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, etc.). The consumption of soda has skyrocketed since the 1970’s, as you can see in the chart below. Soda is also the single largest contributor to the total amount of added sugars in an average adult’s daily diet and it could be adding hundreds of calories to your daily diet. Hundreds of calories consumed with no nutritional value!
Now, you may be smiling to yourself right now and saying; “I only drink diet soda.” But, the unfortunate reality is that many people actually still gain weight when they drink diet sodas. Artificial sweeteners are chemicals, plain and simple, and they confuse your brain. The sweetness you taste in your mouth begins priming your body for an insulin surge. When it doesn’t arrive, because there is no sugar, your brain and body still want the energy boost that they thought was coming, so you may find yourself craving carbohydrates. There have been studies that show that people who use artificial sweeteners eat up to three times the amount of calories as a control group. So, avoid calories by drinking diet soda, but then find yourself craving carbs and eating even more calories after all. Still feeling smug about your diet soda and don’t believe me? Then perhaps you should research it more and read this NY Times article:
Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome — the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and elevated blood pressure.
Why Soda Sucks:
- Drinking even a single can (12 oz) a day can equal more than 1lb of weight gain every month. Now imagine what those giant 32 oz and 64 oz drinks are doing to you!
- Diet soda isn’t the answer either. People who drink diet soft drinks gain weight too, due to your body’s response to artificial sweeteners.
- Soft drinks usually contain phosphoric acid, which is linked to osteoporosis. Think weaker bones and injuries.
- Similarly, soda contributes to tooth decay.
- Finally, soda is just empty calories. Why waste those calories every day on something that does nothing for you nutritionally?
How to Quit
I know that quitting soda isn’t easy. I was a soda drinker for many, many years too (loved Mt Dew). I know that you probably can’t imagine a day when you won’t crave soda, but it is possible. I can’t stand the taste of soda anymore. But, quitting it was a process for me and here are the steps I took to wean myself off soda pop:
- Begin drinking less. Those big drinks that fast food companies and movie theaters push as a “bargain” are no bargain at all, since they risk your health. Is getting more soda for your money really worth it? You are essentially purchasing your obesity and diabetes. Just stop it.
- Start substituting other beverages (and I don’t mean diet soda). I began drinking unsweetened iced tea and adding my own sugar to sweeten it. This is a good step toward putting yourself in complete control of how much sugar is added to your diet. You can literally see it and you can control it. This is so much better than being at the mercy of those hidden sweeteners that someone else has already added.
- Start reducing the sugar you add to your new beverages. I slowly reduced the sugar that I added to my tea over time, until the day came that I drank it completely unsweetened with a slice of lemon and loved it. Your taste buds get used to something tasting sweet and it takes more and more for something to taste “sweeter”. Don’t fall into this trap. You are in control. Reduce the sugar over time, until even a small amount tastes sweet to you. Then, finally, try to remove sugar entirely and enjoy the real taste of the beverage.
- Choose a quality beverage that has great flavor on its own. For example, good quality teas make great drinks. Cheap tea does not and people often add sugar to compensate and make it taste better. The same thing happens with coffee. People drink low-quality, bitter, or weak coffee and they feel like they have to add cream and sugar to make it taste better. Start with high-quality, well-prepared coffee and it will taste wonderful black. Hint: This works with food too. Great food with great spices taste wonderful and satisfying, so you can eat less and enjoy it more than some bland food (e.g., putting lots of gravy on mashed potatoes).
- Another great way to wean yourself off cold soda, in particular, is to switch to a sparkling water with fruit flavors like lemon, lime, berry, orange, etc. Make sure you get an all natural spring water that is carbonated and has “fruit essence” added. No sugar, no fake chemicals. I still really enjoy these, since a cold bubbly drink just hits the spot sometimes. If carbonation is one reason you enjoy soda, then try these instead.
- The final step is to start drinking more cold, filtered or bottled water on ice. As you are making this journey away from soda, you are going to start enjoying a cold drink of water more and more. I know it may be hard to believe right now (if you’re a soda drinker), but I find myself craving a cold glass of water the same way that I used to crave soda (especially after exercise). Drinking pure water is much better for you than most other beverages.
So, try these techniques and be patient with yourself. But, your ultimate goal should be to stop drinking soda, even diet soda, completely. Get that soda monkey off your back!