My Soda Habit Story
I'll be 35 years old tomorrow, and I've had a soda habit since I was a kid. Growing up, it wasn't uncommon for me to drink 2, 3, or even 4 sodas per day. As you might guess, I've also been overweight most of my life too, which is certainly not a coincidence. But at 35, I finally kicked my soda habit. I'm down almost 10 pounds this year, and best of all, I feel like what I'm doing is sustainable.
Here's what's working for me, and hopefully it'll help you on your journey too.
Step 1: Know the Problem
If you're reading this, then you've likely already heard or read about the major health issues that can result from regularly eating or drinking high levels of sugar.
And a lot of other people have too, judging Google Trends. The interest-over-time for "Low Sugar" has been slowly-but-steadily increasing over the last several years.
Google Trends - Searches for "Low Sugar" for the Previous Five (5) Years
Of all the ways that consumers regularly ingest sugar, sugary beverages are the primary culprits. These include:
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum recommended sugar intake is 36 grams of sugar per day for men. For women, it's 25 grams. Each one of the drink examples above is either right at those limits or way above them, all from one drink.
Seeing how bottle and can sizes vary, it's also interesting to look at the sugar concentration as shown below.
One of the more surprising realizations for most people is how most fruit juices really aren't good for you. Sure they provide some benefits like vitamins and other nutrients, so in that way they are better than sodas. But the sugar content per ounce for Minute Maid orange juice is essentially the same as a Coke!
There are plenty of people smarter than me that study this topic for their day jobs, so I'll leave it to them to provide additional details and research about sugar and health. Here are some of the more helpful articles we've read.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Guidance on Added Sugars
WebMD: How Sugar Affects Your Body
American Heart Association: How Much Sugar is too Much?
Healthline: 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar is Bad for You
And keep in mind that diet sodas aren't free-and-clear of problems either. There is growing evidence that drinks with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose are bad for you as well, as discussed here.
Step 2: Find Your Real Motivation
You can always have a combination of motivations, and many of these are related (like weight loss and long-term health). But whatever the situation, the key is to figure out what primary focus and goal really motivates you.
A Personal Story - My New Motivation
After reading articles about how sugar essentially acts like a poison and how sodas in particular are "empty calories" that provide no nutritional benefit, I knew it was in my best interest to quit.
Each time I tried to change, I would start off a few days or weeks without sodas, but then I would slip and start drinking them again. The most common backfiring strategies I used were:
The reason that these backfiring strategies worked on me was that I hadn't determined what my real motivation was yet. I said I wanted to lose weight, and that can work for many people. But the problem, for me, is that I'm fairly comfortable in my own skin already. Also, I have always been overweight so it's not easy for me to truly realize how much better I might feel to achieve a healthy weight. It was more abstract.
But as I got older, something happened. I started thinking more about how little time we truly have, and how chronic diseases that we always read about and learned of back in school are very real. And then someone very close to me passed away. He smoked most of his life, and though he was finally able to quit a few years ago, by then the damage was done. He developed cancer and passed away earlier this year. He urged me to improve my habits now and to learn from his life experiences. This changed my motivational focus.
Instead of just wanting to lose weight, my new focus became achieving better long-term health. This seemingly small change in my focus and goals made all the difference for me.
Step 3: Strategies for Change
Once you know what really motivates you, it's time to start thinking about how you'll make changes.
There are many strategies that you can use to cut out soda from your diet. Here are a few.
A Personal Story - My New Routine
Honestly, I've used all of the strategies listed above to varying degrees. But the ones that helped me the most are #1 and #4. By drinking more water, I've been able to feel fuller and am less likely to drive to the store for a soda. And by using a flavored drink alternative, I can still take a break from "boring" water each day and satisfy my need for flavor.
This is what's working for me.
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Step #4 (If Needed): Don't Be Afraid to Reset
Stopping any habit can have its ups and downs. It took me over a dozen attempts over the years before I reached sustainable change. Don't feel ashamed if you don't succeed initially. Re-evaluate your motivations and strategies, and keep trying.
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