How I Quit My Soda Habit

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As a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up drinking sodas. We got Happy Meals at McDonald’s as special treats and I would slurp down a Coke in seconds flat. My dad loved Pepsi, so those were always in the fridge and we could have one at dinner every now and then. Although I drank plenty of water too (I was a dancer so was constantly in class or rehearsal) I would often stop and get a soda at a drive-thru once I got my license. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I had to stop…

I was doubled over in abdominal pain for a couple days before finally revealing to my mom that I had to go to the doctor. It turned out that I had a hernia and the culprit was something in my diet. After ruling out the usual suspects because I don’t consume them – coffee, spicy foods, and excessive citrus –  the doc determined it was probably my soda intake that was bothering my intestines. He suggested that I cut out sodas for a month or two to determine if that was the issue. “No big deal,” I thought.

This all happened when I was 17 and by that age I was starting to realize sodas weren’t that healthy anyway, so I didn’t fret too much about needing to quit them. I figured it would be easy because I wasn’t addicted to them or anything… but WOW. It was a lot harder than I thought. Here’s how it went:

In the beginning: Easing out of it. 

I couldn’t quit as easily as I thought. I was off for a day or two and then craved a soda… so I had one. And then another.

If you’re used to drinking sodas multiple times per day, just cutting back is a big step. I started thinking about having a soda every other day instead of every day. I hadn’t even realized that I was drinking one or two every day. After a couple weeks of that, I backed off to just two per week, then one.

 

Next: Asking myself – Is it the sugar or the caffeine that I “need” from sodas?

Sugar: I didn’t feel like the caffeine was the issue for me, it was more the sugary taste and carbonation that I craved each time I wanted to grab a soda. Coca Cola was my drink of choice. I started getting Orange Juice at the grocery store and taking a swig straight out of the carton when I wanted a Coke. The sweetness of that was usually enough to tide me over in the beginning. I just had to make sure I wasn’t downing an entire carton of OJ every day… which wouldn’t have helped my stomach pain.

Side Note: Every 4.2 grams of sugar in your drink is worth a teaspoon of sugar. If your drink has 40g of sugar, that’s 9.5 teaspoons. Measure that out and pour it into your hand to see it. I did it for you here with one teaspoon.

Caffeine: On days that I would feel like I was dragging a little and wanted a pick-me-up, I chose tea. In the beginning it was sweet tea (I grew up in Kentucky), but then I realized I was probably taking in just as much sugar as the soda… so I started drinking green tea with a bit of honey. That seemed to do the trick. But green tea did take a bit to get used to.

Carbonation: I know some people miss the carbonation of soft drinks. You can make your own carbonated drinks with a Soda Stream if you want. I didn’t have the money to plop down for this when I was in high school, nor did this exist back then, but it’s an option now!

 

Then: Every time I chose a drink, I chose my health. (Total buzz-kill, but it helped.)

I didn’t realize how many times a day I had the choice to drink a soda: passing the vending machines on each floor of my high school, passing 8,000 fast food joints on my drive to and from home every day, opening the fridge in my house, passing the vending machines on my way to the dance studio every night, ordering a drink when going out to eat on the weekends. If I’d been addicted to drugs it would have been like passing a drug dealer multiple times a day and only needing $1 to get my fix. “No wonder so many of us are hooked on sodas,” I thought.

I hadn’t even realized that I was slightly addicted. I never thought about it that way until this point. Stopping was harder than I’d expected it. It was part habit too…

I started carrying a water bottle with me throughout the day and filling it up between classes. Every time I passed a soda machine and wanted to buy one, I’d take a drink of my water. Every time I was at a restaurant, I ordered water. It wasn’t easy… I really wanted Coke, especially to accompany salty food, but the pain of my hernia was not something I was eager to get back, so I chose my health every time I chose something other than soda. F*** no, it wasn’t fun, but I really did feel better and my stomach pain went away.

 

Final Push: Stay the course and note the difference.

The first 3 weeks of no sodas at all were the hardest. I had a bunch of cravings that I kept trying to talk myself into. “One Coke won’t kill you, Sprite is probably better than Coke anyway, maybe just half of one this morning and the other half this evening, YOLO, etc.” But once I was able to go a week, and then two weeks, and then three without any sodas, I felt like I could keep going. Part of it was just my competitive nature. “I’m stronger than these f***ing Cokes. I don’t NEED them… Bitches.”

The cravings finally went away though, and I actually started craving water more often.

I also felt better. I mean… I was in high school and dancing 6-8 hours a day, so it’s not like I didn’t have any energy, but I did feel way better. There had never really been a time that I wasn’t drinking some type of soda. Now that I’d been off them for about a month, I found this different energy. And also, my stomach felt great. There was no pain, no bloating. This was great. Realizing the difference made me notice how much I was hindering my performance.

After a few months off the sauce, I took a drink of a friend’s soda and it actually tasted gross. It was so syrup-y and and entirely too sweet. I didn’t crave another Coke for a while. Over the years, after being off of sodas for so long, I could have one every now and then without feeling like I wanted another immediately. As an adult I usually will only have sodas as a mixer to an alcoholic drink (usually ginger ale with bourbon) and I don’t feel like I need another one any time soon.

But it’s a slippery slope…

Why am I writing this post? Well, because a few weeks ago, when I was visiting home in Kentucky, I was at a friend’s house and we ordered pizza. She offered us those mini-cans of Coke to drink and I thought, “Sure. It’s small, so I’ll be good.” After that Coke though, I kept craving them. I had 4 more Cokes that week. Two of them in one day! I was thinking, “Son of a bitch, that was fast.”

I can have any other type of soft drink just once and not feel like I want another one, but if I have one Coca-Cola I want another one immediately. It’s my kryptonite – addictive AF for me. I’m convinced they’re still putting cocaine in it… .  ; )

So knowing that, I cut myself off again. The first week was hard, so was the second. I did split a Sprite with the hubs at the movies yesterday, but no Coke for me.

I know one Coke every now and then is not going to kill me, but I also know that if I start, I have a hard time stopping. Starting over again sucks, but I know I can do it. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

Conclusion: Quitting sodas can be hard, but it’s possible.

Anybody out there struggle with the same thing?

What do you do?

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