Growing up, I developed a lot of really bad habits that became really hard to break. I started my career as a software developer early on and that meant many hours at a desk drinking some form of caffeine – usually soda (or “pop” or “Coke” depending on what region you’re from).
That habit was probably the worst I could have developed. (Okay, well, there are worse, but from a food/dietary perspective…) Sodas are absolutely LOADED with sugar and all sorts of chemicals that are absolutely awful for you. Not to mention that the caloric value of a soda is astronomical. Top that off with the fact that it’s relatively easy to drink a lot of this stuff and you can see how dangerous it really becomes.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest published a fact sheet with some terrifying statistics. Some of the scarier ones:
- In 2013, the average American consumed over 38 gallons of soda per year – about eight (8) twelve-ounce cans per week
- Sugary drinks were the single largest source of calories in the average American diet in 2010
- Sugary drinks accounted for 47% of all added sugars in the average American diet in 2010
So this data is a few years old, and it’s likely that a focus on health conscious behaviors will help to drive these numbers down over time. However, it still shows how serious our addiction to sodas and sugary drinks really is.
So how do you break the addiction? I’ve been through this a number of times in my life and I can tell you what worked for me:
- Decide that you’re done
- Understand why you drink this stuff to begin with – you probably have “triggers” that make you crave it. For me, it was sitting at my desk working on a project
- Go cold turkey. Not for everyone, but for me this was the only way.
- Know what this stuff is doing to you. The average intake of this stuff being 8 sodas per week, at 150 calories per 12 ounce serving – that’s 1,200 calories per week, or 1/3rd of a pound of fat. It adds up fast. And remember that’s an AVERAGE – meaning that a lot of people consume much more. (I certainly did.)
- Replace it with other stuff. For me, I replaced it with a combination of water (add some lemon if you need to) and coffee – either black coffee with a dash of cinnamon or with a splash (e.g. tablespoon) of coconut milk creamer and 2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
- If vending machines at the office are tempting you, don’t take cash or change to work with you. That way you have to jump through a lot more hoops to get access.
- If you get a strong craving, occupy yourself with some other task – no matter how trivial – for about 10-15 minutes. The craving will subside. I find that playing a puzzle game on my phone for about 5 minutes helps distract me from the craving until it passes.
I will say that the first 2-3 weeks is really, really difficult. You have to remember why you’re doing this – what your purpose is – and remember how crappy you feel when you drink that stuff. (And believe me, you feel crappy. I know it, you know it. Just think about how you feel after you drink a soda.)
I haven’t had a drop of soda in four months now and while there are times when I still get the cravings for it, they are few and far between and it’s easy to have a cup of coffee or water, focus on something else for a few minutes and then the craving will be gone. I feel a million times better every day and I’m not suffering from any sort of fatigue because of it either.
As a bonus, I credit the complete elimination of soda from diet with probably at least half of the weight I’ve lost so far. It’s not unusual that people will lose 10 pounds or more in just 6-8 weeks of going completely soda free, depending on how much soda they were previously consuming. Replacing soda with water also helps because soda will dehydrate you and cause your body to begin retaining water, which adds weight and bloating as well.