When it comes to health resolutions, cutting back, on or completely eliminating soda from one’s diet seems to be on the top of people’s to-do lists. Most of us are lucky enough not to be addicted to cigarettes, but we have found ourselves in denial about our addiction to the sugary, calorie-laden beverages that seem to be everywhere.
Many of us justify our soda drinking by only consuming diet soda, or we tell ourselves we’ve “cut back” our sugary-drink addictions by supplementing our drinking diets with other drinks that mask themselves as “health alternatives” but really aren’t- you know the culprits… Vitamin Water, Gatorade, sweet tea. Truly these drinks lack the fizz, but they don’t lack the sugar, or the calories!
It took me several years of back-and-forth soda addiction before I finally learned to live without offering my spare change to the vending machine of fizzy-drink goodness. I remember distinctly, one time as a teenager when I simply couldn’t drink plain water because it had no flavor– how scary! I hated water, though our bodies need it, simply because it was boring to my taste buds!
As I got older though, even if I didn’t mind the tasteless taste of water, I depended on soda for the caffeine and often needed soda to get through a long day of work & college classes. (I say depended here..not appreciated the caffeine and sugar, depended on it.) Even if I wasn’t hankering for the boost, going to the vending machine was more of a ritual to combat boredom (seeing the parallels to cigarettes here?) and have an excuse to take a minute for myself.
Don’t assume you know everything about your habits- take a second to examine them. Soda meant different things for me at different stages in my life. Initially, my palate was not accustomed to “flavor-less” and it took some retraining to enjoy the taste of water. Later in life, I survived college by having 2-3 Cokes a day because the sugar/caffeine helped me get through finals. Eventually though, drinking soda became a thoughtless habit for no reason at all.
What bodily or thought processes lead you to grab soda regularly?
If it’s easier to get your hands on soda than it is to avoid soda, you’ve got a problem. Don’t assume your willpower is stronger than your habit!
Where do you find you get soda from most often- do you drink it mostly at home or during the workday? The key to kicking the soda habit for good would be to make it stupid easy to avoid drinking it. First and foremost, stop buying it and bringing it home, that alone will do wonders (promise!). If you’re at work, keep water or soda-alternatives like tea and low-sugar juices on hand.
Many of us drink whatever is in front of and simply sip out of habit- just keep water by your desk and see if that satiates your need to simply drink something.
This is where it gets tricky- some “alternatives” to soda are just as bad for you! At first though, if you need to wean yourself off the caffeine, try hot tea or coffee (but don’t mindlessly dump sugar packets in it!). If you’re hankering for sugar, diet soda might seem like the smart bet- but don’t be fooled! Diet sodas contain substances that mimic sugar and while they fool the tongue, they don’t fool the body, and as your body processes diet sodas it will crash after realizing you didn’t feed it the sugar it craves!
If you absolutely detest the lackluster taste of water (if that what it feels like for you) experiment with drink mixes like Crystal Light or tea packets, then work your way to infused waters. Infused waters are delicious and have no sugar, calories or hidden carbs- simply add a few slices of citrus, cucumber or a few sprigs of mint to liven up your water.
I know this seems like a very, very weird healthy living hack, but it’s true! I noticed that I would drink water more often when I got a sturdy, resusable cup with a straw from Starbucks as a gift. I personally love cups with straws over your typically water bottle (no idea why) since I love that it never gets a weird smell/taste and is easy to clean or throw in the dishwasher.
Find a bottle or sippy cup that’s BPA free and dishwasher safe so you’re sure to actually use it. If cleaning is a hassle, chances are you’ll forget it in the kitchen! Starbucks, Target & Hallmark have all had great reusable cups that will look great on your desk!
One of the easiest missteps to make when you cut soda out of your life is to make it the demon of all drinks- though it’s not. In moderation, soda is fine for a boost or a treat, but it can easily become a habit again if you’re not careful. Be mindful when you’re out for a day of shopping or when you’re falling asleep at your desk, that even if you reach for another non-soda beverage, it could reignite your cravings!
Starbucks has great low-sugar options like tea and black coffee- but be wary of their calorie-laden sugary drinks like Lattes and Frappuchinos. Additionally, when you reach for a Red Bull or energy drink, you may need a quick boost, but could find that you’re craving sugar as intensely as when you quit it the first time! Sometimes unintentionally, we awaken our need for soda by consuming sugar and caffeine without thinking about it- you can beat the cravings with awareness!