One of the most life changing decisions I ever made was to give up soda pop. Before we get into the steps that I took, here is some background on my soda addiction.
My earliest childhood memories revolve around soda. I remember hating water as a kid. So from elementary school through high school, I drank lots of soda. I never recall any messages that there was any problems or dangers with this consumption. It just was what it was.
The first time I got any inkling that something was wrong with my soda consumption was when I had a bout with severe kidney infections as a teen. The doctor told me that he felt like that my soda consumption could destroy my kidneys.
By time I reached adulthood I was drinking soda for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and anytime in between. I suffered from an accelerated heart rate, chronic infections, and my weight ballooned.
I had a severe addiction that I could not kick no matter how hard I tried. I felt helpless to the power that high fructose corn syrup and caffeine had over me. I would sometimes go out in the middle of the night and get a fix from the nearest gas station, yep I had it bad.
Here are seven of the steps I used to beat my soda addiction and gain control over my life
Step One: A reason to say no
You need a reason to make you say no to strong physiological and psychological urges. For some of us, it is not as easy as waking up one day and walking away from an addiction. There are deeply rooted mental pathways that you develop when you develop an addiction. You have to have something bigger than the urge to focus on.
I had many reasons to give up soda, but here are five of my top reasons:
- Dental Health. Soda can erode your enamel. The sugar creates a nasty acidic environment in your mouth ripe for bacteria. Have you ever heard of Mt. Dew mouth? It is a thing. Look it up, if you do not already know someone with it.
- Weight control. I do not believe in the calories in-calories out mythology. Not all calories are equal. Drinking syrup is like having sugar injected directly into your veins. You do not have the taste or space for quality food. A 100 calorie soda is not the same on your system as 100 calories of steak.
- Economics. I have a large family. Luxuries in the budget should be for the betterment of the group, not spending a chunk of the food budget on empty, worthless calories.
- Insulin/Glucose control. My father was a diabetic. I lived under the specter of becoming one myself all my life. That fear was slowly becoming reality as I drank myself into an insulin resistant stupor. There is an interesting possible correlation between high fructose corn syrup and diabetes shown here.
- Clean Eating. Soda has a lot of ingredients. Ingredients that even with an advanced degree have to look up and figure out what is the devil some of this stuff is. Brominated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and numerous food dyes are a really good reason to back off the soda.
Step Two: Zooming in on High Fructose Corn Syrup
After much research, I began to not be comfortable using high fructose corn syrup. I live in the corn belt, and I wanted to buy the propaganda that the corn lobby spits, that it is “safe” and “it is just like sugar.” Yet common sense and my gut (literally) would not let me.
I moved to more natural options, in particular, tea and lemonade made with table sugar. This was a much better option. The way the high fructose corn syrup/caffeine combo drove my addiction was eliminated once I stepped down to these options. But I still relapsed occasionally.
Step Three: Diluting drinks
Although the severe urges I experienced were dissipating, I was still a recovering addict. Table sugar is just the methadone of the sugar addicted. I had to keep going past stepping down.
Next, I began to water down my drinks with pure water. You can add a good amount of water to commercial lemonade and tea without losing flavor because there is a bunch of sugar in there.
I eventually could get to the point where a splash of lemonade was enough to help me meet my Jones.
Step Four: Set Milestones
I should have entitled this one:
“Tell your kids you are doing something, so they can nag you when you fail.”
Nonetheless, I set goals for myself like no soda from my October birth date until Thanksgiving. Then I announced it…to my children. If you do not have kids, let me tell you that kids are the biggest accountability partners on the planet. They take you at your word, expect you to be honest, and hold you to it. Maybe they have not had time yet to learn all the excuse and deflection techniques that we as adults use, but kids are your no bull zone.
So over time, I began to smash these small victories. The problem was I celebrated by relapsing…not so productive.
Step Five: No More Sugary Drinks
After six months not drinking any soda, I eliminated pure sugar drinks totally. For the first time, carbonation returned in the form of sparkling water and sugar-free drinks.
Not all sugar replacements are created equal(no pun intended).
I personally do not use anything with aspartame aka Equal aka the blue packets. The idea of anything being possibly being carcinogenic is too terrifying for me.
Sucralose in its liquid, not powder form is a sweetener that I enjoy. Splenda has sucralose in it, but it is not the only ingredient. I buy an entirely different product. Sucralose is derived from sugar. Standalone, I have not found anything that gives me pause, but you have to make that decision yourself.
Stevia is the most natural of all the options. I am not a huge fan of stevia, but there are a few things that I can tolerate it in.
Stevia is best when combined with another sweetener like erythritol to counteract the nasty taste. The same way Splenda is not pure sucralose, Truvia is not pure stevia and erythritol. Read and research…extensively, not just the first page hits on a search engine, and make the decision for yourself.
Step Six: Drink water
Of course, this had to be the endgame. Pure water is the simplest way to meet our hydration goals. As long as it is clean, you do not have to worry about any of the other concerns that I posed with any other option. No sweeteners, no dyes, no artificial flavors, just plain water is all we need after all is said and done. Also easier said than done. I have come a long way from water being an occasional treat to a staple of my diet. It was not an easy road and I have a long way to go.
Also easier said than done. I have come a long way from water being an occasional treat to a staple of my diet. It was not an easy road and I have a long way to go in meeting my personal water goals.
I started by setting daily drinking goals for myself and committed to completing them before I treated myself to any other beverage.
I have a further list of tips of how to increase your water intake.
What should I do next?
I assume you read this far because you or someone love has the same problem. I am not proposing that this is the end-all guide to how to cure this particular addiction, nor are these the only steps I took. They are just a snapshot of some of the things that actually worked.
I encourage you to just do something. I tried many things for many years and experience many failures before I had any real success.
I have been soda free for going on two years. A huge feat for someone who could not go a single day without a bubbly fix.
If you have any questions on what I did or would like to share your experiences with giving up soda, sugar or addiction, please comment down below.