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I was actually going to post for all of the Catholics out there since it was Ash Wednesday and this is a common thing to give up for Lent. I’m not Catholic myself but several members of my family are.
I’ve been soda free since April of 2007 (almost a whole year!), and it’s one of the smartest things I’ve done for my health.
Anyway, here’s a guide on how to give up soda, and this guide is for everyone, and I’ll explain how you can give it up temporarily or how to kick the habit for good.
Whether you call it Soda, pop, soda pop, Coke, something else – excessive consumption of soda can is not a healthy habit to get into but it’s one that many people in America have. Studies have shown that we now drink an average of 42.2 gallons of the bubbly beverage every year – more than 1 can everyday.
But once you’re in the habit of having something cold and bubbly when you’re thirsty, it can be tough to quit drinking it.
I know that I grew up drinking soda. If I was thirsty, I’d grab a Coke, not water, milk, or anything else – it was almost always a soda. While heavily consuming soda didn’t lead to me becoming overweight as a child (fortunately, I had a high metabolism) it certainly helped me have a lot of cavities.
As an adult, however, my consumption of soda actually increased, and as a result, so did my weight. I could go for days drinking nothing but Coke – as much as 8 cans/day!
I was drinking more than my share of that 42.2 gallons/year.
Why Soda Is Bad
So why would you want to give up soda anyway? It does taste good, but that’s about the only good thing it has going for it.
It’s pretty much just sugar water with caffeine and other chemicals mixed in. Drinking simple sugars like high fructose corn syrup (the sweetener used in soda) can lead to obesity. For example, a 12 oz can of Coke has 140 calories. Drink a single can of Coke every day and that’s an extra 980 calories/week. To burn off those calories you’d have to walk an extra 2 hours per week or do an hour of high intensity running.
And since most people don’t have just one, those calories add up in a hurry adding unwanted pounds in no time.
But its contribution to obesity isn’t the only problem with soda. Dentists have known for years that it’s bad for teeth, and if you have a lot of cavities the first thing they’re likely to ask you is how much soda you drink and if you do drink a lot, they’ll tell you to cut way back. And if you think that switching over to diet will help, keep in mind that even diet soda can damage tooth enamel.
Of course it’s not just bad for teeth. It’s also dehydrating. Stop drinking soda and start drinking water and you’ll be amazed how just that one little thing can make a big difference in your endurance.
Want more? Soda also contributes to developing type II diabetes and some studies have even linked the drinking of soda to cancer. I’ve become quite convinced that drinking soda, much like smoking, takes years off your lifespan.
How to give it up
Now that I’ve made my case for why you’d want to, let’s cover how you actually go about giving the stuff up. And once you get started you may find it easier than you thought it was going to be.
1) Get it out of the house
Having soda in your house is only going to make this whole process harder. If you want a soda and there isn’t one handy, you’ll be far more likely to drink something else (like some good ol’ water) when you’re thirsty.
2) Drink water
Here’s the amazing thing about water. Unlike soda, it actually quenches your thirst. And while it may not be sugary and sweet, it tastes good and your body needs the stuff. Try to drink at least 8 glasses a day (64oz), but feel free to drink more. I usually drink about 96 oz a day. Your body will appreciate the water, trust me.
3) Go cold turkey
Some people think you should wean yourself off of soda slowly so you don’t go through caffeine withdrawal. I think you should go off soda cold turkey. If you’re going through major caffeine withdrawal, try having a cup of tea instead. Tea actually has some health benefits.
4) Try a 30 day challenge
The 30 day challenge isn’t something new. It’s been around in many forms for years (and if you think about the 40 day Lent thing, this has been around for hundreds of years). And I got this idea from self help guru Steve Pavlina. But here’s the idea. You get rid of it completely for 30 days – no cheating. If after 30 days you decide you want soda back, you can. That’s the nice thing about the 30 day challenge; it’s not a life long commitment, just 30 days. If after 30 days you can’t decide if you want it to be permanent, then just try it for another 30 days.
For me I did it for 30 days in March 2007, then in April I had some again. However, 7 days later I decided I was going to give up for longer this time, and I’ve been without soda ever since.
You may be at a party where you really want a soda. If you do decide to indulge, don’t sweat it. There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. The next day just hop back on the wagon again, okay?
6) Permanent or temporary
So do you need to permanently give up soda? Well, that’s up to you.
But I can tell you that since I’ve stopped drinking soda, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve got in a lot better shape. I don’t want to go back to being fat and out of shape, so if that means I can’t have soda anymore, then so be it – soda just isn’t worth it to me anymore. I’ve really lost my taste for it. I used to really enjoy smelling it even if I knew I couldn’t have it but now it smells overly sweet and not very appealing.
So there you go. If you’re addicted to soda like I was, then give it a try – you just might like the results.