Today, I’m handing the reins to my husband. It’s been just about one year since he kicked his massive soda habit, and he’s willing to share his story with Eat Like An Elephant. Enjoy!
As a child, I never drank soda. People who met me later in life had a hard timing believing this, but up until the age of 13, the fizzy concoction had never touched my lips. If it wasn’t milk, water, or orange juice, I didn’t drink it, but I surely made up for lost time. In 1998, Diet Coke (and by association, aspartame) and I kindled our relationship. Like most dysfunctional partnerships, it was beautiful in the beginning, but once the initial glow faded, it caused me nothing but grief.
“Oh, you’re exaggerating,” you’re thinking. “How bad could it have been?” This bad: Until last year, I guzzled down about 3 liters of Diet Coke a day, every single day.
Sad as it is to say, that’s not hyperbole. At the height of my habit, polishing off a two liter bottle before lunch was routine. Diet soda was my go-to caffeine source, my between meal hunger suppressant, and my feel-good beverage. I had it first thing out of the shower in the morning, at every meal, and countless times in between. As a result, it became my identifier. Everyone knew that everywhere I traveled, I would have a DC (that’s what I called the ol’ girl) in my hand. I’d rationalize that everyone needed a vice. And since mine didn’t include anything illegal or destructive, what was the harm? But the drawbacks were there. The more I drank, the more I wanted. I was never really satisfied. The only reason I really stopped drinking Diet Coke was because it was time to go to bed. Not to mention the fact that I’m an active guy. I work out 4-5 times a week, I play amateur baseball, and I’m constantly involved in a pick up football or basketball game. But back in my soda days, I always felt that when I looked in the mirror, the guy starting back at me didn’t look as good as he should.
When I married Lauren in 2011, she got a first hand look at just how much soda I went through on a weekly basis. I could tell she didn’t want to say much, but it was obvious she was concerned. Here she was, starting to cook all these beautiful, organic meals for me, and I’m dumping artificial sweeteners down the hatch every five minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of Diet Coke I drank occasionally gave me pause, too. Often, I’d go through the task of trying to cut down. In the summer of 2006, I got it limited to one glass a day. Not bad, right? By the time October hit, it had crept back up to six, and before I knew it, the limitation just vanished. But things had changed. I was a married man now. I’m responsible for someone else, and if there was even a slight possibility I was hurting my health over soda? How selfish would that be?
So on February 26, 2012, I texted Lauren.
“If you go grab me some all natural iced tea to help wean me off, I’ll make this Diet Coke I’m drinking right now my last…ever.”
That’s all the ammunition she needed. By the time I came home for lunch, the fridge was stocked with all-natural options. Knowing I’d need a caffeine supplement to get me over the hump, we prepped coffee for the morning. From 11:00AM on, I didn’t have a soda the rest of the day and on through the night. It felt like a new lease on life…until the next morning.
Six o’clock AM is a tough wake up call on a Saturday morning, but when you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms, it is infinitely worse. Pounding heachache? Check. Chills? Absolutely. In fact, my whole body was shaking. I felt like I had the flu, and the only cure, I thought, was my old faithful drink. But as I writhed around on the couch in pain, I couldn’t believe how badly I felt. If being without soda for less than 24 hours could do this to me, is it something I really wanted in my body?
Once my second cup of coffee for the day (and third in my life, mind you. I wasn’t a coffee drinker until last year) took care of the caffeine edge, I started to stiffen back up. When I did, I noticed something pretty wonderful: I felt better. And as the days went on, it improved. My mind was more clear, I focused more easily, and my weight? One month after ditching soda, I trimmed 10 pounds. Two months later: another five. To this day, I’m 15 pounds lighter than during my soda-drinking era.
But why? We often hear that kicking soda will perform a miracle on our body, but how? Let’s hash it out:
- Sodium: Yeah, there isn’t sugar or calories, but there is sodium in diet soda. Drink enough of it, and your body will start to retain water at a pretty alarming rate. You could see the results of that around your midsection like I did. Cut the soda and you’ll notice a difference in the way you look. Plus, less sodium will improve your heart health.
- Artificial sweeteners: There is plenty of fodder out there that could scare one off from ingesting aspartame. I’ve read a good chunk of what has been written, and since I’m not a chemist nor a doctor, I can’t speak with authority on what it does and does not do to your mind and your body. I can only say this: cutting artificial sweeteners has done wonders for my lifestyle. Think of it this way: if someone told you artificial sweeteners were bad for you, would you really be surprised? if the answer is no, then that should say it all.
- Cutting the Cravings: This is one I read all the time: how artificial sweeteners mess with your insulin levels and, as a result, make you crave sugar. Maybe I’m missing something, but that wasn’t really a problem for me. Emotionally, though, a soda always seems best when paired with food, right? If that’s the case, less soda could mean less snacking for you.
As I approach 365 days free of diet soda, I can truly tell you that I’ve never felt better. I can also tell you that I never thought I’d be able to do it. If I can kick this habit, anyone can. So if you’re looking for the inspiration to rid yourself of caramel coloring and sweeteners, look no further. Here are some keys to sticking to it:
- Camelbak Water Bottle: Grab one of these to make carrying around your water fun. If you’re a habitual drinker like me, get a Britta filter for the fridge to keep the cost of expensive bottled water to a minimum. Go for the bottle with the Big Bite Valve, which will simulate drinking through a straw. You’ll go through water faster and it will make it more fun.
- Coffee: Coffee is a natural diuretic, it’s good for our digestive system, and it can be a lot of fun. If you have Keurig brewer like us, trying new flavored coffee can be an exciting way to get into it. If you’re a new coffee drinker, try sweeter flavors (such as Green Mountain’s Chocolate Glazed Donut) to ease yourself into it before opting for an organic blend (such as Newman’s).
- Diet Arizona Iced Tea: Still need a glass or two of flavor during the day? Try Arizona’s Diet Iced Tea. It’s made with Splenda, so at least you don’t have to go the aspartame route, and it’s chalk full of Vitamin C.
Follow those helpful hints and you’ll be off the fizz in no time.
So did I convince you? Are you ready to be free of soda forever? Tell me in the comments if you’re a soda drinker and how much you drink.