The Problem with Drinking Soda (Pop)
Americans drink more soda than any other country in the world; so much more that they even had to expand this graph to explain just how much soda Americans drink. Scary, right? If you're like me, or have been like me, you are probably gaining weight, or have already gained weight because of this same epidimic.
Why is soda so addicting to so many Americans? Well, I don't think there's any one reason, although there have been studies that actually prove that soda could be a real addiction, inducing a rewarding feeling similar to that of addictive drugs. This feeling of reward, mixed with the 21 (or 28, depending on whom you ask) day process of forming (or breaking) new habits, can cause a very unhealthy habit that can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and more.
How to Quit Drinking Soda
So knowing all of these problems with drinking soda, how do we actually quit drinking it? Let's break it down, step by step, to help us understand the process.
But first, I want to make something clear. I'm a realist who has tried a lot of things to help improve my life. What I will not suggest is "try lemon water" or "try a juice fast for 30 days". These aren't realistic for most people and actually counterproductive for the majority of readers out there. Drink water, not water with fruit or anything else, unless it's absolutely mandatory, or completely impossible. Some people may require a placebo. That's fine, but I won't be suggesting those.
1. The Mindset
Having the proper mindset is everything in these situations. Believe me, I have experience in this department and have even tested this theory, by accident and on purpose. Without a good mindset you will create delays, give up too easily, or just not try at all.
You need to begin with a date to start this new goal of quitting soda, or else you will try cold turkey and have mixed results. While cold turkey can work for some, it can actually be counterproductive for others. The right mindset begins with creating a date in mind. It could be tomorrow, it could be in 2 weeks. Think about the best date that works for you, preferably away from Holidays or 'celebrations', as these can cause delays or obstructions in your habit breaking process.
Now that you have a date in mind, think about how badly you want to quit drinking soda. What are the things you really dislike about soda? For me it was bad indigestion, irregular heartbeat (palpitations, rapid heart rate, etc.), and the feeling that my heart would explode if I drank soda and went outside in the heat. It caused a lot of mental anguish, distress (physically and mentally), tooth problems and various other issues that just made it a bad choice for me. It was never worth it, although it always felt like it was when I took the first drink, much like Alcohol to Alcoholics.
Think about these issues and write them down. Remind yourself of how disgusting Soda really is. The sugar destroys cells, breaks down enamel on teeth, causes obesity, puts you at serious risk of diabetes and more. It destroys weight loss hopes as well. I'm not exactly sure of the science on this, but I can tell you that I, personally, could lift serious weights for an hour, walk an hour in the morning, an hour at night, then eat great, but then drink a 32 oz. soda and gain fat. It's not fun. It's too much sugar that's too easy to drink in a short amount of time.
Keep everything in mind and keep telling yourself how badly this stuff affects your life. Remind yourself of how badly you want to get healthier, lose weight, keep your teeth or not end up diabetic. This is the mindset that you have to build.
Next you have to remind yourself that you can do this. You obviously could or else you'd be non-human. There's no excuses, any human can quit anything they want. It's part of the human experience. It's difficult, but not impossible. Remind yourself that you can do it. This is another part of the mindset.
2. Get Moving
Working out is not for everyone, but you need to move around more often throughout the day to keep your mind occupied and to increase endorphin production, which makes you a happier, healthier person. I'm not suggesting that you jump up and start doing Olympic Lifts tomorrow (could be great for some, bad for others), but just a simple 15 minute walk can help improve your life and your endorphin production.
Being happy matters and it can improve your chances of success with destroying bad habits, as well as creating new good habits.
Have dogs? Take them to the dog park. Have kids? Take them outside and play games. Just you? Take yourself outside and walk in nature. Your surroundings can help improves your chances as well.
The bottom line: find something new to do to replace the feeling of need for soda.
3. Improve Your Diet
You may already be eating healthy, but the chances are - you're not. The likelihood for a healthy diet that includes soda are very low, although there's always the exception.
However, I'm going out on a limb here to say you could probably improve your diet. This is the best time in your life to make drastic changes. This could be as simple as eating more smaller meals throughout the day, or going all out and reading about Precision Nutrition or Paleo. These changes will help to clear your bad habits, but also improve your health at the same time.
Dietary habits are what got you here in the first place, so why not go all out? You're doing yourself a long-term favor.
Give Yourself 30 Days
You may have heard about the 21 or 28 day habit timeframe, but I suggest sticking to 30 days, as it just feels better. If you make it to 30 days, I can assure you that your addiction will be "cured", at least temporarily.
Nothing is permanent, as you probably already know. You will eventually have times where you think that "just one" will be alright, but you do increase your risk for relapse. Yes, that sounds like you're a Cocaine addict, but you're not far off. I joke (as many do) that I have a "coke habit", although I do speak about Coca-Cola in my case. This is important to remember. Any addiction that you currently have can be kicked, but it can also be picked up just as easily. I find that 28 days always kicks my habits, but some pick up in a matter of 1 day. I've kicked soda many times, for many weeks at a time, only to be back on the wagon after a family get-together.
Be realistic and keep these things in mind. A bad habit will always be a bad habit if you allow it back in your life. Yes, it will be tough to never drink soda again, and there will be times that you might be able to drink soda and be OK. But just remind yourself of how disgusting it really is, even when your brain is telling you otherwise.