If you search for advice on how to stop drinking soda, you’re going to come across “experts” who suggest that you switch from regular to diet soda (hello — diet soda is still soda), or that you simply replace your soda with an equally as sugary but not carbonated beverage. While this blog post will focus on soda, it applies to any overly sugary beverage that does not offer nutritional value.
But first, let’s discuss why soda is really so bad for you, and it is about much more than just wanting to lose weight.
Significant volumes of research have indicated that soda is not healthy, but because the two largest manufacturers of soda consistently sponsor “health” organizations, i.e. buy their silence, people continue to receive conflicting information as to how bad soda actually is. And frankly, we usually hear what we want to hear anyway. But with soda companies lobbying to prevent people from hearing the truth, it’s going to be awhile before it becomes mainstream knowledge that soda is, in fact, contributing to many of the major health crises in America today. (1)
Regular soda is filled with refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and they’re more popularly accepted as unhealthy compared to diet sodas, which are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and are “calorie free.” Because the American public still widely considered calorie counting to be the best way to get healthy, the myth of diet soda being “safe” is perpetuated. However, the good news is that research is showing that even diet soda contributes to expanding waistlines. Isn’t that an oxymoron, that something called “diet” is making people fat? (2)
While plenty of people can drink a soda or two a day and not really experience any negative health consequences on the surface, how many soda drinkers are actually setting the stage for mounting health problems that won’t surface until later in life? Research points to a number of conditions or issues that can be exacerbated or associated with regular soda intake, including but not limited to:
Even Paleo eaters can give up everything else and still struggle with quitting their soda habit. We get this question a lot: how do I stop drinking soda? People will tell me that they went days without it, only to stumble in a moment of stress and end up drinking more than they were before. This is true for both those who drink regular and diet, so it isn’t just sugar that’s the issue, unless, of course, you begin to realize that artificial sweeteners still communicate with the brain as if they’re real sugar. Calories or not, a sweet is a sweet.
Many people know that they should quit drinking soda, for all of the above listed health conditions and more, but they don’t think in practical terms. They think, well, I’m not obese or I don’t have kidney disease (and no one in my family does). They aren’t asthmatic, and they aren’t a child in major developmental years. So, the soda habit continues to easily be justified.
But here are ten reasons why you should can the habit of drinking soda, for good, that will be a little harder to reason away.
Toxins like BPA that can ultimately lead to cancer, I might add. Few people consider that they’re drinking down more than carbonation and caramel color, but the majority of soda drinkers are since it’s actually more expensive to purchase soda in glass bottles.
Even if you recycle your soda bottles, what if we lived in a world that didn’t need to come up with ways to recycle soda bottles? We could be focusing our efforts on building the environment instead of scrambling to solve the problem of our growing waste.
Isn’t that what the witch did with Hansel and Gretl, luring children in with the promise of sugar? Yes, I know it gets tricky with boycotting things because when you look into parent companies, even most health food companies are owned by big companies who sell crap we shouldn’t be buying or eating. But this, in particular, is a touchy spot. As mentioned above, big soda companies fund nutrition “experts” and other “healthy” companies so that they can manipulate you and mislead you. They skew the data from research. This goes beyond just wanting to make money, which clearly, they do and are. I know it’s hard to find integrity issues, but this is one that Paleo actually helps with: by cutting back on processed foods, you’re supporting more organic farmers, local food, and sticking it the Big Food and Big Soda companies who don’t have anyone’s best interests at heart.
People frequently, more than anything else, complain about how expensive it is to live the Paleo lifestyle. Pastured meats are expensive, free range eggs are expensive, organic vegetables—yes, expensive. But if you’re a regular soda drinker, and you quit, you could be adding an additional $10-$15 per week to your grocery budget. Even if your grocery budget looks fabulous, you could be paying down debt, donating to charities, or feeding a savings account. All of those things will pay you long-term much more generously than soda ever could.
People claim soda quenches their thirst, and that it doesn’t dehydrate them. Well, even if it doesn’t contribute to dehydration (and it does), excessive carbonated beverage intake can decrease bone density and increase inflammation. Are you sure there isn’t something better you could be working toward with the liquids you’re drinking?
Your soda could contain more fructose or more caffeine than is expressly stated on the label, and those toxins I mentioned above (like BPA) that are found in the container that the soda is stored in are leeched into the liquid thanks to the acidic nature of the beverage. Those toxins aren’t required to be listed on the label, either, but you’re still drinking them all the same.
If you’re drinking caffeinated soda, even if you cut if off in the early afternoon, it takes caffeine numerous hours (sometimes more than 12) to completely exit the body. If you stop drinking caffeinated soda at noon, that still means that it could be hanging around in some part after midnight. Even if you’re drinking caffeine free soda, the way that both real sugars and artificial sweeteners can toy with your glucose and insulin balance can throw off a number of hormonal communicators in the body, melatonin included. This means your brain may not get the message that it’s time to unwind or be tired when it actually is.
For some it might be the caffeine, since soda is one of the leading sources of this stimulant drug. But for others, sugar alone can exacerbate stress, increasing anxiety and messing with sleep rhythms, perpetuating a cycle of chaos, frustration, and fatigue.
Sure, that might be funny to some, but there are a number of conditions where excess gas is actually excruciatingly painful. In other cases, people think they’re just a gassy person, when in reality, soda could be the cause of the problem. We weren’t designed to be gassy. Its presence is indicative that something is out of balance.
It contains no nutrients that are vital for life. Forget empty calories (which it is), it’s a complete void of anything that is good for you—and saying that it makes you happy because it tastes good is taking the ultimate shortsighted view because you’re literally robbing your future health to pay your current unhappiness bill.
If you’ve tried to stop drinking soda before and failed, or you’re just now considering it for the first time, it can feel overwhelming. People as a whole derive comfort from habit, and drinking choices are no exception.
All in all, there are three ways that you can approach the process of quitting soda. Most people will find that one appeals to their personality more than the others. I, personally, am a cold turkey quitter. If I don’t stop everything, I’ll end up more frustrated and just fail harder. I used to drink six or seven cans of soda a day before I started eating a Paleo diet. And I thought nothing of it! When it came time to quit, I first made the “healthy” choice and tried to switch to diet soda. But two things happened: one, I hated it, so I still desperately wanted regular soda and ended up giving in, and two, it actually made me feel crappier, which made me, again, want the comfort of my regular soda habit.
I’ve talked to a number of people, however, who have said they could never quit something cold turkey because it would feel too sudden. They do better doing a slow wean, or building in a time to cheat. Whatever works for you is the best solution.
Speaking of alternatives to soda, we’ve got you covered!
Yes, I think you should be drinking water, but even water gets a little boring after awhile. There are plenty of options to replace soda, and you don’t have to sacrifice your health in the process.
Even if you’re not convinced that you need to live a soda-free life, why not try it for 30 days? You have nothing to lose and so many things to gain—but weight won’t be one of them.
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