How I Ended a 33 Year Soda Drinking Habit
Should my parents have known better? Perhaps. It’s hard for me to say. My parents were the products of The Great Depression, and of inadequate access to nutritional education and foods. They were familiar with depravation, perhaps in a way I will never understand. They wanted for us children to not have to experience any depravation, so they often gave us anything we wanted. And yes, this included giving us soda in our baby bottles. (This is regular soda of which I speak – there was no such thing as ‘diet soda’ in my childhood.)
I had soda in my baby bottles as a toddler, I had soda with all meals, I had soda with all snacks… and I even had my grandmother pick me up from school with a soda can, and a cup full of ice. Eventually, the soda progressed from cans, onto 20 ouncers and 2 liters. Soda was a staple for us as a family. Soda was my water. In fact, I rarely had water.
While probably not worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records, I can’t say I’ve ever met another person who has had more regular soda than I did over a span of 33 years. I could not go a day, or even a couple of hours, without having had a regular soda. That was my life.
So when someone says to me “I can’t give up my regular soda habit,” I have to laugh. You see, I haven’t touched regular soda in nearly 6 years. But many years ago, I would have sounded just like them. I would have argued giving up regular soda was unrealistic, and gross. My dad was diabetic and eventually, when diet sodas came on the market, he embraced them… and they were quite icky tasting. At least, to me. So how was I able to make this seemingly HUGE change? Baby steps:
- I Accepted My Reality: In 2009, I was diagnosed with diabetes, and I felt horribly ill. My blood glucose was very, very high… and soda isn’t just a ‘food’ high in sugar; soda isn’t even a food! It is JUST sugar water (that is also very high in sodium). It had no redeeming features other than taste. I couldn’t very well keep pouring gasoline onto the fire. I had abscesses, a chronic yeast infection that wouldn’t go away, and I even passed out one day in front of our family Christmas tree. Soda had to go if was going to feel even remotely better in the short term.
- I Found a Diet Soda I Could Live With: In the beginning, I cut back to one or two regular sodas a day, and then everything else was diet soda. And I experimented a lot trying to find a diet soda flavor I could live with. Not all diet sodas are the same, and some I could definitely live with. Now, some folks will knock the fact that I was still having soda, because drinking diet soda is still drinking soda… But the science behind that is not definitive, and quite frankly, it was still infinitely better than all the straight sugar I was having. I bit the bullet, and had a lot of diet soda. And at first, it was hard. But I looked forward to the one or two regular soda cans, and eventually… I got used to the diet soda flavor, so it wasn’t awful anymore. Instead, it was the regular soda that turned awful. It was just too sweet to tolerate, and it wasn’t worth it.
- I Stopped Being Hooked on Soda Altogether: When I got used to the diet soda flavor, I didn’t find it odd anymore. I completely stopped having regular soda, and didn’t even miss it. Consequently, my body stopped having all that sugar – which was what was pulling it toward having more and more. Soda became like a bubbly treat I could enjoy here and there… but eventually, I found it mostly annoying because it made me gassy, and worsened my acid reflux. I found I couldn’t enjoy meals as well with soda, and became fuller on the gasses from it, than the actual meal. It also made me a lot thirstier for actual water. (All that sodium!) So I began having more and more water. And enjoying how refreshing water could be for my body, and for quenching my thirst. Water became like a new discovery for me. And so I stopped soda. And that was that. No big science.
While in the beginning, leaving soda felt like going without electricity, or the internet, I just did it. I don’t even think about soda anymore… The idea of it never crosses my mind until I see someone missing it on a forum, or a support group. On one occasion, I had a sip of it during a low blood glucose when nothing else was around, and I hated it. It tasted awful to me. Like liquid corn with a ton of sugar and salt in it. And I most definitely tasted that salt. I don’t think I could ever go back, and ponder how folks can even enjoy it. The only hard part about leaving soda was the getting started. After that, it was just a breeze. And honestly, if I did it… so can anyone else. So can you.