Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Quit Drinking Soda (and why you should)

Watching your diet is hard.

Cut out snacks, and you load up a bigger plate at dinnertime. Skip lunch, and you're snacking on chips and candy by 2 pm. Hunger is a tough foe.

If you're anything like me, overhauling your diet overnight is an unsustainable proposition. I'm not going to be able to convert to the South Beach Diet in a day. To this I say: Rome wasn't built in a day.

So I give you an easy step one. Or perhaps you've already taken step one, which could be starting up a light exercise regimen, or switching to healthier snacks. Here it is:


It's as easy as it sounds. Soda is delicious, refreshing, energizing and really, really unhealthy. It's also habit-forming. Your body becomes dependent on the sugar/caffeine hit and it encourages you to then consume even more soon after. The sugar, of course, means more calories; that's not even counting the other health problems caused by soda (we'll come back to those later).

The simple number to use here is 155. That's how many calories are in a can of Coke.

On a one-off basis, that won't kill you. It's less than basically any menu item at McDonald's, less than a donut, less than a candy bar, less than a lot of things. It's not the worst thing you could eat.

Soda, however, is rarely a one-off proposition. Remember, this is the drink we buy in cases of 12. If you drink soda, you probably drink it every day. There's a good chance you drink it more than once a day.

Here's an example for your reference: until recently, I drank two coffees a day. Let's say our typical Soda fan drinks two Cokes a day - one with a sandwich at lunch and one at 3pm when she's in need of a sugar kick to get her through the rest of the day at work. On weekends, she also drinks two cans out of habit.

You can see where this is going, right? In one week, that's 14 cans of soda, good for 2,170 calories. If she's adhering to a 2,000 calorie diet, she has to NOT EAT ANYTHING for one day a week to compensate for that soda. Can you imagine doing that to yourself once a week? That's the kind of pain it would take (and we don't recommend meal-skipping or crash diets here) to compensate for the calories added by a couple drinks during the day.

Crazy to think about it, eh? Because a soda is a small calorie hit in each can, we let it slip. It's no worse than other snacks, but if we eat 14 donuts a week or two candy bars every day, we'd be disappointed in our self-discipline. Soda gets a pass, and as a result, we're suffering from weight-gain-by-a-thousand-pinpricks.

I wish I could say it stops there, but it doesn't. There's more to soda than calories-it's the damage of a bloodsugar spike to your system. As you may know, all the energy from soda comes from refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. That means it doesn't stay in your system for long- if you're being active, your body will burn it, but more likely than not, your body puts it into storage (your love handles or butt, up to you) in short order. At least a Snickers bar gives you a little protein from those peanuts! For half an hour after your soda, you do have more energy, and some of it will burn off.

What else is going on, though? Let's take a look.

The sudden sugar boost sends a signal to your digestive system: take it easy for now. That means other energy production goes on hold while the sugar pumps through your blood. Half an hour later, the soda sugar is gone, and you're suddenly on a sugar low. Caught unprepared, your digestive system has to start up again, but not before you get really, really tired and lazy. It's bad enough that you're not getting any work done; now, you're craving more sugar!

Solution? A snack, maybe? Dear God, not another soda! In your low-energy state, you might not be able to recognize the peril of this decision- your commitment to a 155-calorie treat has now blown past 300 calories. Even while you've got perfectly good food already in you, your body is calling for more calories in their purest form.

That, my friends, is the greatest evil of Soda. It's more than just a calorie-rich junk food: It's the habit-forming gateway drug of snack foods. Most other snacks, especially the fatty ones, take longer to digest and are more likely to satisfy you until your next meal. Not that I recommend fatty snacks- healthier options high in fiber (veggies) or protein (yogurt, nuts) are more likely to keep you satisfied and can taste just as good. Soda, on the other hand, will almost never satisfy your craving.

So if you're thirsty, drink a glass of water or a cup of tea. I can't recommend water highly enough; your body needs it all the time anyway. I know it might seem boring or not taste that great. You have to get used to it. You're going to get thirsty a lot and if you can't make water your default thirst cure, you're in trouble. Juice and Gatorade are just as full of sugar as Soda (though you should drink real fruit juice from time to time) so they're not good to be drinking all the time. If you don't get to liking water, you're going to fall back into the soda trap

I mentioned earlier about other problems created by drinking too much soda. Besides weight gain and obesity, soft drinks have been found to be a cause of diabetes, tooth decay and loss of sleep. Pick your poison - all of those are tough to deal with. It's so easy to greatly reduce your chance of having to face long as you simply


Have a good one folks.

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