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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Success Strategy #4: Eliminate ALL sodas (even diet)

As an adult, I was a generally healthy person, but I did have a few vices. I remember when I was a freshman in college, I took a health course, and our professor challenged us to make one improvement in our health. I went to her and asked for some help trying to figure out what I should do. She had suggested quitting smoking (not a smoker), stopping alcohol consumption (not a drinker), or beginning an exercise program (I was lifting 4x per week and on the dance team which had me rehearsing 3x per week). Here I was thinking there wasn't anything I could do to make a meaningful change in my health.

I sat down with her and it took her exactly three minutes to find what my change was going to be. All she had to do was ask me about what I eat and drink. That's when she discovered I was such a soda addict that I actually had Sprite with breakfast (Coke with lunch and dinner, but Sprite seemed more appropriate for breakfast, somehow!). She challenged me to give up soda. And I did! But once the class was over, I added it right back without missing a beat. My biggest vice was Coke slushee (slurpees...whatever they are called where you live), and there were many times where a study session would be interrupted by a "Coke Slushee run."

I gave up soda again when I was pregnant the first time after being advised to do so by my OB/GYN. I still remember saying, "well is diet soda okay?" She gave me the MOST disapproving look and said, "it isn't about the calories. You need to be taking in things with nutritional value." Okay then! But yes, one of the first things I asked for after delivery was a 20oz regular Coke. So once again, it was only temporary.

This time I didn't give it up for a class, or for a pregnancy. I gave it up for me. For my health. And I gave it up for good. ALL of it. Even diet soda.

When I am on different fitness sites, I see a lot of people talking about their soda addictions and how they are switching to diet soda. Now I'm not going to tout the dangers of aspartame to steer you away from diet soda or crystal light or whatever your vice might be. There's lots of conflicting information on the web and you certainly can form your own opinion on that. But here's the thing. If you are drinking a diet drink, you're cutting calories, but you're still maintaining your addiction to a nutritionally empty drink, instead of normalizing the act of drinking plain water. And if you're like me, drinking something sweet (whether it's sweet because of sugar or sugar substitutes) makes me crave more sugar and other carbs.

So hear it from me, a recovering soda addict (Hi. I'm Liz. It has been 5 months since my last Coke Slushee). Diet sodas and other diet drinks are just a nutritionally empty way to maintain your soda addiction. So cut back, go cold turkey, whatever works for you. But don't kid yourself that switching to diet drinks is healthy. Go ahead, say it, "But I don't like water." Yeah, neither did I. But just like anything else, once you expose yourself to it enough, you make it normal and find that you can drink it AND enjoy it.

Is it a coincidence that major changes in my body composition followed my all-out ban on soda? Maybe. Try it, and see if you experience the same kind of happy coincidence.


  1. How true! I used to only drink Pepsi all day, never water and after experiencing kidney stones I quit. I do occasionally drink a few sips of Pepsi in the morning when I can't make coffee.

    I'm interested in your diet that I see you Twitter about. Is there a specific one that you follow?

  2. Glad to hear you've also been able to kick the soda habit!

    As for my diet, I'm not one that deals very well with rigid eating plans. So rather than following a specific plan, I have some general rules I try to follow when eating. I tend to try to get some protein at every meal, ideally lean protein. I try not to go overboard on fat, and tend to limit my exposure to processed carbs, getting most of my carbs from fruit and veggies.

    When I shop I try to buy very few processed/prepackaged foods. That has been a huge help, although I still struggle with my sodium intake because there's a little bit in everything. I like to say it's like death by a thousand cuts.

    If there's interest, maybe I'll do a blog post about a typical day of eating for me and/or what I typically buy at the grocery store.