I Gave Up Drinking Soda for Lent

By Jen Ashenfelter

I know drinking soda is not good for me, but Coke Zero or Diet Cherry Pepsi have been my beverages of choice for years. Hi, my name is Jennifer. I’m addicted to soda. I love the bubbles dancing in my mouth…and truth be told, I love the sweet taste and quick rush soda gives me. And it’s diet, so I don’t have to worry about the calories. I know I should drink more water, but how can I give up the flavor?Coke Zero

Challenge Accepted

I decided to give up drinking soda for Lent. There’s greater success in achieving a goal when we are held accountable for our actions. So who better than God to keep me on my toes? I don’t need Mayor Bloomberg to help save me from my own habits, but politics aside, I think he’s got the right idea in limiting the sale of soda to something smaller than the size of a personal keg.

I’m proud to report I was successful—not a drop of Coke Zero or any other soda for 40 days. Not even a sip on Sundays when we’re free to indulge. I wanted to rid myself of the craving so drinking it every Sunday wasn’t going to help me. In addition to breaking the diet-soda habit, I thought it would help me drink more water. I can report that was an “epic fail.” I drank plenty of black coffee and green tea—I’m probably medically dehydrated and low on calcium, but that’s another story. Hey, small steps for big gains—leaving the water drinking situation for another day.

Health Report: Bursting the Bubbles

We’ve all heard how soda is bad for your health. I’m not here to make any judgments on food and drink choices, but understanding my choice to give up soda wouldn’t be complete without some background information. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control on obesity statistics in America, more than 1/3 of American adults are considered obese. Obesity rates among adults and children continue to rise. One contributing factor is the consumption of sugary drinks like soda. Add all the health problems related to obesity when listing the reasons not to drink soda.

Knowing that drinking empty calories causes weight gain, I’d drink diet soda with 0 calories. But weight gain and obesity are not the only health problems related to drinking soda—diet or not. Other health problems include:

  • Osteoporosis – one study
  • Fatty liver and metabolic disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart attacks

Heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disease are not good, but as a woman who drinks more coffee and soda than milk and water, I found osteoporosis the most frightening of the problems.

According to a WebMD report:

Researchers at Tufts University, studying several thousand men and women, found that women who regularly drank cola-based sodas — three or more a day — had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in the hip, even though researchers controlled for calcium and vitamin D intake…Phosphoric acid, a major component in most sodas, may be to blame, according to lead study author Katherine Tucker, PhD. Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral. But if you’re getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, that could lead to bone loss.

And let’s not forget reports on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners, sodium consumption and high-fructose corn syrup—but that’s another blog topic entirely. I felt giving up soda was an important goal for me.

The Big Picture

There’s a growing trend in turning to more natural foods instead of highly-processed foods and drinks. As a mother, I want to give my children—and myself—more nutritious meals and snacks, but it’s not always easy. The trend is towards…

  • Drinking milk and water; not juice and soda.
  • Eating lean proteins and whole-grain; not fast food and junk food.
  • Enjoying fresh fruit and vegetables; not sugary treats.

Do as I say, not as I do: Yep, I’m a hypocrite…a fraud. I drink a lot more diet soda than water and milk. I am weak and will scarf down a snack-size bag of chips or handfuls of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish before I consider an apple or raw veggies dipped in hummus. (And I wonder why the jeans feel a little snug or why the kids give me trouble about food choices.) We preach to our kids but how often do we follow our own advice?

I've replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

I’ve replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

One Step at a Time

For me, it’s all about making small changes that will become healthy habits, so that’s why I decided it was time to tackle my soda addiction. Here are my personal observations of my very unscientific study:

  • I can survive without drinking soda—and don’t really want to drink it now. (I drank a diet Coke with lunch the other day because I didn’t want the calories of regular iced tea and didn’t find much satisfaction at the bottom of the straw. Lesson learned.)
  • If you give up (diet) soda because of the artificial sweeteners, then it’s almost impossible to find alternatives—except water and flavored seltzer—which do not contain them…or lots of calories.
  • Eliminating soda from my diet but adding jelly beans is dumb—for all the sugar and chemicals, might as well drink the soda.
  • Start water addiction. Flavored seltzer is great if you crave the bubbles. And with the hotter months ahead, ice-cold water will taste much better.
  • Flavored seltzers should be added to beverage dispensing machines and bottles stocked in refrigerated cases. Sure, plain water is usually offered at restaurants, but I just explained that I need to work on my water addiction.
  • Buy honey, mint or lemons and teabags to make fresh iced tea.
  • Wine and spirits do not count as appropriate alternatives regardless of their finer, pure qualities.
  • Everything in moderation!

What habit have you changed for the better? Are you a soda or water drinker?

For more information about the impact of drinking soda on your health, check out these links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/soda-obesity-diabetes-ban-_n_2862064.html#slide=779339

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/08/31/first-of-its-kind-cdc-report-breaks-down-soda-statistics/

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4 thoughts on “I Gave Up Drinking Soda for Lent

  1. We don’t drink soda often but when I’m out occasionally I’ll pick one up for one the road energy. In 2005 I reshaped my eating habbits completely and began to drink more water by adding sliced lemons to a pitcher and letting it steep for a couple of hours. This helped me get started without any sugar and today I prefer water to anything. Thought I’d mention it incase you’d like to try it.

    • Thanks for your suggestion. Yes, with summer on the way I’m looking forward to using different fruits, veggies–especially cucumber–and herbs to flavor my water just to see what works and what doesn’t. For me, I have to make a concerted effort to take water breaks throughout the day…once I get on a roll, I know my habit will change for the better. I love a good glass of super cold water before I got to bed but that’s not enough for the day, so this will be my summer project. 🙂 J.

  2. Good thoughts, Jennifer! This information is all around us yet, as you say, it can be difficult to make healthy food – and beverage! – choices when there are so many non-healthy choices surrounding us. Some of these choices are even marketed or disguised as healthy … flavored water is not a good choice no matter what advertising angle the makers take!

    My family buys organic products whenever they are an option – no matter what the cost, or sacrifice we have to make with other purchases, because I can’t bring myself to put a price tag on our well-being. Yes, I choose to buy just one container of organic strawberries for more money over the 2 for 1 special on other brands (I don’t know what has been sprayed on those!). And yes, I know Nature’s Promise milk is close to $7.00 a gallon, but I also know we are not consuming any of the harmful additives which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

    I recommend trying ‘Honest Tea’ iced teas (found in the organic/healthy aisles). Check out the low, low calorie content as well as the natural ingredients – and those ingredients have beneficial health properties! I drink ‘Honest Tea’ when I tire of good ol’ H2O. Coffee is actually good for you to consume if you do so in the recommended amount, and watch what (and how much!) you are adding to them. For creamer, I recommend all-natural ‘Natural Bliss’ from the Coffee Mate line. Guilt-fee yum!

    So, there are many ways to ‘indulge’ without potentially harming your health. Thank you for an informative article!

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