Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Long Soda

Meet my dad. Until his recent trip to Steamboat to visit us and spend time with his favorite grand-twins (they are, of course, his only grand-twins which makes securing the top spot easy) he was easily drinking 8+ sodas a day. That’s right, MORE than EIGHT sodas EVERY day. Typically he would start his day with the breakfast of champions, a cup of coffee and not much else, and then go on to drink soda throughout the day, often skipping meals in the process. A glass of water rarely passed his lips. The most alarming thing of all though was that he would pop a couple of Tylenol PM’s to counteract the caffeine in his late-night Coke Zero. I wish I were joking.

Enter his loving daughter, yours truly.

My parents spent about 10 days out here in January visiting us, during which time I worked my tail off as the Food Police. I tried my best to show my parents alternatives to some of the convenience food they normally consume. I cooked healthy vegetarian meals and encouraged them to start exercising. And I nagged the pants off my dad about his soda habit. Since I don’t buy soda or keep any in the house it was a bit of a baptism by fire for my dad. He did end up purchasing some on his own but, thanks to the askance glances he received every time he opened one, he drank very few.

Please don't get upset or defensive with me, but there are a number of issues with drinking soft drinks, some of which include the following:

1. Drinking soft drinks replaces healthier nutrients. Very seldom is someone who’s drinking a Coke or Diet Coke simultaneously craving an apple or a salad. Drinking soft drinks is typically accompanied by snacking on fatty or salty foods.

2. Drinking soft drinks, even “sugar free” soft drinks that contain aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, sucralose, increase blood sugar and weight gain. These artificial ingredients act like sugar in terms of the manipulation of blood glucose so they really don't promote weight loss. Sucralose is closely related to sugar in terms of the chemical compound, with the exception that chlorine has been added to keep it from influencing blood glucose levels. Chlorine is not healthful and can disrupt the healthy flora in the intestines, thus limiting our ability to absorb nutrients.

3. Caffeine increases calcium loss from bones, elevates heart rate, influences mood and is addictive. Caffeine is the primary cause for the headaches that most people experience when they quit drinking soft drinks.

4. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and has been shown repeatedly to be a cancer promoter. The body does not know how to process and eliminate artificial ingredients properly so they are often stored in fatty tissues in the brain and reproductive organs and can cause problems at the cellular level that result in a wide variety of maladies.

Water should be our first choice of beverage. Water cleanses, purifies, aids in digestion, helps support our metabolism and aids in detoxification. The average person should drink at least 64 ounces of plain, filtered water every day. Nothing else is a substitute for our body’s need for water. But don't worry, the more water you drink the more you will enjoy the taste of plain water and the more your body will actually crave it. Trust me.

I am happy to report that, since his visit, my dad is drinking one or maybe two diet sodas per day now. That is a HUGE improvement from the 8 or 9 he was previously consuming. And, it seems that this change is leading to other healthier changes as well. My parents have both started exercising on their own and working with a trainer once a week. They are making healthier snack and meal choices as well. Remember, progress … not perfection.

If I can teach this old dog new tricks I'm betting each of you can make a step in the direction of better health too. Of course, my parents have two compelling reasons sitting in their laps:

Way to go Dad (and Mom too)!

What are your reasons for wanting to improve your health? Write them down, share them with us here and/or post photos of loved ones in prominent places to remind you why you are choosing health over soda and junk food. Because it is a choice ... and I vote for us all choosing better health!


  1. My husband recently lost about 25 pounds and tells everyone it's because he gave up soda. He stopped cold turkey and when he wants a little fizz he drinks a spring water. It's made a real difference for him.

    Since I never have been much of a soda drinker, I thought about starting up a habit and then stopping to see if it'll help me lose 25 pounds, but decided against it. :)

  2. That is awesome that your dad is down to 1-2 sodas a day! I am a fizzy drink lover but I hate what is in soda. I say if you're going to drink it, at least drink the regular b/c of all the nasty chemicals in the diet.

    But better yet, I am starting to like seltzer water with a splash of juice! I really want to get this...http://www.sodastreamusa.com/ - make your own fizzy drink! I wouldn't use all the syrups...just want the carbonated stuff!

    And even better yet still is just plain old, life giving, water! I've been trying to get in 8 glasses of water a day but I have to have a system to help me remember. So, above my kitchen sink sits a glass cup with 8 pennies in it, every time I drink a glass, I take one out. I'm on day 5 of this and have gotten to at least 6 every day.

    Why do we want to be healthy? I know why and I dread the future if continuing on the same path!!!! I just need to connect my everyday actions with what I want & why!

  3. I am addicted to soda. I have quit many times but always seem to come back. I know that it is bad for me and but I really have a hard time giving it up. And unfortunately I have passed this bad habit on to my daughter who is now a teenager and just as addicted to soda as I am. Do you have any tips on how to kick the habit for good?

    Why do I want to improve my health? Because I am tired of feeling TIRED and WORN OUT all of the time. I want to be around to see my daughter accomplish all of her dreams and eventually start a family of her own.

  4. UGH! I really didn't like to read this my little Erin. You know I have a love affair with Diet Coke. BUT I know you are RIGHT!! I seriously want to stop drinking DC but just can't seem to do it knowing the pain I will endure.
    When I was pregnant with Ian (IAN-OOO) dr made me get rid of ALL caffiene due to best rest reasons. The three/four days of hell was aweFUUUUUL. Anyway, I know you are doing your best to help a sister out but seriously isn't there anything good about drinking it????


  5. my husband drinks too much coke zero. well, he has improved from regular coke, to coke zero or diet, and he used to drink way more... but he cant seem to cut back from 2 cans a day... I guess I just need to keep nagging him!

  6. it's a tricky thing to give up i'm sure but you could start by not buying it to have in the house. then it truly becomes a treat if you are out.

    and, harm, i'm not sure the diet is better than the regular. yes, it is less calories but it is loaded with chemicals so it's not necessarily better for you than the sugar-laden pop. also, my experience is that people drink many more "diet" sodas b/c they are calorie-free than they would regular soda. but that's great that he has cut back.

    and L2R ... i wish i could tell you there was something positive about drinking soda but there's really not. put down your diet coke and go get a water my friend :) xo.

  7. I absolutely am the worst in drinking water so instead I drink Green Tea, my accupuncturist says that Green Tea is great.

  8. Green tea is awesome ... and loaded with antioxidants (you still need some plain H2O tho!) ... I'm liking this Green Tea with Goji Berry right now. I think the goji berry cuts the grassy taste of green tea.

  9. THIS IS FROM MY DAD. He was having some technical difficulties posting his response so here it is:

    “OK I have gone cold turkey; I am into day three no sodas, no coffee. The massive caffeine headache is subsiding. I have committed for one week then I will reassess based on the pain pleasure concept.”

  10. go BUTCH!! so proud of him.

    I drank 3-4 Diet Cokes a day while in law school. I used to have coffee in the morning, and then pack two DC's in my book bag to take to school.... I got down to one per day a few years ago, and then had to cut it completely when I was pregnant. Now I am back to one DC per day - it's usually my lunchtime treat.

    But I know it's not good for me, and well, since I will hopefully be pregnant again some time this year, I really need to just give it up totally.

    I have good reasons to be healthier and my hardest struggle right now is my lunch. I often buy my lunch and by the time I get out and do that, I am so starving that I make bad choices. so I need to pack my lunch so I don't make bad choices, but geez, does that take even more time in the mornings!

    It's important though, and I've been reading the Eating at the Fridge book that Erin recommended, and last night, read the part about picking just one thing that I can do better and doing that for a week, then picking one more. So I am going to give up my DC starting today....

    My dad had a stroke at the age of 59 that nearly killed him. He is now permanently disabled and while he can live at home, he cannot really talk/communicate, can't be left alone, and we don't know for sure how much he really understands. In many ways, my mom is now taking care of a child again. My parents have been married over 40 years and it's really hard on my mom to see my dad, who is now just 62, in this state.

    It was and still is a wake up call to our family that it's so important to take care of our health, eat right, and try to get some exercise. There are ALWAYS excuses, and trust me, I'm the queen of them, so I need to just find a way to get rid of the excuses and do better, just one day at a time.

  11. Great Job Butch!!! I am so proud of you!!

  12. BUTCH you are suppose to be on my side. Cant we be partners in the soda crime dept together? I need you more than ever on this right now. You said it......headache headache headahce....that's exactly what I am afraid of when giving it up. UGH....cut your trees low tonight I might be out with some white stuff!!
    Still love you though. XXOO


  13. wait....does the green tea have caffiene?


  14. L2R: the Yogi brand Green Tea Goji Berry has 55 mg of caffeine per cup as compared to approx 90 mg in the same amount of coffee. Diet Coke has about 45 mg.

  15. ok, I actually did pack my lunch today. so I had my all natural, organic PB&J on whole wheat, some apple slices and WATER. But I must confess, when I went to the office kitchen to fill up my water cup, it was REALLY REALLY hard not get Diet Coke. I mean, c'mon they're FREEEEEEEE! That's like passing up a 50% off sale at DSW.

  16. The FREEBIES at work would be a distraction to say the least, so WELL DONE KEL! It's one thing to make the rule that you won't buy any for your own home when you're at the store but then to have them taunt you like that at the office. Well, it's just not fair :)

  17. I can pass up soda easily but red wine . . . I finally had to ask my husband to not buy it. Now I just have a glass if we go out for dinner or if someone comes to our house for dinner and brings a bottle, I have a glass of that.

    About a week after I go through one of these "not drinking it" moments, and continue my working out, the weight starts dropping off. Hmm...cause and effect? And I sleep better.

    Here's a weird thing -- I find that if have my water in a water bottle and carry it around with me all day throughout my house, on my errands, etc., I actually drink a LOT of water, which is much healthier. It makes me wonder what I'm doing to my body on those days I don't have one with me. I think I'm dehydrating myself! That can't be good.

  18. um, how do people do this? I am DYING! it is 5:00 here in LA, I have not had my Diet Coke, and no caffeine since my morning coffee. I am going to be here working late until like 10:00 and I seriously do not know if I can get by w/out caffeine!!

    would a run to Starbucks be outside the scope of possibility?

    Desperatelawyermommy AKA Kelly

  19. YAYYYYYY Erin's DAD!!!!!!
    Erin, the similarities between your dad and my parents are eerie. My dad often just has coffee for breakfast, then drinks a soda with lunch and dinner and NO water all day! My mom drinks Diet GingerAle all day and NO water. I just can't believe it sometimes.

    The good news is that my dad actually sent me an email he received from a colleague about how bad Coke is for you when I was visiting, then I saw him drinking water. YAY DAD! Small steps Daddy-O!

    Now, my mom is another story...another LONG story.

  20. Wow - Way to go to Butch.

    Now I do 1 small can of 8 oz diet coke so I don't go overboard. It is my treat for myself with lunch. How can a little tiny can of soda (that's it) be that bad for you. I do have to work on the water thing. I find myself parched by dinner time.

    I'm still stuck on my food choices. I am a person who eats when they are bored and down. I will admit that yesterday I ate 1/2 sleeve of thin mints. Damn those girl scout cookies. It was a very bad moment. So much that I think I gagged on the last one I was about to eat and fed it to the dog instead.

    My goal is to make better food choices. I do like the penny idea on the fridge for water. That's a good tool to use. I might try that.

  21. The green tea I drink does not have caffeine, it's made by Bidelow and mine is flavored with Lemon but they have a bunch of other flavors as well. I only drink non caffeinated drinks so this green tea stuff works for me.

  22. i recently went cold turkey on soda, and am trying to do the same with coffee. i'm doing okay, and have the green smoothie to thank! i get the same energy for longer into the day than with coffee! it's amazing! not to say i won't fall off the wagon at somepoint (there's just something so soothing about holding that starbucks cup), but i'm feeling good about the progress.

  23. The Soda Stream is a nice substitute for soda and even plain water if you get tired of drinking that. I keep a cool jug in the fridge with some fresh lemons and limes cut up to make it interesting. Also, have you ever been to a spa where they serve cucumber water, lemon water, orange water, or lime water? The list goes on. So many options to spice it up a little while you are trying to improve your water intake.

  24. I gave up soda and caffeine a year ago. This was soooo difficult for me but I can't believe I did it. I have suffered from vertigo and high cholesterol most of my 34 yr. life, until now. (At 34, I was in my best shape ever and weighed 110 lbs and still was not "Healthy.")
    I know the caffeine and soda had something to do with it. (I also started eating lots of nuts and seeds to replenish nutrients.)
    It's a hard habit to break but well worth it in the long run. :)