Is Soda Addiction Real?

Heck yeah! I know, because when I was a junior in college I had a major soda addiction, specifically Coca-Cola. Back then I was chugging a 2-liter bottle of the stuff every single day. That’s a five and a half can a day habit and the equivalent of eating 20 tablespoons of sugar a day. My dealer was the campus convenience store. Being a typically poor college student I scraped together my quarters each day to buy my drug of choice. Once I got the Coke in my hand, it was time to get my fix. I had a ritual like many addicts do. CarbonationCredit: shaymus22First it was listening to the oh-so-pleasing “pfft” sound of the cap being twisted off and the gases being released. Like Pavlov’s dog, my mouth would start watering for that sweet, syrupy, carbonated concoction. Next came, “gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp,” followed by an “AHHHHHH,” then a “YESSSSS,” as the burn, that wonderful burn from the carbonation singed my throat and coursed its way down to my stomach. Finally there was the happy sigh of satisfaction and euphoria from knowing that my next chug was just a few seconds away.

I didn’t think I had a soda addiction. I didn’t notice any difference in my functioning. For instance, I didn’t need it to get me going in the morning the way many coffee drinkers need their caffeine fix. But I DID begin to notice that I was craving it like crazy.  I daydreamed about soda in class. No matter what was happening, I knew that one happy spot in the day would be my private Coke time. It was then that I knew it was a problem. I didn’t need to do any research. I just knew that I had a soda addiction. So I went cold turkey. I jonsed for two weeks.headache(130247)Credit: Sarah G: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96526303@N00/3651344537 The first few days I was shaky, jittery and headachy. I didn’t think I was cranky, but you’d have to ask my friends about that. The rest of my withdrawal consisted of licking my lips constantly and a watering mouth due to cravings.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like addiction to me. I don’t care that there appears to be scant (but increasing) research that confirms what so many people already know in their hearts. Here’s what I know for sure. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s an opportunity for some duck pâté.

Why is the Truth Not Being Told about Soda Addiction?

Maybe because it’s in the soda industry’s best interest not to fully inform consumers about the effects of soda.  Soda sales in the United States have declined for the past eight years.[2] There are many organizations with authoritative sounding names such as the National Soft Drink Association, the American Beverage Association, and Coca Cola’s own, Beverage Institute. I believe these organizations try to imply impartiality, when what I see on these sites is soda propaganda and obfuscation about what our very own bodies tell us is true.

I don’t think that it is far-fetched to believe that there could be a conspiracy to cover up the effects of soda.  On Coca Cola’s own website, the “attempt” to provide education about product nutrition uses an illustration so confusing that it looks like something out of a chemistry class.[3] The Beverage Institute (led by Coca Cola), in response to research that provesCaffeineCredit: Mararie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32404172@N00/136810757 a link between cola and its ability to leech calcium from bones, posted a report which promotes the idea that drinking soda is okay because it “… is likely that the effect is due to replacing milk with soda…as long as adequate levels of calcium intake are maintained, both carbonated and caffeinated beverages can be consumed in moderation.” [4]Um – How about we stop drinking so much soda and drink more milk instead?

My point is if this is how the industry approaches information distribution about the effects of soda, can we really expect to get an admission that yes, there are people who have a soda addiction? There is research about caffeine addiction, sugar addiction and high fructose corn syrup addiction,[5] two significant ingredients in many sodas. What are we supposed to believe happens when they are combined? Do they magically cancel out each other’s effects? Let’s not kid ourselves. When you are drinking almost six cans of soda a day like I was, and you are shaky and jittery without it, there’s a problem.

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How to Cure Soda Addiction

Once I kicked my soda habit, I am happy to say that I was over it for good. I consume soda occasionally. Water is my beverage of choice because I try to stay away from empty calories. (I sure miss the days when I could eat copious amounts of Chinese food at midnight and not gain weight). If you are trying to kick a soda addiction here are a few methods to consider:

Going Cold Turkey
Going cold turkey to get over a soda addiction means cutting off soda all at once. This may be the hardest method because of the potential for soda withdrawal symptoms. Your body may be detoxing from the addiction to sugar and the addiction to caffeine.El CafeCredit: 3oheme: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31044991@N04/5102515853 Headaches, jitteriness, irritability, nausea and cravings are not uncommon. Plan ahead for how you will deal with this possibility. Tell other people what you are doing so that you have a support system. Replace the “good feeling” that your soda addiction gave you with others things that feel good. Step up your work out game for instance. Get some additional endorphins coursing through your body.

Start your cold turkey journey at a less hectic time. For instance, it might be better to begin on a Thursday night rather than a Sunday night. Starting the week fresh sounds like a great idea until you start attacking co-workers late Monday afternoon. Beginning on Thursday leaves you heading out for the weekend when it really starts to hit you on Friday and you have Saturday and Sunday to work through it. It will get better and it is totally worth it.

Weaning as a Way to Cure Soda Addiction
Shopping - Grim SweaoerCredit: David Blackwell: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40966760@N00/4321735939/Weaning is another option for breaking the soda addiction when going cold turkey is too much.  There are many variations. For instance if you are drinking four sodas a day, replace one can a day with water (or seltzer if you crave “the burn”). When you are comfortable at 
that level, cut back one more soda and so on. This method may make any withdrawal symptoms you suffer more bearable than going cold turkey. Be real with yourself and set up a goal timeline. If you feel better after a week of removing one soda a day from your diet, then cut the next one out immediately. Don’t substitute your four can a day addiction to soda with a three can a day addiction.

Another variation is to start by drinking soda with less sugar and caffeine. Many soda manufacturers, including Coca Cola offer lower sugar, lower caffeine versions of their products. You could initially drink the same amount of soda you have been, but your sugar and caffeine intake would immediately decrease. Once acclimated to that change, begin cutting back on soda as described above. Find a variation that works for you.

Sodastream Instead of Store Bought Soda
After I beat my soda addiction I realized that what I loved most about soda was the burn. I didn’t like the taste of plain seltzer water and can’t stand the taste of diet soda. One day I had an opportunity to try the Soda Stream at a local store and I was hooked! Okay, wrong word. I was very excited because I immediately saw a million possibilities.

The Sodastream allows me to handcraft my own carbonated beverages.  Fresh squeezed juices, teas, homemade lemonades and more have gotten the carbonation treatment. It is all kinds of yummy, like a carbonation party in my mouth.

As far as sodas go, Sodastream sells their own line of soda syrups (My favorite is the orange) which are significantly lower in calories, sugar and caffeine than store-bought soda. Coca-Cola for instance has 27 grams of sugar and 23 grams of caffeine per serving, while the Sodastream cola has 9 grams of sugar and 15 grams of caffeine per serving.[1]

The reduction in calories could aid in weight loss. A 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola clocks in at about 175 calories, while 12 ounces of Sodastream sodas are about 50-75 calories. The savings could add up quickly. Use me as an example. When I was drinking five and a half cans a day, I was consuming about 960 calories a day! That’s about 6700 calories per week! In soda! That’s hundreds of thousands of soda calories a year. If I eliminated the soda and changed nothing else about my diet, I would have eliminated enough calories to lose 100 pounds in a year! (6700 calories per week x 52 weeks/3500 [the number of calories in a pound of body weight]). That’s crazy, right? Plus there is the added benefit of saving money because it is cheaper to use the Sodastream to make soda than to buy soda. Best of all, once you kick your soda addiction, you still have a great toy to play with and can amaze your friends. My mom and sister-in-law both have Sodastreams now. 

Talk with Your Doctor
Get In Debt Get Fat DieCredit: FilthFiller: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48625250@N00/2510296904You know what? If you believe that you have a soda addiction and nothing is working, talk with a medical professional. There is nothing to be ashamed of. The shame is that I believe we’re not being told the whole truth about the effects of soda.

Press forward with your desire to be healthy. You won’t regret it. Former and current soda addicts, tell me your story. What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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