Why Should I Quit Soda?
"Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?" Shakespeare (As You Like It Act 4, scene 1, 115-124)
First, I'm not picking on any particular brand of soda or beverage company. I see all soda as equal, including diet soda. Actually, depending on who you ask, diet soda can be even more unhealthy.
Also, an occasional soda isn't a catastrophe. I believe it can be enjoyed responsibly. It won't lead to a sudden epidemic or the collapse of civilization. Humanity has bigger problems to face.
So, why should I quit soda?
Soda is great!
My parents owned their own restaurant when I was younger. They rarely brought home the food--mostly fast food--because they knew how unhealthy it can be. So when I worked for them during my high school summers, I knew how much was too much. But soda somehow slipped under the radar. During an eight-hour day working with them, I drank two or three cans. After work I'd have a couple more.
College wasn't much better. I stayed away from alcohol but soda was everywhere. It was in the dining hall and there were soda machines in every building, including the dorms. I always seemed to have something cold and fizzy nearby while studying. Between the exams and papers, I hardly gave it another thought.
In the Army it was more of the same. They weren't keen on soda so their vending machines were filled with those fluorescent, sugary sports drinks. But in the dining facility and throughout base, both choices were readily available. By then I didn't think twice because of all the exercise I was getting. Also, my habit didn't seem so bad when I saw other soldiers drinking or smoking.
Then my intake plateaued. I'd drink at least a two liter bottle of soda a day. There have been days when over half my calorie intake was from soda. My friends and co-workers sometimes looked at me. Or maybe they were looking at the soda in my hand.
At that point, there was no more denial, no more running away. If I'm not sure whether the people in my life are looking at me or my habit but I decided it was time to change.
It's been about about three years since then. Along the way, I learned a few things. Now when I think of soda, it's much harder to stomach.
Think soda is harmless?
The health reason alone was enough to wake me up. But why is it unhealthy? How is it unhealthy? If I could get to the bottom of it all then I knew I'd have a chance.
There are plenty of resources out there that discuss the "why." Do a little homework and you'll have enough information to remove all doubt. I've included a link below to "Killer Colas" by Nancy Appleton. In the meantime, here is a quick list of health problems linked to soda:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Osteoporosis and poor dental health
That's a lot of damage. In fairness, none of these problems are soda specific. In other words, removing soda from the diet won't cure any of them. Also, anyone can get any of these diseases even if they do not drink soda at all.
The only concern I have is that the amount and consistency of soda I drank over the years. Day by day, I was bombarding my system with each can, bottle, cup and refill. Each drink was steadily increasing my risks of all of the above.
This is how all bad habits affect our lives. It's the constant drip that reinforces itself. The constant drip that we then ignore. The constant drip that kills us.
The title is not very subtle but it is very telling in what effects soda has on the body.
It's an addiction
It's hard to think of soda as an addiction. It may even seem offensive, especially with so many people facing alcohol dependency or drug abuse. Such addictions are destroying lives every day. Then there is nicotine found in cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Also many people face "behavioral addictions" such as gambling or shopping that can easily ruin anyone's finances.
So what does any of this have to do with soda?
There are two things going on here. First is how these beverages are marketed towards our children. As participants in any consumer economy we are forever bombarded with commercials and jingles. By the time we are young adults we are able to shake them off, mainly because we are desensitized to them.
But the damage has been done. We know what we want by brand. Whether it's your girlfriend and her super-expensive designer bag or the beer you always go for after work, we expect a specific experience with our brand. And we always get it. Only with soda, it happens to us much earlier and much more frequently.
The next is a bit more complicated, please bear with me. As a species, homo sapiens have dominated the globe by craving sugar, fat and salt. The hunter-gatherer brain found that by craving sugar they would find the softest fruit: a valuable package of vitamins, fiber and water. Then, by craving fat and salt they would find the juiciest meat: a valuable package of protein and calories. Although all these nutrients are easily available today our brains are still wired to crave sugar, fat and salt.
The sugar of fruit is now superseded by the sugar of soda because soda is far more sweeter. However, we do not get the vitamins and fiber from soda that our bodies need to function properly. Our bodies prepare for nutrients but only get high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. Also there's the added damage soda does to our bodies that we discussed earlier. The more soda we drink the more we crave it above fruit.
Let's take a break
What'll it be: fruit or soda? I'm ashamed to say that I used to go for the soda. Only out of guilt would I have settled for fruit. How about lunch? A salad (no dressing) or steak? Personally, I'm trying to cut down on beef as a whole but I can make an exception for steak. If it's too early for lunch, how about breakfast? Water and oatmeal or bacon and eggs with orange juice?
Now, by finally understanding why I love soda, it's much easier to face the craving but choose fruit instead.
Let's take a break
These urges are so strong and deeply-rooted in our minds that they have shaped our entire culture for as long as we have existed. Deirdre Barrett makes this point clear in her book, "Wasteland." You can find more information here.
Soda is expensive
As soon as I started to cut down on soda for the reasons above, I noticed that I was richer. It wasn't by a much but this was unexpected. Let's do the math:
The difference is huge depending on what we do with our new found wealth. If you cut just two sodas a day, you save $3.00 (assuming a soda is $1.50). That's $1,095 a year. Invest your $1,095 in an index fund with an average annual performance of 6% and you will double your money in just under twelve years. That's only if you cut soda for one year!
Don't want to invest? You'll do even better if you use this money to pay off a credit card you have. For example, imagine you have $5,000 in debt at an interest rate of 17%. If you make a minimum monthly payment of $100 (and stop using your card), you will be free of this debt in 87 months or 7.25 years. However, if you add the money you would save on cutting soda then your monthly payment will be $190. You will be free of this debt (assuming you do not use your card any longer) in 34 months--under 3 years. Not bad.
Seeing these figures in black and white helped me out whenever I had change in my pocket as I walked by a vending machine. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
Soda is tough on the Earth
Like everything else, soda takes its toll on the Earth. You'd think that soda is water and sugar with a few chemicals, right? It's not that simple. According to the Wall Street Journal, it takes almost 500 liters of water to make 2 liters of soda.
High fructose corn syrup comes from corn which has to be grown using pesticides and more water. We drink soda from packages: aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles. All of which take energy and valuable resources from our planet. All of this these materials along with the final product have to be stored and shipped all over the world so it can be right at your fingertips whenever you need it: cold and inviting.
While there are many other products out there that do much more damage, if you cut some soda out of your daily life the planet will thank you. Below is a short trailer for the film "Last Call at the Oasis." The world's fresh water is not infinite. Cutting back on soda is just one of the things we can do to help save it.
- How do I quit soda?
Above is an article that shows the steps I've taken to try to kick the habit. Do you have any tips for me?
- The effect of soda on your body
Above is an excellent video by ABC News. It discusses the effects of sugar on the body and the amount of sugar in soda.
- Rule of 72
I used this chart to figure out the return on your investment.
- Credit card debt payoff calculator
I used this calculator to figure out the hypothetical situation above.