For years I drank diet soda almost every day. Everything I read or heard on the news said it was perfectly safe and a good option if you wanted something other than water. But how safe could it be when you read the label and find that it’s water mixed with a bunch of chemicals? I’m sure the safety debate will go on forever and will never be fully resolved. Like anything, it’s a personal decision whether you want to drink it or not, but a few years ago, I made the decision to cut way back on diet soda and now I hardly ever drink it. But it was hard to give up, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to break the habit. If you’ve been wanting to cut back on regular or diet soda, here are some things to try.
Go Gradual. Some people can cut out soda completely on day one, but most people can’t, especially if they’re used to drinking it every day. If that’s you, then cut back gradually. If you drink three 20-ounce bottles a day, commit to cutting back to two a day for a week, and then one a day for the week after that. Write out your plan and put it where you’ll see it when temptation strikes. For example, if you get your soda from the vending machine at work, place a reminder note (“only 2 sodas today!”) on your computer or desk.
Limit the Occasions. Set limits on when you’ll drink soda. For instance, you could decide that you only drink soda between noon and 2; or only on Saturdays; or you never order soda at restaurants. Doing this takes the temptation away because there’s no decision to make. In fact studies have shown this type of mental trick works really well when you’re trying to break a habit. So saying something like “I don’t drink soda at restaurants” works better than “I’m trying to cut back on soda.” Try it and see!
Savor it. Many people drink soda out of habit. It comes with your value meal at a fast food place so you just drink it. Or maybe you always drink soda with dinner and don’t even think about. Break those habits and only drink soda when you’re actually going to savor the taste of it rather than using it as something to satisfy your thirst. Maybe you really love the taste of soda when you have it with a certain food. In that case, turn it into a special treat and have it only on those occasions. My husband likes soda with pizza so that’s his splurge, but then he doesn’t drink it at other times. Along this same idea of savoring, on those few occasions you drink soda, make sure to only drink soda you like. How many times have you ordered your favorite soda at a restaurant and they tell you they don’t have it so you settle on something you don’t like as well? Don’t do it! If you’re going to drink soda, it should at least be your favorite and not some replacement!
Try Alternatives. There are plenty of non-soda alternatives besides water. The gas station I go to recently added flavored iced teas next to their fountain drink station. And when I say flavored, I don’t mean a sugary mix. They just brew it with black tea leaves mixed with dried mango. You can do this at home with any type of tea bags you have on hand. You could also try naturally flavored waters or if you like carbonation, try a naturally flavored sparkling water. Several brands make these now and sell them in cans or bottles. Or you might consider getting one of those machines that carbonate water. You can mix the carbonated water with iced tea or fruit juices.
Take a Soda Vacation. If the thought of quitting your soda habit cold turkey is too much for you, just cut it out for one week. The first day or two could be rough but stick it out for at least a week (or two if you can do it!). During the week note how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you feel better? I noticed my skin looked better when I cut out diet soda. You also might have a flatter stomach since the carbonation fills your stomach with gas. And make sure to call it a soda vacation. It sounds better than quitting cold turkey.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.