I need to confess to a love affair.
Thankfully, this torrid romance is a thing of the past. But while it lasted, it had all the drama of a Hollywood blockbuster: temptation, desire, indulgence, shame, guilt, regret. No matter how many times I swore the last time was the last, I couldn’t stay away. After years of the on-again, off-again tango I finally severed the ties for good, and I am never looking back.
No, I’m not talking about an illicit affair with the pool boy. I’m talking about my soda pop addiction.
Dr. Pepper and Coke were my drugs of choice — no diet for me, thanks. I liked the hard stuff, straight up. It wasn’t the amount of soda I drank that leads me to call it an addiction; I did my best to keep my consumption to one can a day. I call it that because my lust for Coca-Cola was not purely physical, it was also emotional and psychological.
It started innocently enough. One of my fondest childhood memories involves the mini glass bottles of Coca-Cola sold at Christmastime. My parents would hold an annual White Elephant party with their friends, and my brother and I would get to take plates full of party food and our own little Santa Cokes upstairs to watch Christmas movies while the festivities went on below. In fact, Coca-Cola was a fixture at all our frequent parties, and it was to be found on all our vacations: Disneyland, Lake Powell, road trips, even camping in the woods. Cracking open a cold can and hearing that little pop-fizzle-sizzle before taking a swig means a good time is about to go down.
My friend Coca-Cola was also with me through drudgeries of grown-up life when there was no party to be had. My post-lunch can of Coke was sometimes my only moment of joy during my more soul-sucking 8-to-5 gigs. Later, as a full-time mom, it was the one treat I had to look forward to in a day full of power struggles with my toddler. It also promised a little pick-me-up, which was desperately needed during those days that seemed to go on forever.
But eventually, my afternoon treat crept earlier and earlier in the day until I was jonesing for a Coke by 9 a.m. So I’d give in, only to find that the buzz wasn’t what it used to be. Before noon I’d be coming down from what little high I got into a sluggish, irritable haze that lasted all afternoon. I knew this relationship was no good, so I’d vow never to buy another can again. I wanted off that hooch, but inevitably the craving would be too strong and my withdrawal headaches obliterated my reserve to stay off the juice. In desperation I’d pack my son into the car and head to the nearest McDonald’s drive-thru to get a hit of that sweet, sweet nectar.
…and two hours later, I’d be right back where I started: temptation, desire, indulgence, shame, guilt, regret. And repeat.
Does this story sound familiar? Do you spend your morning thinking about that first can of Diet Coke, then planning your afternoons around having a second or a third? Do you hit the gas station on the way to work to get juiced up before you get there, then once again on your way home? Do you know you have a problem but are too in love with your soda of choice to even consider calling it quits? Or are you too in denial of your own addiction to even consider the fact that your soda consumption is actually a big deal — a far bigger threat to your health than you could even imagine?
I’m not going to sugar-coat this for you (pun absolutely intended). Your soda addiction is an addiction and it is a problem, a very serious one. I’m not fear-mongering here; I’ve done the research, and it is horrifying. So much so that the sum total of what I learned (and felt during my on-again, off-again affair with Coca-Cola) started me down a path I never imagined I’d take: the path to an organic, chemical-free, whole-foods, plant-based, natural lifestyle.
It didn’t happen all at once, and I’m still in the middle of my journey. As a health and wellness reporter, I’d read a little here, learn something there, and write an article or two about interesting and simple ways to change your emotional and physical health. Though my articles began with potentially huge, monumental, life-altering concepts and ideas, I never made any enormous leaps — which is how, I realized, the ideas have been able to stick. Just a little change here and a little tweak there, and before I knew it I was healthier and happier than I could have ever thought possible.
It all starts with confronting the realities of your lifestyle choices and fully understanding the consequences of your “little” indulgences. Then, with a little education and awareness, you can begin to take control of your health and your life by making better choices. Make as few or as many as you want; the sky is the limit, and each healthy little change you make will improve and enrich your life in important, measurable ways.
That’s what I aim to do with this blog: share with you some eye-opening ideas to inspire you to make your own healthy little changes and turn your life around.
I leave you now with the story that started it all: “This is what happens when you drink soda.” From your brain to your heart and your bones to your lungs, soda pop negatively affects all the major organs and systems of your body — and not in insignificant ways. Dementia, kidney stones, bone density loss, heart disease, diabetes and more are all linked to soda consumption. I wrote this article a year and a half ago, and since then it’s been shared nearly 41,000 times on social media and read by more than 500,000 people, so it’s obviously struck a chord. Take a look and then stop to think about what your own little love affair with soda is worth to you.
Then come back next time and I’ll tell you how to get off that hooch, for good.