How to break up with soda, for good

So you’ve decided it’s time to end your love affair with soda once and for all. Awesome! Good for you! It’s about time you decided to man-up and walk away from that abusive relationship. After all, you don’t want to end up like this guy, do you?

(Oh, wait, you haven’t made that decision to get off soda yet? Read this and you will soon.)

All righty, then. So now what? Prepare for battle, that’s what. Like it or not, soda can be incredibly addictive, and your body and mind may have a hard time letting go.

Breaking the habit is not going to be easy, especially if you’ve been hitting the hooch pretty hard. But it may be one of the best decisions you make for your health — and it could be the first of many amazing, empowered decisions you make to take control of your mind and body. Today Diet Coke, tomorrow the world!

Here’s how to break up with soda for good, with some help from yours truly and a few former soda addicts who’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.


1. Go cold turkey. That’s right, I said cold turkey. Weaning off soda slowly will only drag out the inevitable or, worse, weaken or even change your resolve. Jillian Michaels is with me on this, too. “I’m a huge believer in the cold turkey approach,” she writes for Everyday Health. “Take the hit, get over the hump, and move forward. Not an easy thing to do, but doable nonetheless and utterly necessary.” You’ve decided to quit, so quit. Don’t second-guess yourself. Trust your gut, because right now your gut is telling you, “I can’t go on like this! Please release me from this acid bath of agony!” Keep moving forward and never look back.

2. Prepare for detox. Whether or not you’re ready to admit it, your body is addicted to soda on some level. Know that you’re going to go through physical withdrawals and quite a bit of mental agony. Let’s be real, here: It’s gonna suck. Jillian doesn’t mince words on this, either: “Prepare yourself to feel like crap for a bit until your body has detoxed from soda and broken the chemical addiction.” You’ll have headaches, mood swings, possibly even body aches and nausea. Your family and friends may be afraid of you for a while, so if you can, it may be best to go into hiding.
The important thing to remember is that this is a necessary evil — it’s the only way to break the addiction. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms will happen in the first week or two (though you could be feeling tired and grumpy for a month or so), but then things will get progressively better better. Remember that this WILL end, and you WILL return to normal — even better than normal. You’ll be a brand-new, totally awesome you, possibly 5 lbs. lighter and with the sage-like wisdom of someone who’s been through hell and has a captivating story to tell. Maybe they’ll even make a movie out of your experience, like “Ray” or “Walk the Line.”
3. Take care of yourself. The good news is, you don’t have to suffer through detox without any relief. There are things you can do to ease the symptoms and get your body on the right track. First off, if your beverage of choice was caffeinated, you will more than likely get withdrawal headaches. I took OTC migraine medicines that contained caffeine to treat the headache and help my body adjust to the sudden lack of caffeine. Then, and perhaps most importantly, fill your body with plenty of good stuff; Jillian recommends frequent, balanced meals to stabilize your blood sugar and lots of water to flush out the toxins and boost your energy. This is when I started taking a probiotic and sought out healthy, whole foods recipes (see what I found on Pinterest, yo!) and switched to a plant-based diet. I found that my system was quickly balanced and my cravings disappeared overnight. But if you’re not ready to commit to a greater lifestyle change (one thing at a time, right?), just be sure to start the mornings off right: “Starting your day with a high-protein breakfast can cut your withdrawal symptoms in half within 48 hours, say University of Cincinnati researchers,” writes Brenda Kearns for “Protein slows carb absorption and improves your ability to convert blood sugar into fuel, and that helps reduce cravings, brain fog, fatigue and other symptoms.” Go easy on the breakfast meats and instead try Greek yogurt, green smoothies, and chia pudding.
4. Find a better substitute. To distract you from the battle and satisfy your sweet cravings in a healthier way, find a suitable substitute, like fruit juice or herbal tea with honey. You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and be less likely to relapse. Brenda and Jillian recommend substituting the soda with coffee or carbonated water, but I say why substitute one bad habit for another? I just answered the sweet cravings with a piece of fruit, and that took care of half the battle. I also found that starting my mornings by drinking an alkalizing glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon as well as taking that twice-daily probiotic not only helped to cut the soda cravings, but I immediately started jonesing for the healthy stuff instead. (Just don’t go hiking afterward or on an all-day car ride or something. That stuff gets your kidneys and bladder going right quick.)
5. Replace the ritual. Sometimes a habit is as much about the ritual and the soothing repetition as the indulgence itself. If you cherished your mid-morning Diet Coke break or swigging a soda during a Friday night flick, the cravings may be easier to bear if you find a healthy replacement — especially if you’re using soda for an energy boost. “Pinpoint the vulnerable times in your schedule, then make smart trades, instead of simply depriving yourself,” Brenda says. I’ve become a huge fan of homemade energy bites, but seriously, I fully support indulging in a little bit o’ chocolate every now and then. A girl’s gotta have something to look forward to, right?
6. Reward yourself. I’m not too proud to admit it: I am also fully in support of accepting a bribe (or two) if it motivates you to cross the finish line. Set a goal, like no soda for a week or month. When you’ve met it, treat yourself to something non-food related, like a new DVD, pair of shoes or a night out. Honey, you’ve earned it!
Have you ever beaten a soda addiction? What made you want to stop, and what steps did you take?

5 thoughts on “How to break up with soda, for good

  1. Tony says:

    Everything you say is true. Diet sodas are killers.

    Creating a substitute can make it easier than white-knuckling it by going cold turkey. Once you have decided that what you are doing is hurting you, substitute fruit juice or something that you find tastes good.


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