Do you drink soda drinks? How often do you drink it?

When I was young, I was an avid drinker of Coca-Cola and other soft drinks. Actually, I was pretty much a coke addict. I could never get past a day without Coke. It was normal to finish almost a whole 1.5 liter coke bottle in a day.

As I grew up, I became more conscious of the need to be healthy. I relooked into my diet, including how my soda habits. Eventually, I took them out of my diet. In the rare occasions where I drink them, I find the taste excessively sweet, acidic and unpalatable. Looking back, it was hard to believe I was putting so much of chemical junk into my body back then.

Here are 5 simple reasons why you should quit drinking Coca-Cola and soda drinks.

1. Counteractive to Weight Loss Efforts
One 330ml can of Coke contains around 160 calories. Assuming you drink one can of Coke every day: that’s 4800 extra calories every month or 1.4lbs. In a year, that adds up to 57,600 extra calories or 16.8lbs. Granted, you will not be gaining an absolute 16.8lbs since our body metabolism adapts accordingly from consuming more/less calories, but you will clearly be gaining weight by drinking Coke/soda drinks over other healthier, lower calories options.

Contrary to popular belief, Diet Coke/soda is counteractive to weight loss efforts as well. I used to think Diet Coke should be a diet staple when I was trying to lose weight, which I later I found out wasn’t the case at all.  Diet soda has been found to increase possibility of weight gain by 41%. While there are many theories explaining this counter-intuitive finding, I thought to test this out for myself. I tried the following two scenarios in separate stretches of time: one drinking diet coke and another drinking just water.
The result? I found a much higher tendency to go into binging attacks when I drink diet coke. The most plausible explanation I found is artificial sugar in diet sodas confuses your body when it tastes something sweet that isn’t sugar. As a result, it makes your body crave for actual, sweet food. So while you may be taking in 0 calories from drinking diet soda, there is a higher likelihood you will grab consume more food after drinking the soda, which then leads to weight gain.

2. Stains and corrodes your teeth.
Coca-Cola and colored sodas stain your teeth. In addition, they have been shown to destroy 10 times more teeth material than fruit juices in just the first three minutes of drinking in a test. Slices of enamel were placed in Coke and other carbonated drinks for 48 hours, where there was a 5% weight loss of the enamel in the end. The high acidity content (pH 2.0~4.0) causes corrosion of your enamel.

If the above doesn’t mean anything to you, watch this video of how a tooth enamel dissolved completely, after 3 months of being soaked in Coke:

And here’s another video of how Coke completely dissolved the shell of a hard boiled egg after 1 year (Egg shells are made up of similar components as our teeth):

For those of you who lambaste such tests, saying that no one soaks their teeth in Coke, remember it’s about the cumulative effects of your daily habits, which give rise to big implications in the future.

3. Limited hydration
Coke and soft drinks contain caffeine, which is a diuretic. A diuretic is a drug that speeds up the rate of urine production – meaning it removes water from your body. While you can get your thirst quenched when drinking Coke, you do not get as hydrated as compared to if you just drink pure water.

4. Artificial stimulant
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant drug. It affects the central nervous system and alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behavior. By increasing the levels of adrenaline (a stress hormone) in your body, you end off setting off feelings of anxiety and tension in your body. Instead of being able to operate as a fully conscious being, you end up having less control of your thoughts, emotions and behavior.

I noticed that whenever I do drink Coca-Cola or soda, my mental thinking is not as clear. It feels as though my thoughts become more rapid, jumbled and haphazard. Even though I’m supposedly more alert, I’m not fully in control of the higher faculties of my mind. It feels more like my mind is operating by itself and my conscious self is only allowed to observe in the background to give limited inputs. If this was in the past where I was drinking Coke every day, I would never have been able to make this observation. However, drinking Coke after being Coke/soda-free for many months made the contrast very stark to me.

5. Causes insomnia and sleeping disorders
The caffeine prevents drowsiness by (i) blocking the effects of hormones serotonin and melatonin and (ii) blocking adenosine receptors (sleep-inducers) from being binded. Apart from causing insomnia, it also prevents you from getting the full benefits of sleep, as the excerpt below from How Stuff Works shows:
The most important long-term problem (of caffeine) is the effect (it) has on sleep. Adenosine reception (sleep inducers) is important to sleep, and especially to deep sleep. The half-life of caffeine in your body is about six hours. That means that if you consume a big cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine in it at 3:00 p.m., by 9:00 p.m. about 100 mg of that caffeine is still in your system. You may be able to fall asleep, but your body will probably miss out on the benefits of deep sleep.

The last time I drank (diet) coke, it kept me up all night until 6am, even though I tried turning in at 2am. My mind just went into overdrive mode and I could not sleep even though my body felt physically tired. If you drink coke/soda and you are finding it hard to manage your sleeping schedule, it might be the caffeine causing the problem. The problem is further aggravated if you are a naturally hyperactive person too (like me).

While you may appreciate caffeine for keeping you awake for a particular morning meeting or presentation, bear in mind that the boost is only temporary and at the expense of the natural functions of your mind (see point 5 above). While you may feel more alert after a dose of caffeine, it is just a stimulated feeling. Whenever I consume caffeine, I feel like my mind has been pried awake beyond its desires. Even though the lights are on in my brain, I can only perform low level tasks which do not require much thinking. Higher functions of my mind seem to be beyond me. I pretty much feel like a zombie walking around with limited mental capacities and a body heavy as lead.

To make things worse, after the initial effects wear off, I am left with a state of fatigue worse than before since I was denying your body of the rest it deserved. To quote Jacob Teitelbaum, “Caffeine is an energy loan shark. What it lends you in the morning it takes back with heavy interest in the afternoon.”

How To Quit Drinking Coke / Sodas Successfully So, how can you quit coke and soft drinks?

  1. Identify why you want to quit sodas. To succeed in the goal, you need a strong enough reason. You don’t need a big list of reasons; just one that’s enough to move you. It can be to lose weight, to be healthy, etc. Use this reason to drive you to quit the habit. Whenever you feel like giving up, recall this reason.
  2. Get rid of the soda drinks at home. If you want to quit, quit now. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll stop drinking after you finish the sodas in the fridge. It may seem like a waste but it’s better than downing them into your body and ruining it.
  3. Have healthy substitute drinks. After I quit drinking soda, I switched to either plain water, milk or fruit juices. I recommend not to substitute soda with coffee – the higher caffeine levels makes it an unhealthy drink as well (more than 2 times compared to Coke, on a per oz basis). I do not drink coffee because of that. I have also never been fond of the taste of coffee anyway - it has a bitter undertone which I don’t like.
  4. Keep track of your soda consumption. How much soda are you drinking every day? Did you drink soda today? Yesterday? The day before? Make a record of the times when you drink soda. Then target to cut back by 50% every week, until it’s finally down to 0%.
  5. Have a water bottle at all times. Fill it with your favorite drink. Not only will you never get thirsty, it’s also economical.
  6. Ensure you have enough sleep. So you do not have to resort to caffeinated sodas to keep you awake later in the day.
  7. Persevere. As you start cutting away Coke and sodas from your life, you may find withdrawal symptoms in the first week (depending on how heavy a drinker you were before). These symptoms may come in the form of restlessness, anxiety, cravings to drink again. Push through! They will start melting away after a few days in the face of your determination. 

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