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Habit of the Week #2

Last week we decided to start this new year off right by instilling some new mini-habits, the first of which was to start drinking more water. This week we're going to focus on...

Drinking Less Soda and Sugary Drinks

Photo credit Mike Cimorelli Jr

My son Nick learning about how unhealthy that soda is...

Write this new habit down in your daily planner so you see it every day. Hang it up on your mirror or on the front of your refrigerator to remind you.

More and more research is coming out with findings that sugar is probably the absolute worst thing for you, far worse than fat, and it's extremely addictive. Not only does it rot your teeth and cause obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it also causes inflammation in the body, which is the precursor to every horrible disease there is: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and on and on. You can read more about the latest research in The Case Against Sugar.

If you would like to jump ahead and see the whole list of 52 simple changes to work on this year for a new and improved you, click here.

If you have a major soda habit, it's probably not reasonable to expect you to stop cold turkey, but you can work on cutting down gradually. It doesn't benefit you to set yourself up for failure, so take your time, observe how you feel when you drink something sweet, and start writing down every time you drink a soda or sugary drink. You can do this in a food journal or in your daily planner if it has some journal pages in it. If you are honest with yourself and write everything down, you will learn a lot about just how much sugar you are drinking and why. Are you feeling stressed or sad? Does it seem like it will be comforting? Often there is a psychological reason as to why we keep reaching for things that we know are not good for us, and if we can recognize it, we can work to change our reactions.

Here are some ideas to help you cut back on your soda/sugary drink consumption:

- If you drink sodas all day long, try only drinking three quarters of each one instead of the whole thing, then cut it down to half a soda each time, eventually cutting down the number of times that you drink it throughout the day, and then the lessening number of days that you drink it at all.

- Fill the cup with ice, and then only put in a little soda, and savor each sip

- Try switching over to sodas made with sugar; for many people, high fructose corn syrup causes more cravings (you'll still need to cut down on the sugar sodas, too - this is just an intermediate step)

- Try substituting a fruit smoothie or some fresh squeezed juice for some of those sodas

- Drink tea with cinnamon added - cinnamon helps tame your sugar cravings

- Keep workin on Week 1's habit of drinking more water, and then you'll be less thirsty for soda

I know how hard this is because I was a total sugar addict. For me, sugar might as well be heroin. I couldn't go off it cold turkey without climbing the walls, but I have made huge strides in the last few years. I started with my coffee, which I drank with milk and sugar. I cut down the amount of sugar in it by a little bit every day, and I switched the milk to half and half so it added a richer flavor. Now I love my coffee with half and half, and I don't even miss the sugar!

I also cut back on going to coffee shops, and when I do go, I order the smallest size mocha and get it with one pump of syrup instead of two. I only splurge like this once every couple of months, and I really don't miss it at all. I do the same type of thing with iced tea; when I order tea at a restaurant where you serve yourself, I fill the cup with unsweetened tea and ice, and then I add just a splash of sweet tea - just enough to add a nice flavor, but very little sugar. When possible, I get an herbal iced tea like hibiscus (I like this one), which has a little natural sweetness to it already without any added sugar.

Soda was not available for me very much when I was growing up, so I never developed a habit of drinking gallons of it every day. It was a special treat that we got to order when we went out for pizza or burgers. To this day, if I go out for pizza or a burger, the only thing I want to drink is a soda! So what I do is fill my cup very full with ice so that there is only room for a little soda, and then I will drink just a few sips of it and throw the rest out. This way I get a little soda fix, but very little sugar compared to drinking a whole glass of soda and then getting a couple of refills... Again, I only do this once every month or two.

I read somewhere recently that it's really only the first couple of sips (or bites) of something that taste absolutely fabulous, and then after that, your taste buds just don't react quite the same to the subsequent sips. I started really paying attention to how I feel when I drink soda or sweet tea or a sweet coffee drink, and I found that to be absolutely true! Since only the first few sips taste really good, it's not so difficult to leave the rest alone. If you have trouble throwing it out because it feels wasteful, just remember that it's terrible for you in the first place, and really the best place for it is in the trash can where NO ONE is drinking it! Ideally, you would just order water, but if you're not quite there yet, try the tricks mentioned above to help you cut down your sugary drink consumption.

Throw it away!! Photo credit Mike Cimorelli Jr

Is sugar one of your biggest problems? What sugary drinks will you be working on cutting back on this week?

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