Every time I see an article like this, I get a little self-congratulatory satisfaction. I kicked the sauce 15 years ago.
As you can tell from the link, I’m not talking about liquor. Luckily, I’ve never had much of a taste for most alcohol, so that hasn’t been a source of weight gain or an impediment to weight loss for me. What I’m talking about is the equally dangerous, harmful, and addictive substance known as the soft drink (which I will refer to primarily as pop, because I grew up in a part of the country that calls it that).
For background, let me go on record and say I used to drink a TON of Coke. We always had it in the house, and I would have 1-2 glasses with dinner every night as a kid. Over summer vacations when school was out, I would come in from outside and pour myself a refreshing glass of not water, not lemonade, but Coke. When my family would go to a restaurant for meals, I got endless refills of Coke. I never. Stopped. With. The. Coke. No one ever told me I should. So, for my entire childhood, it was Coke everywhere. Coke constantly. Always Coca-Cola.
I was one of those kids who really trusted everything authority figures told me, especially my parents and my teachers. Sadly, this means that if someone had told me when I was younger and impressionable that Coke was actually terribly bad for me — and probably if I hadn’t had such regular, easy access to it — I would not have been a pop guzzler during those development years. When I finally did get un-hooked, it was kind of a happy byproduct of a different lesson I learned from an adult.
In my mandatory 9th-grade health class, it was the first time a teacher explained the benefits behind the then-recommended 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day tenet. I decided I wanted to challenge myself to try and drink those 64 ounces of water a day, so I bought a 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina from the vending machine in the cafeteria one day and carried it around with me to classes. I refilled it during the day from the water fountains in the hallway and aimed for 3 bottles a day, figuring that 60 ounces was just as good as 64. I would make it through about 2 bottles in school and do the third bottle in the evening at home. Boy, did I pee a lot all of a sudden. I instantly became the girl asking for the hall pass in every period. And my pee was no longer yellow, but clear. I had never known that was a sign of good hydration.
When I first began that little experiment, I still went straight for the fridge for a glass of Coke when I got home from school. Pretty early on, though — about 2 weeks in — I discovered I actually wasn’t thirsty for Coke; I was thirsty for more water. (I now know that I was never thirsty for Coke; I was chemically craving it.) I gradually, unintentionally, eliminated Coke from my diet. Before long, I started learning how toxic pop is, and became intentional about my decision. I avoided Coke almost entirely and drank exclusively water. Not purely coincidentally, I was the only one of my friends who never had acne problems. I was also the only one of my friends who didn’t have stained teeth when my braces got removed. After a while, I didn’t even miss or think about Coke, even though it was still always in the fridge at home. My little experiment that was supposed to be a short-term thing has turned into a permanent life style practice that I have carried on throughout my entire adult life. In my early twenties, I graduated to a 32-ounce BPA-free bottle that I fill at least 4 times per day. I take it with me everywhere. I am never thirsty.
Almost everyone I know still drinks the fizz. There are some who think it’s cute to constantly refer to their Diet Pepsi addictions, as if they don’t believe that’s actually a thing while they trumpet their dependency on that shit. My friends, it ain’t cute. I know I kind of got off that crap by happenstance, but I am thankful to my teenage self for that every day. Giving up pop was the best thing I ever did for my health.
I’m not saying I’m better than anyone — I don’t believe that and I certainly don’t mean to imply it. What I am saying is, that stuff IS addictive, and that’s the goal of soft drink manufacturers. Our dependency on their product keeps them in business. I believe that the reason Coke’s recipe is locked away in a vault guarded by dragons and rabid dogs is not because the Coca-Cola company is afraid of replication or corporate espionage, but because if the full list of ingredients were ever revealed BY the company, they would be admitting to guilt of willful and knowing participation in contributing to a public health epidemic. If the series of links I shared at the beginning of this blog post didn’t illustrate the point finely enough, maybe this will: soda is extremely fucking bad for you. That these companies are able to profit from marketing poison to the masses in an age where we know how terribly unhealthy this product is, is unconscionable.
I really hope that in the future, we will look back on the days of Coke and Pepsi with as much horror and condemnation as we look at tobacco companies now. They’ll probably never go away completely, but they can be shamed and stigmatized into regulation the way cigarette companies largely have been. Just as tobacco products are only available for purchase by consenting adults and labeled with warnings reminding you that what you’re consuming is killing you, so should pop be. If that sounds extreme, I don’t care. That shit is unhealthy, addictive, unnatural, a body pollutant, a contributor to disease and obesity, and pure trash. Should that be in the bodies of children? Should that be in the body of anybody?
I guess I’m feeling a little angry today about this. I see people chugging carbonated sugar like it’s no big deal, and it worries me. Diet-branded drinks do not make it better; in fact, they are likely even worse. As I’ve mentioned previously, learning about food addiction has been a revelation for me. In that light, I see the beverage addiction even more harshly. I can’t believe we willingly put this stuff into our bodies.
That’s what this is all about, though, isn’t it? We have to have that set of realizations that make us say, “Hang on a sec — what am I doing to myself?” Whether that realization comes after a heart-to-heart with a loved one, through self-education, or by a complete accident, it has to come if you want to be healthy. You are the only one who can make these choices for yourself. You are in control. You decide what goes into your body. You. That’s what I’ve always heard, and what I finally understand.
Funny, for all my youthful reverence of adult authority figures, it’s grown-up me who learned from my teenage self. Seriously, high-school me: thank you.