I’ve had friends lose 50 pounds just by quitting soda.
In fact, I used to have a close friend waaaaay back in college who was so addicted to soda, that he permanently always had at least a 2 liter bottle under his desk, alongside one of those cardboard boxes filled with about 20 cans of soda.
He would regularly gulp down a 2-liter bottle while he was doing homework at home, or on the way to his classes.
He was so hooked to soda, that if he drank less than two cans a day he began getting severe migraines and headaches.
Talk about withdrawal.
Chances are… if you drink soda, you realize it’s not good for you. “Yeah yeah yeah, my mom told me that for years.”
But consider this..
We spend $65 billion dollars a year on soda in the US alone, even though we know:
Soda erodes the enamel in your teeth. Pretty much any drink that’s high sugar high acid causes enamel destruction over time.
Can lead to heart disease: Almost all soft drinks now contain high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar. You can read more about how this is much worse for you than sugar itself. Intake of high fructose corn syrup is linked to metabolic syndrome – a precursor and early warning sign linked to heart disease and half a dozen other diseases.
Osteoporosis: Soft drinks contain phosphoric acid which (among other things) has been associated with bone breakdown and a higher rate of osteroporosis – this acid also takes calcium with it when it is excreted by the body.
Obesity and diabetes: the link between soft drink intake and diabetes is so strong that researchers actually calculate that for each additional soda, the risk of obesity increases 1.6x.
But that’s great. We know it’s bad. But how do I stop? In fact, how do I break any bad habit or create great new habits – if I want to lose 20-30 pounds, reverse diabetes or prevent future illnesses?
I’m not here to lecture you on the boring science and cite a hundred studies – I’m here to show you how to actually change your habits, for good.
That’s what this is all about.
Why You Can’t Quit This Drug
Cool Alex, thanks for telling me what my mom already tells me… soda is bad, I get it.
Here’s the thing though: sugar’s a drug. In fact, food is a drug – so when you’re stress eating or emotionally eating, it functions just like popping a valium – the reward centers in the brain activate and happily gulp that up.
So food produces real, physiological relief in your brain – it’s not just emotional, it’s chemical.
Check out these two brain scans.
This is a person “on food.”
This is a person on cocaine:
They look similar, right? Well that’s because they are similar. In fact, they’re almost the exact same.
That’s why I constant hammer the fact home that you should NOT be using willpower and discipline – it’s backwards (and ineffective) to tell a drug addict to just “fight” the cravings – and for many of us, willpower is just as useless when it comes to battling food.
Tiny habits, systems, and addressing whatever underlying psychology is making you eat is the way to tackle this.
So how can you actually quit soda, for good? Let’s talk about this now, based on the latest habit research.
The 3 Step System to Quit This Week (For Good)
First – a 10 second primer on how habits work.
Virtually all your habits have three key parts:
- A cue (whatever triggers the habit)
- A routine (whatever you do, whatever the habit is)
- A reward (whatever the relief/satisfaction you feel is)
So, an example:
Let’s look at an emotional eater.
Cue – sadness. John had an argument with his girlfriend, now he’s sad.
Routine – eating pizza. John decides to eat some pizza to feel better.
Reward – feeling better. John feels better.
So the sadness triggered the routine (eating cake), which led to a reward (feeling better).
There are basically two ways John can stop becoming such a serious emotional eater:
A. He can stop feeling sad, and thus stop triggering this vicious cycle (bye bye girlfriend)
B. He can change what he uses to make himself feel better. So rather than eating cake, he can watch his favorite movie, or he can go for a walk, or see a friend, or do one of his favorite hobbies.
So he can:
A. Avoid/disable the cue
B. Swap the routine
Now let’s talk about making this happen with soda…
Step #1: The index card routine
The first thing you need to do is… Figure out why you’re drinking soda, and when.
“It tastes good, that’s why – duh.”
Okay, that may be true.
But maybe you drink soda for some other reasons – boredom, stress relief, the caffeine, a sugar craving, or many many other reasons.
And like any habit, if you have no idea when or why it occurs, it’s very difficult to swap it out for a new habit.
So the first thing is something called the index card routine that I adapted from a technique used in psychology to give people some insight into their own habits.
Here’s all you do:
Carry around an index card for a week.
Every time you drink soda, you write down two things:
- What were you just doing when you had it.
- What were you feeling, or what was your state of mind.
- I was just eating dinner with Janey, we got some sodas. Felt happy.
- I was at work at 2:30 pm, I was bored working on a new project
Over the course of a week you’ll realize some interesting trends, like:
– You drink soda with the same people
– You drink soda when you’re bored at work
– If you don’t buy any soda at home, you won’t drink it
So first, you need to figure out when you drink it, and why (beyond it tasting good).
Step #2: Decipher the triggers
Now, you take all the data you realized from the index card routine. And you start categorizing it based on the most important trends that you see.
– After lunch 2 pm craving, bored
– Afternoon, just got home, checked out the fridge
– After lunch, 2:30 pm craving, same boring work project
– Afternoon, had a stressful argument about money with spouse
– After Dinner, late night craving
And repeat the same with Wednesday through Friday.
And you’ll begin noticing some trends, like this:
“Every day between 2-3 pm I get a craving at work when I work on the same project.”
“Every time I get out of class early, and I’m sitting at home bored, I mindlessly munch on food with a soda.”
“Every time I get a business lunch with Mark, when he orders a soda I end up drinking one.”
“I always need something sweet after dinner while watching TV.”
So now you have a bit of insight into when it occurs, and why.
Step #3: Avoid The Cue, or Swap the Routine
So let’s talk about how you can actually avoid triggering this soda habit for good.
Let’s say you realized one trigger is boredom every day 2pm at work (which is extremely common).
You have to avoid the trigger – boredom around 2pm.
So you could:
- Schedule your lunch around this time, so you’re not bored
- Actually swap your work routine, so the boring stuff is in the morning, and the interesting stuff is at 2pm
- Go talk with a friend for 15 minutes around that time to stay distracted
What about swapping the routine?
Swapping the routine means you’re trying to change from eating for “stimulation” to some other kind of habit or activity that will give you that same kind of stimulation (because you’re bored, remember?).
So you’re sitting there working on this boring excel spreadsheet at work (bleh), and a soda sounds awesome right now, “just because.”
That would be a perfect time to do something else that also keeps you occupied:
– Go to your favorite blog (don’t tell your boss) for a few minutes
– Decide to work on a more engaging project
– Go for a walk
When you avoid the cue – you’re avoiding whatever triggers or sets off the habit.
Meaning: No sadness = no trigger to binge eat in order to be happy.
When you swap the routine, you’re letting the habit go off – but you’re swapping in something else to get the same outcome you want (happiness, stimulation, energy, etc.). That’s why once you’ve done the index card method, you’ll realize why you do what you do.
Meaning: Instead of feeling sad, and then eating to be happy, now you’re going to a great movie or seeing a friend to be happy.
Same outcome, different way to get there – one that doesn’t involve soda or food!
Thoughts? Share them below
I’d love to hear from you below – what’s one tiny habit you can do today to stop drinking soda or stop some other kind of health habit?
Share it in the comments below.