Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Cutting Out Soda

Hi, my name is Toni and I’m a coke addict.

how to stop drinking soda

Now for the ten people who are completely freaking out, it’s Coca-Cola, not the other stuff I’m talking about.

It started when I was working my way through college at restaurants where soda was free and unlimited. I got use to having it on a daily basis. I’d quit when I was pregnant (although not every time) because I knew all the caffeine and sugar couldn’t be good for a baby.

Of course I would pick it up pretty quickly after the baby was born, justifying my daily habit due to the lack of sleep and busyness of my day. I needed that jolt of energy to keep going.

As time went on and our family grew so did my dependence on soda. If I didn’t have one by lunch I’d get a headache. Some days I’d have two or three, depending on how the day was going. It was okay, because it was the only “bad” thing I was consuming. I ate fresh ground whole grain pasta and pizza. I drank smoothies and ate lots of vegetables.

Couldn’t I have just one vice?

The problem was that I couldn’t live without it.

While driving home from the gym a few months ago I stopped to get a Big Gulp. As I sipped it throughout the day I started thinking about how much harder I would have to work at the gym to burn the sugar and calories in the soda. Since in the beginning I really, really disliked the gym the thought of anything that would make it easier was appealing to me.

I knew I had to quit, and I knew it was going to be hard. I needed to be prepared for a pretty big headache and the general irritation that comes when people give up caffeine.

I asked a few friends to hold me accountable during the first week. I gave them permission to text me, call me, message me at any time to check up on me.

To my surprised the first day was actually very easy. Day two was easy too. I kept waiting to get a headache or feel cranky but I didn’t. I believe that the only reason I didn’t suffer from these symptoms was because I was going to the gym every morning and eating a whole foods diet. 

By the end of the week I felt so good I decided to cut out other items I ate that contained sugar. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but I started paying attention to the foods I was eating and choosing to not eat the ones that had a ton of sugar.

The less sugar I consumed, the more I craved fruit. At a church conference I ate almost an entire bag of clementines by myself!

Not only did sweet things not appeal to me at all, I started dropping weight very quickly. I didn’t start the process to lose weight, but I ended up losing almost 20 pounds. Getting leaner made exercising easier and the cycle continued.

Since giving up soda in May I’ve had a few cokes (on road trips when it was either fall asleep behind the wheel or ingest a bunch of sugar and caffeine). I don’t like the taste anymore and although it definitely kept me awake, I didn’t like the fact that at the end of the day I couldn’t fall asleep.

I never thought I could make it through the day without caffeine. But I can. After about a week of giving up soda my energy level increased dramatically. Not only that, but I started drinking more water. Without the sugary sweetness of soda, fruits taste so much better and I find myself craving things like grapes and oranges like someone would crave a piece of chocolate.

To be honest when I gave up coke I also had to give up my gateway foods. Gateway foods were foods that “went well” with coke. I didn’t think I could eat them without drinking a soda.

Foods like burgers, fries, pizza, tacos were suddenly off limits. For those of you who know me you know that a hamburger and fries is probably my favorite meal in the world! I waited until I had been soda free for almost six weeks until I had a burger again, and skipped the fries altogether.

The biggest problem with my soda drinking is that I felt I deserved it. I worked hard, didn’t get much sleep, managed seven kids, and had a slew of other responsibilities. What started as an occasional “treat” become something I needed every single day. All my healthy eating wasn’t enough to counterbalance the soda drinking.

Giving up soda changed my entire diet and in my next installment I’ll share with you the changes I made to my diet that helped me get my life back.

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Disclaimer: I’m not criticizing people who drink soda occasionally. I still think pizza tastes best with a large fountain coke, I just know I can’t eat like that all the time and feel great. I was not an occasional soda drinker and that’s why I needed to make some drastic changes. 

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  1. Hi Toni! So glad to hear that you are feeling better without the Coke! I look forward to seeing what other diet changes you’ve made–I’m always looking for the one thing that might make a difference for me. Keep up the good work!

  2. I was the same way with Coke, then I moved to Coke Zero to get my caffeine without the calories. But I knew I was dependent – headache and the whole nine yards – so I decided to kick it. I stopped drinking Coke in April, and have only had one since then – and only a few sips!
    Have not kicked sugar altogether, though… :/

  3. Mind is Dr. Pepper. I totally understand what you are saying. I only have 16oz at lunch. My six year daughter called me on it today. Her logically thinking smacked me in the face and the 16oz might have to go…..

  4. I gave up soda in May 2008 after making the connection between my beloved Diet Pepsi and my excruciatingly slow recovery from a neck injury. All the junk in the soda – artificial sweeteners, preservatives, caffeine – was attacking my nerves and muscles. I’d given up regular soda before, when I lost 60lbs, but had weaned myself over to the diet stuff instead. I still had cravings, especially with my “gateway foods”, but a few weeks ago I decided to have a sip and see if it tasted as good as I remembered. It did not. Gah. Terrible!

    This is one step in my path to true health, but it was an important one. And I’m happy to say that my neck & back recovery is complete!

  5. I was both looking forward to and dreading reading this post in your series because pop is one of my vices. And one I really don’t want to give up. But I am sick and tired of being sick and tired so I might just have to give it a go. Thanks for the post!

  6. YES!!! That is so awesome! After reading a statistic about how much sugar the average American intakes per year and the food related diseases that are killing and disabling so many Americans, we have cut WAY back. Baking included we have used less than four pounds of sugar as a family of four in the last six months. For us, that is a huge improvement and we feel all the better for it! We get our fix mostly through fruits and veggies. 🙂

    Great post!

  7. I am giving up diet coke today, your article was the push I needed to make the commitment. I gave it up two years ago and lost 40 lbs. This summer I started drinking one here or there and pretty soon I was drinking it all day, no more water. The weight is slowly creeping back 15 lbs and I know even though it is diet it causes craving for other things that go with it. Thank You, I am ready !

  8. Wow – I rarely post comments on any blogs, but I just had to say something to you. I think we share the same brain. The words you wrote could not be more similar to my very own experience with soda (or, in the South where I live, the generic “coke” that describes almost all fizzy, sugary, bubbly concoctions, though my specific vice was Pepsi.) Like you, I would stop on the way home from the gym to buy the “best deal” at the gas station which was the 32 oz Pepsi for 69cents. And as I took those big gulps, I would think, “why did I just sweat at the gym…for this?” I also had “gateway foods” including tacos, pizza and burgers. My husband thought I was crazy, so I am going to have him read your post too!

    I have had the same cleansing experience as well – fruit cravings, healthier thinking, and weight loss – simply from controlling this vice rather than letting it control me. Just wanted to tell you, GREAT JOB! I felt wimpy telling others about breaking my own little habit because it wasn’t like I was a drug user, alcoholic, or smoker that was able to break free from true addictions- but truly, I think we deserve some kudos for our hard work as well! After all, no one looks twice at you if you order a sugary soda at a restaurant, but if you pulled out a flask or started doing drugs in public, you would be ostracized (if not arrested). It is “easier” for us to do our “drug”, and therefore, we deserve some credit for being able to quit. Congratulations and keep up the great work!

  9. I just resently got back into drinking soda. Infact, yeterday I realized I’d had 3 and hadn’t really drank anything else. This morning I decited to cut out all drinks but water and my morning coffee. I remember how good I have felt in the past when I stuck to just drinking water so I’m hoping to get back to that place soon. Great post!

  10. LOVING this series, Toni! xo

  11. I could have written this post! I gave up diet coke earlier this year-I replaced it with water, and I’ve never felt better. I thought that I couldn’t survive without the caffeine, and I was so wrong. Now I get up in the morning and drink a big glass of water! It wakes me up like diet coke never could.

  12. Awesome! I, too, was a Dr. Pepper addict. I had gotten off then back and off again several times. I have been off for a but now. Tea is now my vise. I have finally gone from very sweet to half sweet to mostly unsweet. I buy if by the gallon from a deli. Soda habits are so hard to break.

  13. Today marked my 6 month anniversary of giving up soda and artificial sweeteners. I am sleeping so much better and though I had headaches, they only lasted about a week. I never thought that I would be able to live without soda but I thank the Lord that He has strengthened me daily. Thank you for a wonderful post. I was not a casual soda drinker but a complete soda addict. Since I am not buying it anymore, my children are consuming less than they used to as well.

  14. Wow, I too am a coke addict! Been stressed lately and have been drinking even more. So glad you posted this. Nice to know there’s other people out there dealing with the same. Already had one this morning but am making a big effort to stick to water for the rest of the day.

  15. Lewis McMillan says:

    Glad you have managed to kick the habit.

    I am addicted to all Diet sodas (Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Mountain Dew, Pepsi Max) – I gave it up for a round a year before but now I am back on them with a vengeance.

    This is just the kick I need! (pardon the pun)

  16. It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since I have had a soda. (Coke zero) I was drinking them every day all day long. I’m not going to lie I enjoyed them very much but I know all of those artificial sweeteners can’t be good for me so for new yrs I gave them up. It’s very difficult for me because my husband Is a huge soda drinker . Plus I have 2 sons under 13 that play hockey so we spend a lot of time in the car and eat on the run quite a bit. I never realized how easily accessible soda was until I quit. It’s the 1st thing u see when you walk in the supermarket, it’s in ur face in every fast food restaurant , there seem to be drink machines everywhere . I don’t allow my children to have sodas at home but they are allowed if we go out. It’s my husband who drinks them everywhere including home that makes it tough for me. I did take a sip of a coke zero last weekend and I don’t know if it was the actual taste or the guilt that made it taste bad either way I didnt drink anymore. I know there will come a time that I will drink another soda I just hope when that time comes I can drink just one.

  17. Carol kaufman says:

    I am glad I found this blog. I was drinking 8 to 12 diet cokes a day. I gave it up 4 weeks ago and have been so tired. I also have headaches. I started drinking Gatorade maybe 1a day. I also drink water? Why am I so tired. I did have a diet coke today and it did make me feel better. I have lost about 15 lbs. will I get over being tired.

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