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How to Stop Drinking Soda

How much soda do you drink?
How much soda do you drink?

Americans love to drink soda. Every year we guzzle gallons of drinks that the Centers for Disease Control classifies as "sugar-sweetened beverages" or SSB. The amount we drink has increased from about 910 calories a year in 1900, to 14,402 calories a year in 1950 and an astonishing 74,633 calories a year in 2015. That's enough calories to put on 21 pounds a year.

I've always told my clients, "Don't drink your calories." Of course, that's easy to say, but sugary drinks have an incredibly addictive quality about them. The tangy bubbles, the quick jolt of flavor and the lingering taste that quickly fades.

Just saying, "drink more water," isn't going to work if you crave soda's sweetness. So people turn to diet drinks. On its face it appears like a good solution, there's just one problem. Researchers now know drinking diet soda stimulates appetite.

Our stomachs have taste buds. When we drink a diet soda, our stomachs detect "sweet" and start preparing for the sugary calories. Unfortunately, diet soda has none. After about 30 minutes, our bodies start to crash because the "sweet calories" they were expecting never appeared. That makes us feel more hungry and tired than when we first drank the diet soda.

To deal with the hunger and crash, diet soda drinkers eat more calories, totally defeating the reason many drank diet soda to begin with. In a study called, "Diet-Beverage Consumption and Caloric Intake Among US Adults, Overall and by Body Weight" published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that overweight diet soda drinkers consumed an extra 88 calories a day and obese diet soda drinkers consumed an extra 194 calories a day.

How to cut back on all that soda.

Start by making a commitment that you're going to stop. Write it on a piece of paper you keep in your wallet or purse. Put it on a note you stick to your refrigerator. Set it as a daily reminder that pops up on your phone. Get your commitment in writing and spread it around so you see it all the time.

Track your calories. A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola packs 140 calories. It's a lot harder to justify drinking that soda when you see what the real caloric cost is.

Calculate the exercise cost. Allow yourself to drink soda, but only if you immediately exercise the excess calories off. A 12 ounce can of soda has about 140 calories and it would take a 150-pound person about 30 minutes of jogging to burn that off. Remember, you still need to get your regular daily exercise in as well, so the exercise you do to burn off the soda calories is on top of your normal workout.

Steer clear of soda triggers. Sometimes the urge to drink is wrapped up into a daily habit. If you routinely grab a soda from a vending machine at work, or when you visit your local lunch stop, you may need to change that behavior. Take a route that bypasses the machine, try a new place to eat out or consider bringing your lunch from home.

Water your soda down. Start by diluting it with 10% water. Then increase the water and decrease the soda a little more each day, until you no longer enjoy the taste or you're drinking only water.

Explore various blends of tea and coffee. Try caffeine-free versions of both so you're not trading one type of addiction for another. Don't turn them into calorie bombs, skip the added syrups, whole milk and whipped cream topping. If you want to add flavor, squeeze some lemon, use a sprig of mint or add low-calorie extras like almond milk.

Make water more exciting by combining it with fruit you're going to eat. I like to take some strawberries or an orange, clean them, slice them up and put them in a glass of water. Then cover and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours. In the heat of the afternoon, I drink the flavored water and enjoy the fresh fruit. If you prefer things a little less sweet, make it with cucumber slices.

Drink bubbly or carbonated water if you miss the soda fizz. Squeeze a little lemon or lime in the glass to perk it up.

Put a water pitcher with a filter in your refrigerator. Then every time you want a drink, the water is already cold and filtered as you pour it into a glass. If you live in a place where the water from the tap isn't to your liking, many filters can remove the tainted taste.

Make water as convenient as a can or bottle of soda. Buy two water bottles. A fresh one you take out of the refrigerator first thing in the morning, and the previous day's bottle that you can clean and fill up again. By carrying around your own supply of water, you're never far from a refreshing drink.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.