Dieting & Soda Addiction

Like many Americans, I struggle with being overweight. I’m not huge (I see people every day who are waaaaay bigger than me), but I’m still fat. For a person my height, I should be around 200lbs and I’m closer to 300. And, having just hit the big 3-5 a couple weeks ago, I’ve finally realized that I don’t want to stay fat anymore, and that the only thing to do about it is lose weight. Sounds like a no-brainer, but that’s harder logic than you’d think for those of us who aren’t skinny. And I can honestly say that dieting is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I have four primary obstacles to overcome in order to lose weight:

  • I hate to see food wasted. Even if I feel full, I still have a strong desire to finish anything left on my plate. When eating out, this is especially problematic since I have no control over the portions I get. Or, at home if there’s only one serving or so left on the stove (not enough to keep as leftovers, basically) I typically eat it.
  • Lack of exercise. For years, my job has pretty much entailed sitting at a desk most of the time. I don’t get out and work in the yard or anything like I did when I was younger, so I basically get no exercise at all these days.
  • Snacking. I’m one of those people who loves to snack. When I’m watching a movie, I usually want something to munch on. Or if I’m bored. Or if I’m depressed. Or if I’m hungry and waiting for dinner time to get here in an hour. You get the idea.
  • I drink sodas. This is possibly the biggest one of all. Not only do I drink sodas, I drink A LOT of sodas. While unemployed a few months back, I was going through roughly six sodas a day (mostly Mountain Dew & Pepsi, in case you’re interested), and obviously that’s not good. Sodas are just empty calories – sugar, water, and a few chemicals. And they’re highly addictive.

The first three are things I can work on, but the last one – soda addiction – presents the priority for me. I figure if I stop drinking sodas (typically 3-4 a day at this point), then I will be cutting out about half of my daily calorie intake. But with any addiction, stopping cold turkey isn’t for everyone. In my case, I’ve tried to stop cold and ended up with horrible headaches & migraines, plus cravings like you wouldn’t believe. Naturally I ended up going back to sodas after a couple of weeks. Lately I’ve been trying to drink water instead of soda at work, which is really hard because there are free sodas right around the corner. And… it’s water. Blech.

Anyway, the water approach was intended to help me ease away from sodas by quenching my thirst and therefore making me drink less sodas. It ain’t working out that way, though. Instead, now I just drink water (plus one Dr. Pepper) at work, and still drink 2-3 cans of Pepsi when I get home and I’m sitting in front of the TV or computer. I’ve tried tea as well, but it doesn’t last either. Studies have shown that not only is the soda itself addictive due to sugar and caffeine, but for many there is a psychological connection to “popping the top” – the distinctive feel & sound of opening the can, regardless of what’s in it. That may be the case for me, since opening a can of fruit juice seems much more satisfying than simply pouring a glass of juice or tea. This sensation of “popping the top” must be widespread. When zip-tab cans were first put out by breweries back in 1963, sales of Schlitz beer went up by 213% in only a year. Yes, the cans were more convenient to open as well (previous cans came with a little key that was used to wind back the tab), but that’s a huge jump in only a year. And…  it’s well known that marketing materials for both beer & soda companies have since heavily used the “pop-hiss” sound and imagery involving in opening a can. Obviously they know about this “psychological connection”, or else they would place more emphasis on the flavor or value of the drink itself instead of the container it’s in.

As for me, I guess my next step (other than exercising more) is to try substituting something else in a “pop-top” can for my current soda addition. Hopefully, I can wean myself off the sodas… and that alone should help my dieting plans considerably. If you’re like me and constantly drink sodas, it’s something you may want to try yourself. I have no illusions that sodas are good for me, but dang if they don’t make me feel better when I drink them.  🙂

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