I really should have done it months ago.
Last weekend, I gave up pop (or soda, or soda pop, or Coke — whatever you call it in your neck of the woods) again. This time, other than an occasional treat, I think I’ve given it up for good.
Now that I’m trying to get on a regular exercise schedule, continuing to pour hundreds of empty calories down my throat each day is just stupid and counterproductive. (If you’re going to suggest diet soda, stop. I could — if I decided I wanted to, which I don’t — probably force myself to get used to the nasty taste, and they all taste nasty to me regardless of what sugar substitute they use. More importantly, though, the chemicals they use are all harder on my system than good old sugar or even high fructose corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup is pretty nasty stuff.)
Let’s also not discount the effect on our food budget. Even if I can confine myself to two cans of soda a day, that’s a twelve-pack every six days, or five twelve-packs each month. That adds up fast.
I’m not so much concerned about the caffeine; I still eat chocolate, drink tea (black, green, and herbal, thanks!), and otherwise indulge in caffeine-laden goodies. I am getting less caffeine overall, though, which can only help mitigate my already pronounced tendency toward sleep issues and insomnia (which only got worse once I started drinking soda on a regular basis).
The big win, as far as I’m concerned, is getting rid of the carbonation. While carbonation can have some good side effects (namely, it is thought to help kill bacteria in water), I don’t travel enough in underdeveloped countries (i.e., anywhere outside of the Seattle metro area) to need this benefit. On the other hand, carbonation is just a bunch of carbon dioxide (CO2) filtered through the water. I’m sure all of my readers remember their elementary biology classes, but if you don’t, let me remind you that carbon dioxide is a waste gas for all mammals. Our bodies try to get this stuff out of our system as quickly as possible, because it can do a number on us. (If you’re a plant, you want carbon dioxide. I’m not a plant, despite all the times that I’ve been compared to trees, usually in the “stupid as” or “lazy as” mode, so I don’t want it. Any questions?)
Some of the bad things carbon dioxide does for you:
- CO2 attacks calcium. Everyone’s heard about the whole “Coke is so acidic, it rots your teeth!” meme. There’s a good body of evidence that suggests that it isn’t the acid that’s doing the damage, since healthy tooth enamel is supposed to be impervious to this kind of stuff. CO2, though, can weaken the calcium and contribute to tooth decay. This is why heavy pop drinkers — even those who stick to “lighter” drinks such as Sprite or ginger ale — often have bad problems with their teeth. In some cases, CO2 can even contribute to osteoporosis.
- CO2 irritates your stomach lining. This leads to bloating, indigestion, and over time decreases your ability to get the maximum benefit from the food you eat, leading you to eat more to get the same nutritional value. In the meantime, you’re eating extra calories, which are being turned straight into fat.
- C02 irritates your esophagus. Esophageal spasms, anyone?
- CO2 is absorbed much more quickly through your stomach lining into your bloodstream, and it can take a whole lot of substances with it. This is why carbonated alcoholic beverages, for example, often feel like they have a quicker impact than an non-carbonated beverage of approxiately equal proof.
- Elevated levels of CO2 in your bloodstream contribute to feelings of drowsiness and sleepiness. This really sucks if you’re, oh, say, trying to drive through commuter traffic at the time, or trying to get a paper finished by 5pm.
So, yeah, I’ve given it the heave-ho. I fully expect that my next carbonated beverage will be on the plane to Arizona for the holidays, where I will indulge in my normal flight ritual of a can of ginger ale. It will be a tasty treat for me, and that’s that.
Oddly enough, now that I’ve been doing this for a couple of days, I’m seeing some dramatic changes. This morning, for example, I woke up 30 minutes ahead of the alarm. My eyes just popped open and I felt completely awake and ready for the day; I had none of my normal grogginess or disorientation. I’d been sleeping for maybe 6.5 hours, instead of the 9+ I’ve been having lately. More importantly, I had the clarity of thought and energy to immediately go downstairs and do my Combat Conditioning exercises. I noticed I had less trouble doing them (such as cramps and unpleasant tingling/itching in my calves) and felt like they really gave me a big energy boost for the day.
So what will I be drinking? Lots of water, lots of Steph’s wonderful herbal/green iced tea mix, and probably more than a few cups of green tea to sip on to keep my liquids up and supply myself with antioxidants. This strategy is per advice from Matt Furey and a few other sources I’ve seen recently. We’ll see how it goes.