Taming My Soda Addiction: What Worked and What Didn’t

Posted by Beetle B. on Thu 30 December 2021

Here I’ll discuss various ways I’ve tried to reduce my soda intake - primarily to avoid sugar. [1] [2]

If you want the quick summary of what worked (in no order):

  • Working from home (no free soda)
  • Switching to Spindrift and Izze (more of the former)
  • Reducing portion size (250ml cans)
  • Making it less accessible

With Spindrift and Izze as substitutes, I went months without my usual Pepsi/Mt Dew fix.

Craving Mode vs Savoring Mode

Before we begin, let’s set the context. My goal wasn’t to eliminate soda form my diet. I classify my soda intake into two categories:

  • Savoring mode: Sometimes I want to enjoy a soda just as I would want to enjoy any other food - healthy or otherwise.
  • Craving mode: Sometimes I’m craving soda and want to get a quick fix. The goal isn’t to enjoy it (although that may happen), but to satisfy the craving.

This post is about dealing with craving mode. I have no intention on trying to savor it less. In my case, easily over 90% of my consumption was to placate cravings, as opposed to savoring it.

Willpower/Discipline

Only works in the short term. And even when it works, it doesn’t make you feel better. Worse, it’s hard, if not impossible, to consume soda only in savoring mode.

I would not recommend it.

Make It Less Accessible

Don’t buy soda in bulk (large bottles or 6/12/24 packs). Yes it’s cheaper, but we’re concerned about our health, not our wallet.

This method will not solve the problem, but is almost a prerequisite.

Figure out the Triggers: Salty & Fried Food

Salty and heavily fried foods often trigger the cravings. Reduce your intake of such foods. Figure out what other tastes trigger the cravings. Cut down on those as well.

At the very least, don’t eat if your body is not hungry. Cravings are almost always linked to eating. I don’t think I’ve had soda cravings in a long time that were not related to something I ate.

Take Something Small and Sweet

When the soda cravings hit, take a bite of anything sweet. After that, you’ll still feel like you want soda, but you will not be able to enjoy the soda. Somehow, anything that is sweet will prevent you from getting the sugar high in soda.

The idea, of course, is that instead of consuming 40g of sugar, you’re taking 3-4g.

This method works really well, but is also evil. Your body will not feel satisfied, and nothing will satisfy it. You won’t enjoy this feeling. It might be a useful method in your arsenal, but do try other approaches as well.

Start Enjoying Slushy Soda

I discovered this by accident. I don’t like room temperature soda. One day I put it in the freezer to cool it quickly, but left it there too long. When I took it out, it was slushy - partially liquid, and just about to become solid, but clearly not solid.

It tasted awesome - both because of the temperature and the texture. This became the standard way I would consume soda at home. Although I could enjoy regular chilled soda, it just wasn’t as good.

The outcome: If a craving hit, I would put it in the freezer. By the time it froze, the cravings were gone. I consumed somewhat less soda. It also made soda less appetizing when I was not home. Vending machines don’t dispense slushy soda.

Reduce Your Portion Size

In the US, portion sizes are huge. I’m not sure how it ranks with the rest of the world, but occasionally I notice smaller portion sizes in other countries. Cookies are almost always smaller. [3] Tic Tac containers are often smaller. Restaurant servings are almost always smaller. [4] I suspect plate sizes are smaller.

I found that the biggest impact to my waistline was the size of the plates I served myself in. [5] Once I started using smaller plates, weight loss became easy. This was more effective than cardio. Eating in a smaller plate did not leave me hungry nor did I get hungry quicker.

Soda is no exception. In many countries, 330-350ml cans are a decent size, and 220-250ml cans are easily accessible. I’ve seen vending machines that dispense 220ml soda cans. I’ve yet to find one in the US that does it.

When in craving mode, drinking 250ml cans satisfies my cravings easily. I don’t feel I need more once I’m done.

Over time, it’s become harder and harder to get anything chilled under 500ml when you are outside. It’s quite rare for stores to have chilled 350ml cans. I had to note down a few convenience stores that did, and over time fewer and fewer do. The smallest size is often the 591 ml bottles. [6]

Find Acceptable Substitutes

Instead of the usual Pepsi/Mt Dew, how about some other carbonated drink that has less sugar? Try different ones, and see if any satisfy your cravings.

For me, Izze was that alternative - either the apple or the blackberry flavor. Get the cans - they are about 250ml. Completely made of fruit juices - no added sugars or other ingredients.

How does the sugar content compare?

For the small size:

Drink Sugar (g)
Mt Dew 31
Pepsi 28
Naked Juice (Scaled) 29
Izze can 20

Larger can:

Drink Sugar (g)
Mt Dew 46
Pepsi 41
Naked Juice (Scaled) 41
Izze bottle 30

If you go this route, you are making a compromise that 20g is OK. In any case, this method worked very well for me. It tastes quite good, and I don’t feel I’m getting an inferior substitute taste-wise. Indeed, had I started with this I probably would have found Mt Dew / Pepsi to taste poor.

You can find the cans at Target and Costco. You can find the (larger) bottles at other stores. For whatever reason, I’ve not found a store that carries both.

Juice is not an alternative. It doesn’t really take care of the cravings, and a lot of packaged juice contains way too much sugar. [7]

Flavored Carbonated Water

I first tried this over 15 years ago. Yucch! I stayed away from the whole category.

Recently I heard a How I Built This episode with the founder of Spindrift and it intrigued me. I thought I’d give carbonated water another try.

It was quite good! You won’t get a sugar fix, obviously, but you will get the carbonation fix. And it is mildly sweet. I didn’t try other brands - I happily consume Spindrift.

Work From Home

This is really a variant of making it less accessible, but I thought I’d put it in its own category.

Working at companies that give free soda is bad for your health. My soda consumption went down significantly once I started working from home - even when I had soda cans at home. When you go to the office, you’re stuck there for a set number of hours, and there are not many alternatives. At home, I have lots of options in my fridge, and if I’m just taking a break there are other things to do at home. At work, my options are talking to someone, going for a walk, or consuming food/drinks.

I lost weight once I started working from home.

Footnotes

[1]It doesn’t matter if it’s sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.
[2]This post is opinionated and arrogant. Although the sample size is 1, it is written as if this will apply to everyone. Caveat Lector!
[3]I’m not sure I’ve seen giant cookies in any other country.
[4]Most restaurant entrees are enough for 1.5-2 meals.
[5]There are claims on the Internet that US plate sizes are about 36% greater than they were in the 60’s. Looking at this site, a dinner plate in Japan is about 8.3” in diameter vs 10+ in the US. That’s almost a 50% difference in capacity. Other sites list 7” as common in Japan.
[6]If you’re desperate, see if there is a Dollar Tree nearby. They have smaller Pepsi bottles (about 470ml).
[7]It doesn’t matter if it’s sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.

tags : soda, addiction