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How to Stop Drinking Soft Drinks and Beer [30DHC]

We all know that soda and beer aren’t healthy to drink.

But have you ever looked at the nutritional value of these beverages?

What amazes me is how many calories and chemicals are packed into a single can.

More importantly, I never took the time to see how many of these drinks I consumed in a given week.  Two beers here, a can of Coke there.  They all add up to a lot of junk calories that have ZERO nutritional value.

For the second month (February 2013) of the 30 Day Habit Challenge (30DHC), I decided to reduce – even stop drinking soft drinks and beer.

Here’s what happened this month.

30DHC for February 2013 – Stop Drinking Soft Drinks and Beer

Here’s an overview of what I did to change my consumption of junk drinks:

#1 – Reason Why

There are a few reasons why I want to eliminate junk drinks.  Not only do they add empty calories, most of these beverages load up the body with unnecessary sugars, caffeine and toxins.

In addition, I wanted to drop a few pounds because I was running the Boston Marathon in April.  Typically, I like to be less than 160 pounds when I run a marathon.  Since I started the month weighing in at 170 pounds that means I had to drop 10 pounds in about 10 weeks.

The average calorie content of a soda or beer is anywhere from 100 to 140 calories.

So even if you drink only a few each day, you’re still putting about 500 unnecessary calories into your body.

That’s about a quarter of the 2,000 calories that the FDA recommends for an average person.

Scary, right?

Now you can see why I’m interested in stopping this habit.

#2 – Description

From previous experiences with quitting cold turkey, I’ve learned that it’s not easy to completely eliminate a habit.  The simpler solution is to gradually phase out the undesired activity.

That’s why I set a modest goal for this 30DHC – Consume less than 10 soft drinks or beer for the month of February.

This is a habit that I tracked through the Habits Pro app as part of my morning ritual.  Every day, I’d wake up and record the number of junk drinks that I consumed for the previous day.

The only exception I made was for my marathon long run.  Every 10 days, I had to run 20-22 miles where I’ll typically consume 40 to 60 ounces of Gatorade.

I do recognize that Gatorade and Vitamin Water are not healthy drinks – despite what the labels say.  However, as a runner I do need the electrolytes that are depleted during a 20+ mile run.

My point?

I made the decision to not count the Gatorade I drank as part of a training run, since it had a direct impact on my ability to complete this activity.

#3 – Obstacles

I experienced two major obstacles during this habit challenge:

Obstacle 1: Every Thursday I go out and eat a Chinese food dinner with my parents and brother.  This has been a tradition for pretty much my entire life.  Thursday night is Chinese dinner night.

Typically during one of these dinners I’ll have two or three beers, which is all the alcohol I’ll drink for the week.  The challenge was learning how to say no during one of these dinners – especially since everyone else partook.

Obstacle 2: Oddly enough, my other obstacle was also food related.  Whenever I got take out (pizza, Mexican food, deli subs, etc.), it was hard to not pick up a can of Coke as well.

Upon closer examination, I realized that I had a “what the hell” attitude whenever I eat take-out.  I know this food is not good for me.  So my thought is – since I’ve already fallen off the wagon, it’s okay to go all the way and enjoy a tasty can of Coke.

Dangerous thinking, right?

#4 – Results

I drank a total of 16 soft drinks and beer in February.

That’s a little more than one every two days.  But it’s also six more than my target goal for the month of February.

So on one level, I failed with this habit challenge.

On the other hand, I went from 170 down to 164 pounds.  Sure, most of this weight loss was due to an increased mileage as part of my marathon training.  But I think the reduction in junk drinks also helped.

Also, I learned two lessons from this habit challenge:

Lesson 1: Soft drinks and beers have separate triggers

My impulse to drink soft drinks and beer are not related.  I like the sweet taste of a Coke when I’m having a meal.  And I like a beer when I’m socializing with friends and family.

These two habit triggers have nothing to do with one another.

My mistake was lumping them together.  Each has a different trigger, so I should have focused on changing one at a time.

Lesson 2: My triggers are outside the home

I don’t keep Coke in my home.  And the same three bottles of Hoffbrau beer has been sitting in my refrigerator, untouched for the last four months.

This habit challenge helped me realize that I don’t consume junk drinks inside my home.  The problem happened when I stepped out my door.  Moving forward, I think it’s important to have a plan for what to drink when I’m eating out.  Perhaps I can drink unsweetened ice tea or a pot of Oolong tea that Chinese restaurants provide.

#5 – Verdict

Tweak it!

I like the idea of tracking just soft drinks and not beer.  The two have distinct triggers, so it only makes sense to work on the worst offender first – my consumption of Coke.

I’m still tracking this intake every month.  So hopefully I’ll reduce this number to less than ten as I move forward into March and April.

The Bad Effects of Coca-Cola

We all know about the dangers of alcohol.  It can have disastrous consequences on so many different levels. That’s why I’ve always been hyper-vigilant about not drinking more than a few beers in a given week.

On the other hand, not many people really understand the “nutritional value” of a single can of Coke.  For more on this, you might want to read this article from LiveStrong.  It details all the negative things that soda does to your body.

In my quest to develop good habits, this is one that I’m hoping to permanently eliminate.  I didn’t succeed this time.  But it’s something I’ll keep working at in the months to come.

To start doing your 30 day habit challenges, I recommend check out this list of 203 good habits and start making a change today.

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