Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One Year With No Diet Sodas

By Mark | One year ago today I stopped drinking diet sodas for the rest of my life.

I am not here to preach to anyone who drinks diet sodas. I swore that when I traded smoking for running on Dec. 1, 2006, I would not be one of those pushy people who think he knows it all. Others can do as they please as none of us are going to live more than 100-and-change anyway.

This is a report of my own findings over a year of new beverage consumption. It has been tough at times, actually harder for me than quitting smoking. It is easy to avoid smoking; it is harder to avoid diet sodas because they are omnipresent, thanks to institutionalized soft-drink companies.

Before August 25, 2014, a typical day at the office for me would include a few trips to one of three beverage machines in our cafeteria, where my go-to was a Diet Coke, Diet Dr Pepper or Diet Pepsi. The far-right machine was bottled water only, and I would work those in as often as I could force myself to. My diet soda habit also encouraged fast-food drive-thru trips and bad food, all part of the package.

As I am writing this, I am in a car dealership service department, waiting for the dangling rear-view mirror on my Jeep to be fixed. I just went to the drink machine in the waiting room pictured here and looked over the choices: Monster Energy, Vitaminwater Fruit Punch, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fuze Iced Tea, Seagram’s Ginger Ale, Coke Zero, Seagram’s Sparkling Seltzer Water Original and Fanta Grape.

That is fairly representative of what I find these days. If you swear off diet soda and you are a runner trying to keep sugar to a minimum, then what you see in an example like this is pretty disappointing. Again not judging others, but the world is going to have to catch up pretty soon to a lot of people, I think. That is where I will start the list of beverage lessons that I have learned in the last year:

1. I love seltzer. This was my choice in the beverage machine shown here. I was never a seltzer guy. Ohmygod was I not a seltzer guy. But I needed to replace that “fizz” with something else, and especially if I am eating something at the same time. I can’t do regular bottled water with food, just can’t. Seltzer, yes, and feel free to mix a small amount of lemonade or other flavoring as you wish (I do).

2. Iced tea rocks. My favorite is a large unsweetened iced tea from Art Café, an establishment in my neck of the woods in Nyack, NY. If you can make your own and throw a mint leaf in it, enjoy. They infuse it with mint and it is pure goodness and refreshment – especially after a run. As for iced-tea commodities, I often turn to Teas Tea, Gold Peak, any that are unsweetened and calorie-free. "Mint is an antispasmodic, so it can relax muscles, which combats stiffness and aches," says Susan Lark, MD, author of The Chemistry of Success (Bay Books, 1999). It aids in digestion by promoting the movement of food through the digestive tract, according to Fitness Magazine.

3. I love Zevia. There is not a consensus on how good these drinks are for you, but they don’t contain aspertame, which is the main reason I stopped drinking diet sodas. They do contain Stevia, a sugar substitute that is still up for debate as to its goodness. They come in various flavors, and to me they are the best substitute for the drinks I used to love. I’d like to see these in our work cafeteria!

4. Honest Tea needs to be more honest. You started as a go-to but soon your high-sugar versions became as omnipresent to me as name-brand diet sodas, at every market and highway stop. I did not give up diet sodas to turn to rich, unhealthy, sugar-loaded iced teas. Thus after a year’s findings I cannot include this beverage, at least not until calorie-free products are stocked on common USA shelves. Similarly, I just bought that Fuse Iced Tea Lemon out of the above drink machine, just to see what’s on the label and how it tastes; it is 70 calories and has 18 grams of sugar, so I would avoid that.

5. Do we really need this much energy? As you can see from the first choice in that drink machine and looking at every cashier counter in America, energy drinks dominate everything. I know I don’t have any use for this. I like coffee, and I’ll go to Starbucks for an iced coffee in the afternoon if needed. If I really need a pick-me-up, Starbucks Refreshers are pretty healthy as an alternative. But all the others, again I don’t want to judge anyone else, but I really hope no one harms themselves with these things. I was just surprised to learn the past year just how overbearingly omnipresent they are.

6. Coconut water is good but I lost interest. I was often mixing these in with diet sodas until a year ago, so it was fairly common to find a bottle of Zico on my desk or after a run. But in the process of quitting diet sodas, I completely lost my taste for coconut water. I can’t explain it, just saying that is what I found. Maybe all of that is related, maybe not. I don’t want coconut water.

7. I still drink bottled water, usually Poland Spring. I try not to drink the ones that prop up the diet soda business, but others can do whatever they want. Some days I chug water in mass quantities, some days I completely forget. If a marathon or half is coming up, a bottle of water is an extension of my hand. Obviously this is the No. 1 healthy beverage of all-time and for the future, as all the experts agree. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the Institute of Medicine has set an adequate intake of 125 ounces (about 15 cups) for men and 91 ounces (about 11 cups) for women. In most people, about 80 percent of this water volume comes from beverages; the rest comes from food.

8. Gatorade is great . . . on race day. I still drink it a little too often, and my goal is to limit it to ultimate races/workouts, where it is more useful as a regenerator of electrolytes, carbs and fluid. For most people, it is just another way to get extra sugar and calories.

9. Juices and smoothies. Yum. I still mix these in just as I did before I stopped drinking diet sodas, so nothing changes here but they still help fill that gap. Love our Nutriblasts.

10. It is always wine o'clock.
 Red wine. Italian wine. Red wine from the Puglia region of Italy. Yes, this has plentiful sugar as well, but hello it is wine o’clock and there are healthy benefits. Talk to me.

So, he are after a whole freaking year of avoiding diet sodas. Happy Asperversary to me.

My weight is about the same, as I have run only one marathon since then and have devoted much of my spare time in 2015 to personal projects. Being diet-soda-free once I pick up my training will mean welcomed weight loss. It isn't easy, but it feels good and I highly recommend it to anyone else who wants to try it. The alternatives are not as abundant as you will wish, but it is possible to keep it going, just as I proved when I traded a box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS and ran about 120 races.

What do you drink?


Shay @ Whine Less, Breathe More said...

Good job!

I am a fan of ice tea this summer. LOVE it! I also really like fruit-infused water. So many options with that!

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