My torrid love affair with bubbly, sugary soft drinks started early on during my formative years. I don’t have an addictive personality- I never became a smoker, my days of getting carried away with alcohol were mostly left behind after I graduated from college, and I never got bit by the gambling bug. However, soda is one thing that has always had a strong and unreasoning psychological grip on me. My parents, bless their hearts, tried to keep it under control. Once my two younger brothers and I started resisting milk, our parents would allow us to have soda at dinner time, and they tried to limit it to that, particularly our weekly Friday night pizza dinners. Before you question their parenting abilities, remember that it wasn’t their fault. Back in the 60’s, it seemed like just about everyone smoked cigarettes. They surely knew that smoking wasn’t good for them, but they obviously didn’t know just how bad it really was. The same can be said for soda back in the early 90’s. Any adult knew it wasn’t the best thing for their kids, but they couldn’t possibly imagine it would turn out to be the silent killer that is has been recently revealed to be. Soft drinks were easy to come by when I was a kid. My mom would buy 2-liter bottles for just 69 cents. My brothers and I would easily polish off one of those bottles during dinner. It didn’t stop there. We would start drinking the stuff under dark of night, while our parents were asleep, and hiding empty bottles all over the house. We would eventually bag up the bottles and thrown them out into the woods behind our house. We thought we were so smart, “destroying the evidence”.
I was indiscriminate in my soda drinking. It didn’t really matter what kind it was. At birthday parties and barbecues, I would mix together every available soda in one cup, to create a rather disgusting, but oddly enjoyable cocktail. We were obsessed with Surge when Coca-Cola released it back in the 90’s. A bright neon, almost radioactive color, Surge was loaded with absurd levels of sugar and caffeine. The company re-released it recently as an Amazon exclusive, to much fanfare. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a can, as they were all bought up and being resold at ridiculous prices.
Fast-forward to a couple years ago, and my love for the villainous beverage had reached a fever pitch. I was working in a retail store that was essentially seated in the food court of a shopping mall. One of the fast food establishments would offer my coworkers and I free refills on our drinks, all day, everyday. We would drink disgusting amounts of soda, chugging it down between customers. I began to just feel sick. One day, early in January 2013, I decided that enough was enough. I suddenly quite drinking soda, started bringing my lunch to work instead of eating fast food everyday, and began utilizing my very dormant gym membership. Ultimately, I didn’t drink a drop of soda for almost five months. Over the course of that time, I lost nearly 25 pounds.
I broke the soda fast during a celebration that summer with a delicious, organically-brewed root beer by the name of Virgil’s, which can usually be found on the shelves of Wegmans and Whole Foods stores. I began thinking that it was unrealistic for me to give up soda completely and forever. “I can just have one,” I thought. One became one a week, which became two or three glasses when I would go out to dinner. I felt better about not buying soda and keeping it in the house, but as of late, I’ve even slipped on that front.
Soda, and sugar in general, have been vilified by the medical community in recent years, being blamed for a host of health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and more. A few years back, Pepsi offered a “healthier” option by releasing “throwback” varieties of its standard cola, as well as Mountain Dew, replacing the high fructose corn syrup with ordinary sugar. The taste was a bit different, and certainly agreeable, but as far as health is concerned, we may just be talking six of one, half a dozen of the other. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, went on a health crusade, banning restaurants from cooking with trans fats, and then attempted to ban any and all establishments from serving large soft drinks, a measure that was ultimately struck down due to push-back from eateries around the city, and the nation’s major beverage companies. While I don’t live in that city, and would not be affected by such a ruling if it did pass, I was mortified by the notion that a grown adult should not be allowed to decide what goes into his or her body, so long as they are not endangering the safety of anyone else.
I try to substitute flavored seltzers as often as possible, and they are effective enough in reducing my soda consumption. There’s something about the carbonation that feels great and makes water far less boring. Of course, drinking soda in moderation will likely never kill you. Balance is the key to a happy life, as our existence is too short to not enjoy ourselves. We’ll all struggle with something at some point, or even for our whole lives. Moderation can have a different definition from person to person, so the trick is finding your own happy medium when it comes to anything in life.