Soda question – all or none?

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    • #10342

      Hi Gillian,

      I am interested to hear your thoughts on a question that has been nagging at me for some time when it comes to soda. Basically, if I make the analogy that it’s just as terrible as, say, smoking – is it still the case that I should not approach it in an all-or-nothing way?

      Every time I have thought about freedom of choice it has made sense to me when it comes to overeating food – because there a lot of foods that I want to eat less of, but I wouldn’t want to never have them again. But I get stuck when it comes to soda because I really do want to quit for good. I’ve often thought that it’s more like smoking than it is like overeating. I have never smoked in my life, nor had any desire to, but I imagine that the two are similar in that they are (1) addictive and highly pleasurable in the moment but (2) basically poison and I would be better off never touching the stuff again. That has in the past lead me to think that I needed a bright line rule to NEVER drink soda again. Of course, that didn’t work and even 6 months later, I was just complying with the rule, but it never changed my underlying desire for it.

      So maybe I have just answered my own question, but since you have worked in smoking cessation too – I was wondering your thoughts on this. Do you think the same approach we have been discussing applies even to something that, like smoking and soda, is harmful enough that the goal is to quit entirely? Thank you!

      If you prefer to answer this in the Q&A that’s fine too – thanks!

    • #10343

      Hi Jessica

      Thanks for the question, and I’ll probably not answer in the Q&A because I’m not sure I’ve got much to say about it that might shed new light on the problem.

      Are we talking about aspertame? I’ve heard it can be very highly addictive, but I have no personal experience with taking control and none that I can remember via clients.

      If it was me, I’d do a tapering off to start with, to see how that goes. If abstinence seems the right move for you, by all means take that path. This is most certainly what I recommend to smoking clients: “all or none” is the way to go, and make choices moment by moment, rather than “never again”.

      Let me know how it goes.

    • #10347

      Hi Gilllian,

      Thanks so much for your response. No – not aspartame (although I’ve heard people have a very rough time quitting Diet Coke as well). I drink regular (sugar) soda, and have since I was a child and have found it difficult to give up, perhaps even more than highly palatable foods, although the two are very linked for me.

      If I understand correctly, you think it’s okay to *aim* for abstinence as to some things (like smoking or similar) but to be successful I should still focus on making a choice moment by moment, rather than denying choice and proclaiming that I will never drink/eat x, y, z.


    • #10353

      Yes, Jessica, absolutely make your choices moment by moment, rather than denying choice by saying, “never again”. And pay attention to your addictive desire for soda, and work through that when you can.

      However, if sugar is the ‘drug’ in question, do you intend to cut out all sugar or just in Coke or whatever soda you drink? Who knows what other addictive substances are in the famously secret recipe, so maybe it’s not just a matter of sugar.

    • #10356

      Thanks as always – this is very helpful.

      1. To answer your question, no, I am not planning to give up sugar. It’s not something I think would be sustainable for me and not something I even want to do – as I do enjoy baking, etc. I do aspire to get my daily intake down closer to the health guidelines. Also – a very large percentage of my daily sugar is from soda and, occasionally, juice, so that’s really what I’m focused on.

      2. In terms of managing my addictive desire for soda and juice, it is very linked for me with hyper palatable food (which is the other main AD that I want to work on, as I’ve discussed in other posts). I have an incredibly strong cue/expectation to pair hyper-palatable food with a sweet drink. In fact, I literally never drink juice or soda without food, it doesn’t occur to me. So my main goal is to work through and manage my desire for sweetened drinks with my meals and learn to drink water or at least tea, instead.

      In the past when I have tried to change one of these bad habits, I tend to just switch to relying more heavily on the other. So I found myself just going round and round and not making real progress on my health. In hindsight, perhaps it’s because I was not really working through the addictive desire itself (this was all prior to taking this course) and was just switching back and forth between bad habits in order to sidestep my addictive desire?

      So I have thought about your advice to find the thing the for me that most induces fear . . . and the “scariest” thing for me is a regular meal at home, with water. That would bring out very very high levels of AD!! Especially if I had to face that for an entire day with no planned treats for later on. So maybe that’s what I should try in small doses (per the plans technique)?

      And I have vowed to just give this all a go – even without a perfect plan (which is hard for me!) and knowing that I probably won’t get it right, but that I will just try to work through my AD as often as I can and see where that gets me.

    • #10357

      Hi again! I apologize for being so long-winded about this, but I think I had a bit of a breakthrough when thinking this through last night . . .

      I have been defining my addictive desire very narrowly – as in, I have an addictive desire for soda and a separate addictive desire for eating out. But then I fall into the trap where, when I purposefully work on just one of those at a time, I end up satisfying my AD through alternate means and am not really working through it.

      When I define my AD more broadly – as a desire for an exciting meal (one with at least one of the following: soda, fast food, or something hyper-palatable), it becomes more clear that in order for me to bring out my AD effectively, I need a meal that has none of those things. Just a regular meal, at home, with water.

      So I am going to try a “times” technique with this. I will mark down at least 1 meal a day to have a regular meal with water and give myself 1 hour before I would consider satisfying my AD for something else.

      Thanks so much for helping me sort through all this!!

    • #10358


      At some point you will no doubt experience an addictive desire for soda when you’re at home (will you have some in the house?) AND again when you’re eating out.

      I do think it’s best to make one change at a time, and most importantly you don’t want to make your ability not to drink soda be dependent on you eating at home.

      I do wonder, though, if you are thinking so much about trying to “get it right” instead of going ahead with the experience of it?

      As you’ve already said that you want to completely abstain from soda, perhaps the most important element is getting clear about your intention with that. Do you intend to quit soda entirely? Even though you’ll be making moment-by-moment choices about it, when do you intend to stop? You may want to decide on a period of time to cut down first.

    • #10359


      Thank you! Yes, I see what you mean and I am definitely guilty of overthinking. But I am actually underway with this and am on day 3 of not having soda.

      Your question about whether I want to quit soda entirely was trickier to answer than I thought and took me a few days to work through – but it turned out to be so helpful. At first I would have said absolutely yes and I special wanted a plan to get me on the course to abstinence. But now I think the right answer is that I just want to work through my addictive desire for soda and I expect that if I do that, I will hardly, if ever drink it, because of all the downsides it has.

      I’ve found this week that just thinking about what it means to “quit” something has led me back into my old way of thinking in terms of rules and compliance. Even after discussing with you that I would not say “never again,” I found myself sneakily denying choice by thinking that, if I really want to quit, I *have* to “choose” no every time. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what choosing “moment by moment” meant in the context of something you want to quit.

      But I think I’ve come around to seeing that soda isn’t really different from any other addictive desire, it’s just a particularly large one for me at the moment. And that quitting will look like just a series of choices to not go back to old patterns and I don’t have to be perfect along the way. I’ve more than enough non-weight reasons not to drink soda, so if I can remember those reasons and focus on the fact that I would prefer not to reinforce this old pattern but to instead make progress shrinking my desire, I think I can stay moving in more or less the right direction.

      Current status:

      I am actually 3 days into not having any (it’s normally something I drink multiple times a day). I threw out the 3 small cans of Coke (my soda of choice) that were in my house just to make it a bit easier on myself and I drank water or iced tea when I was eating out. I had a pang of sadness when I realized that a meal I usually have on the weekend wouldn’t be as rewarding without Coke, but I tried to work my way through that by asserting my sense of choice. So far I haven’t encountered an overwhelming addictive desire yet, but I know it will come soon enough.

      So I have started and it will definitely be a work in progress!

    • #10360

      So far so good Jessica, but I’m concerned about “and I don’t have to be perfect along the way” as it looks like you are taking an idea I propose in the course and applying it to your goal of abstinence, which is not a fit. Abstinence isn’t the same as having a bit of soda now and then.

      Would you be able to pull that off? I’ve no idea, and expect you would know much better than me.

    • #10361

      Hi Gillian –

      To be honest – I have rethought my goal since I started this thread. I don’t want abstinence to be the answer. I think all my thoughts of abstinence really came from a place of fear – I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to work through my desire for soda.

      But I haven’t actually tried to apply the tools of the course yet to my addictive desire for soda – so I really want to try that in earnest first. I want to believe that I can work through the desire on my own and I have a new sense of confidence that I can.

      I apologize for the confusion – I have been confused myself! But now I don’t think abstinence is the answer for me – for all the reasons you lay out in the course I want to find my own way through the addictive desire. That sounds more peaceful and empowering by far.

      • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by Jessica.
    • #10363

      Looks like we got there in the end, Jessica.

      PLEASE don’t apologise for being confused. My aim is always to help people gain clarity around these issues – but they if they started out clear they wouldn’t need this course (and I’d be out of a job).

    • #10392

      Wonderful – thank you so much. Sometimes I can really tie myself into mental knots, but in the end it was a worthwhile exercise and I feel like I landed in the right place.

      Best part – after years of debating this very same issue in my head and feeling perpetually stuck, I finally have a sense of closure now as to the way forward. Onward! Thank you!

    • #10393

      Hi Jessica, Ive read this now, and I was really into soda. Years ago I have regular coke for breakfast… And it wasnt just one day , it was everyday.
      I didnt stop it at once, I change it to diet coke, zero coke, and also Ive tried all the sodas, pepsi max, light coke with lemon flavour, etc etc.
      And then I switch it too water. It was progressive and It worked for me, maybe it helps you.
      Now, I have regular coke or zero coke, at parties, or when I go dinner I enjoy it a lot! And at home or at work: water. Sometimes I have coke here at home or at work, and I forget about it.

      Its possible!

    • #10400

      Hi Guadalupe –

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write! I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to hear your story and that you are now able to have a Coke occasionally and forget about it. That is amazing to me and truly where I hope to get to in my own journey.

      I may not ever want to have Coke again, given all the downsides, but the idea that I *could* if I wanted to (and not fall back into a regular habit), is very important to me and helps me make the choice not to have Coke in all the other moments.

      Thank you for the ideas and inspiration!!

    • #10419

      Yes Jessica! You will be able to do it, you will see!

    • #10492

      Thanx for sharing Jessica and beeing so specific about it -it will help me sharing my hurdels/things that I’m stucking with.

      I’ve reduced my diet coke and juice consumption to very few occations a year from having it every day.
      Now when I’m in the shop and ‘crave’ for it – I am able to see it as an information to myself which tells me ‘oh something is up’ or ‘oh my brain remebers my past’. I gave up smoking, after having smoked for 20 years dayly, regulary and at times two packs per day.

      Funnylly enough – my brain tells me constantly ‘yes Daniela you gave up soda and cigaretts but you can’t give up overeating’.
      I have prove that I can change my habits. And I will start reminding me of it. Thanx again Jessica for your posts – otherwise I wouldn’t have written and thought these things about myself.

      • #11137

        Daniela – thank you for your post and I am so happy that it was helpful. I also really appreciate hearing stories from others who have overcome the same struggle.

        I really like how you said that when you notice the desire for soda or juice, you immediately start looking for what triggered the thought. I am starting to see that when I think I want soda, it is really just my brain remembering something it has done for a very long time. And as soon as I have something else to drink, the desire goes away. So helpful – thank you!

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