It was a matter of life or death.
Ah, soda. Pop. Coke. All the same, dangerous substance whether marked as "diet" or "sugar-free" or not.
Although I grew up occasionally drinking soda at birthday parties and on special occasions, it was thankfully almost never present at home. I did, however, experience the worst six weeks of my life because of soda. It involved hospitals, sleepless nights, and the people I love most.
It was an experience that made me rethink life, rethink all the things I've done, everything I've had to eat and drink. It made me take action more than a year ago, at the age of nineteen. Even though I didn't have it often, I decided to never have soda again.
You might be wondering why I made such a radical decision to stop drinking soda. It wasn't because I was unhealthy or trying to lose weight. It was because I experienced the almost-death of a close family member because of his awful daily soda drinking habit.
As everyone else, I was and wasn't shocked about my family members diagnosis. All his life he had followed what is considered a "healthy diet." But for years, he drank at least one bottle of Coke a day.
He, of course, ended up gaining weight as years passed by, and had to have kidney stones removed too many times. Trust me, you don't want to see what kidney stones look like—and the pain they cause can be excruciating
This led to a kidney infection that had him hospitalized for weeks. He lost over 40 pounds, and, according to doctors, was on the verge of death. His doctors confirmed soda was the cause of this. And I could see it.
That is why I stopped drinking soda—and I've never felt better. As a consequence, I also stopped having sugary foods such as candy, artificial juice, etc. and I feel great while in class, when I workout, when I study and when I sleep. I never get headaches or get dizzy, nor do I crave sweet things.
However, when I am offered one of these sugary foods or drinks I mention and I can't say no to be polite, I get a headache right away. Sugar and my body don't go well together anymore. And I love it.
When you drink soda, your pancreas, (which helps with digestion and controls blood sugar levels) speeds up. It then makes more insulin to move the sugar you had into your bloodstream, where your cells convert the sugar into energy.
In less than half an hour, your blood sugar levels have gone through the ceiling, and your liver turned the sugar into fat that stays in your body.
Less than an hour after drinking a single 20-ounce glass of soda, your body has absorbed all the caffeine in it, making your pupils dilate and your blood pressure rise. This makes your body have to produce more dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain—just like a low-grade line of cocaine. Think sugar and soda addiction.
By then, your body reaches a sugar crash—it's that horrible drowsy feeling that makes you want to have another sweet drink or snack. According to Medical Daily, soda and obesity go hand in hand. In fact, Harvard Researchers say that for every soda you drink, you're just increasing your risk of obesity by 1.6 times.
Additionally, there are other risks when drinking this nasty stuff. These risks range from cavities, dehydration, kidney stones, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, sugar overloads, and even osteoporosis.
So what DO I drink? Water. Lots and lots of water. I, of course, don't want to fall into the same problems my family member had. I want to feel healthy, avoid cavities and headaches, and I also want to live a long happy life. Plus, being an avid water drinker saves you money. Pick up a water bottle, a good tap filter for your apartment, and refill it for life.
Once you leave soda, you get used to it, and you feel better. Trust me, my family member is now a strong anti-soda advocate, and would never have a sip of it again, because he values life too much to risk it. If you're transitioning from soda to water, try infusing fruit in sparkling water like he did.
What do I have when I am craving something sweet? I either have fruit, or I eat organic whole grain cereal and yogurt (both low in fat and less than 4g of sugar). Or I'll mash that up and make a smoothie bowl. It's sweet, healthy, satisfies my dessert cravings, and would never compare to having a soda.
I really hope others join my cause and leave soda behind, whether it's a part of their daily lives or not. It's an artificial product that our body doesn't need, and there are healthy alternatives to it. You just may end up thanking me one day!
Last but not least, don't forget to check me out on Instagram: @annaarteagaphotography.
This article was originally published at Spoon University.