Welcome to the second week of our Biggest Achiever Program! Feel free to join in at any time! Each week we announce a new challenge and although I encourage you to participate every week, you can also select which weeks you would like to participate in. Just remember that every tiny change you make for the better, you will eventually realize are huge steps and very pivotal moments in your healthier lifestyle.

Last week, we tracked our calories and nutritional content of the foods and beverages we consumed and learned a lot about where the majority of our calories come from. For many of us, not surprisingly, they come from beverages. Our favorite lattes, sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks contain terrifying amounts of sugar, sodium and dangerous chemicals such as sucralose, phenylalanine, methanol and more. If you look at the ingredients in that seemingly healthy fruit juice your children love so much, you will probably be shocked to see that many of those don’t contain much fruit juice at all! Although we will dive further into fruit juices and unhealthy beverages during our 3 month voyage, this week we will be focusing on soda.

“Twenty-one percent of the sugar in the American diet comes from soft drinks. That’s more than just an unhealthy consumption of empty calories. It is a dangerous overload of caffeine and nutrient-depleting additives.” – Dr. Earl Mindell


The side effects of soda (including diet/zero sodas), in short:

  • Cancer, heart disease, kidney damage, depression, asthma, diabetes
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Osteoporosis in adults, high risk of bone fracture in children
  • Tooth loss, erosion of tooth enamel, periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth discoloration
  • Stomach and reproductive issues
  • Increased cravings
  • Inability to detect sweetness in fruits/vegetables
  • Diminished nerve impulse transmission
  • Weakened immune system
  • Adverse reactions with medications such as antibiotics and antacids

This list truly goes on and on. One of the single worst products you can put into your  body is a carbonated beverage. This includes soda, beer and even sparking/carbonated water. Just one 8 ounce carbonated beverage paralyzes the immune system for up to 12 hours! The carbonation in the beverage blocks the uptake of calcium, which is needed for every single metabolic function in your body.

It has been proven that increased soda consumption is a major factor in the development of osteoporosis. Sodas lower calcium levels and increase phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate is high and calcium is low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. This issue is worse for children. Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four times higher than those that do not.

Sodas contain phosphorous and phosphoric acid, which corrode the stomach lining, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys and eat away at your liver. They also contain sodium benzoate, a sodium preservative which reduces the availability of potassium in the body. Some reported reactions to sodium benzoate include rashes, eczema and asthma. Think about it, if you get a rash, you likely run to the dermatologist and they give you some sort of cream for it. Wouldn’t you know it that all along, it’s because you’re drinking soda!

Not only are the carbonation, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, sugar, phosphorus and other ingredients in soda extremely harmful, but the sugar and acid will dissolve tooth enamel too! It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking a “full calorie” Coke, a Diet Coke, or Coke Zero, you are harming your body in more ways than you realize.

“The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.” – Marion Nestle

Many people turn to diet or “zero” sodas in order to avoid the high sugar content and carbohydrates in “regular” sodas. This is quite possibly worse for you than drinking a “regular” soda. Many diet and “zero” sodas contain aspartame, sucralose and other harmful chemicals. Studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. A 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center Study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two servings of diet soda a day. In case gaining weight wasn’t enough, aspartame and sucralose, the artificial sweeteners used in sodas, are tied to cancer and other deadly diseases! Why are you drinking this stuff?! Because it “tastes good”?! Of course it tastes good, people spend countless hours developing products that “taste good” and… wait for it… that you will become addicted to! They are obviously very good at their jobs!

The most commonly  used artificial sweeteners in soda include aspartame and sucralose. These are dangerous ingredients that have the following side effects: depression, birth defects, headaches, weight gain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, rashes, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue and seizures. That’s right, I said weight gain. DIET SODA CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT. Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Sucralose is actually considered a zero-calorie sweetener because the human digestive tract cannot metabolize it.

For more information on aspartame and sucralose, I encourage you to read The Hidden Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners.

As a general note, it is helpful to remember that anything that is fat-free, sugar-free, “anything”-free… they have had to add artificial flavors and other chemicals in order to make that food taste good, without it being made from actual ingredients. Many dieters are unfortunate victims of marketing and product packaging. Just because something is fat-free, sugar-free, low in carbohydrates, etc., does NOT mean it is healthy! An apple is healthier than a sugar-free cookie! That and a sugar-free cookie will NEVER satisfy your appetite, but an apple will. People often gain weight when they consume fat-free and sugar-free foods because they end up consuming more calories. Consuming these foods which are void of nutrients will always leave you hungry and will possibly intensify your cravings. Your brain will not shut off its hunger signals until it gets the nutrients it needs. Therefore, if you’re hungry, and you eat a box of cookies or a loaf of white bread (common “appetizer” before meals at restaurants), you will still be hungry even though your stomach will feel full.

In short, if there is one thing you change in this 3 month program, I urge it to be giving up soda. Your immune system, your heart, your pancreas, your entire body will thank you for it! I can pretty much guarantee you that if you give up sodas entirely, you will lose weight. It’s not rocket science, it’s not magic, it’s just common sense. Sodas are one of the worst things you can put in your body, so give them up, and you will see benefits from it! Although this week’s challenge is to give us soda, I encourage you to give up aspartame, sucralose and other products that contain artificial sweeteners. You will find yourself feeling much better in the end!