Do you ever have those moments when you think about the past- decisions you made, things you did, things you ate- and just cringe? I certainly do. I would say my diet is exceptionally “clean” and healthy now, and has been for several years, but oh do I remember the days when I drank nothing but Diet Coke and feasted on French cheese (D’affinois, anyone? Carolyn?) and prosciutto. I try to redeem myself by justifying that at least my choice of cheese and meats were classy (thanks to my parents owning a bakery), but the Diet Coke… As someone who drinks water religiously and considers Powerade Zero to be an “indulgent post-workout treat,” thinking back to the little girl guzzling that syrupy tar as my lifeblood makes me shudder. I remember going to the doctor and being told that I was dehydrated… Little Nika was like “psh whatevs, I drink all the time.” YEAH, ALL YOU DRINK IS DIET COKE, STUPID.
Seriously, confession time: I used to be one of those people that haaaated water. I mean, I get it, why drink this tepid, clear substance when can have “Wow! Pop! Fizz! Sparkling carbonation! SUGARRR. Color! Funn. Flavorz! Cool can!”
Except that water is the bomb.com and humans are, by weight, 60% water (Unless you’re like Little Nika and you’re 60% Diet Coke. Yeaaah my cellular metabolism loved that). I don’t need to give the speech about how great water is (healthy skin, healthy organs, not to mention it’s FREE) because you already know that you should be drinking more of it, even if you’re not. Flavorful and carbonated soda is an addiction hands down, so tempting your taste buds with water may fall flat (har har) at first, but I promise that you will learn to tolerate and even love and crave the taste of water. You can put the training wheels on and try something like Mio, or similar concentrated flavor drops, but while these make water more “fun,” they are also packed with artificial flavors and sweeteners… so we’re really not making much of an improvement. Healthier, more natural options for adding some excitement to your water include adding some fruit slices (lemon, lime, orange), squeezing some fresh citrus fruit for a dash of flavor (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit), or you can add small pieces of whole fruit and shake up (literally) your water to create a fruity infusion. A nice example of this is taking fresh blackberries, adding them to some ice water, and shaking the bejeezus out of it. You’ll get some nice flavor and a nice splash of color as well. Pro tip: this is what Starbucks does for their Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher- which is delicious, but essentially syrup water with shaken blackberries.
However, I would suggest switching to water “cold turkey.” Whenever I have made big dietary decisions, I have always had a cut and dry decision on the matter. When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to stop drinking soda and stop eating meat. I didn’t ease my way into it, I didn’t “treat” myself to these items on occasion, and I didn’t tempt myself or test my willpower by keeping these items in my dietary vocabulary. Instead, I recognized the damage I was doing to my body, realized the change I needed to make, and made it happen. To this day, nine years later, I haven’t sipped a Diet Coke or had a piece of prosciutto. Similarly, when I was diagnosed with my food allergies, I cut everything out immediately (after the sobbing, devastation, and pleas for “what am I going to eat?!?!? I can’t eat anything!!”). Oh, that was an interesting week. I can’t tell you what a blast it was to go through the fridge and all my cabinets reading the ingredients on everything. You know you’ve stooped to low levels when you start yelling at inanimate objects, “OHHH noo, well I COULD eat you, except you have SOY SAUCE, which has WHEAT in it for some stupid reason!! Milk?! Why the hell do you have milk in you?!? You’re a cereal! And eggs… eggs and soy EVERYWHERE.” Basically, I threw everything out in a hungry, murderous rage and then went to the grocery store, where things did not improve… Learning to shop with food allergies or dietary restrictions can be agonizing at first until you learn the landscape, start to recognize ingredients, and remember trustworthy brands (which is one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog and why I’m so interested in nutrition, I want to help ameliorate this painful process for others). Going to the grocery store consisted of “Nope. Nope. Nope. Dairy. More dairy. Gluten. Nope. Oh, okay here we go.. no dairy… gluten free! Oh wait, eggs. Dammit. Nope again.”
Trust me, I’ve been there, and I understand the frustration and difficulty of dramatically changing your health habits. However, the important thing to focus on is not what you’re losing, but what you’re gaining: healthy skin, more energy, slimmer physique, hydrated cells, healthy digestion, greater satiation… Over the years people have commented on my great willpower, but a large portion of this strength to refuse unhealthy things and actively seek out healthy replacements comes from my ability to remove emotional attachment to food and instead use logic and reason (I can’t help it sometimes, I’m a scientist).
So please, put down the can of soda. Step away from the artificial flavors. And pour yourself a cold, tall glass of the real lifeblood (seriously, we’re talking blood plasma here, people).