* how to stop drinking soda (updated October 2019) *

 If you’re a devout Coca-cola drinker, even reading the title above tipped off a craving in the animal center of your brain.

Pavlov’s dog with caramel-colored saliva foaming at your lips- you associate unadulterated pleasure with that sharp ‘crack’ of aluminum on aluminum and upward fizzing bubbles.

Folks, that’s the power of the Coca-cola brand- one of the four most recognizable logos in the world.

Learn how to stop drinking soda today!

#1, First, Know your Triggers  

soda addiction

Since you were too young to realize it, you’ve been groomed to be a lifelong Coke drinker.

Ring the bell- ding- your dangling tongue- heeyah!- they’ve got it lassoed, tied in a figure-eight before you can even say, “Cam I habba Coke, preaze?

I’m not making this stuff up.

I used to be one.

It’s human psychology: our primal brain cravings, impulses, just like half of readers have already abandoned this page to google the other three logos.

Go fetch.

We can’t help ourselves- it’s how we’re wired.

So then what separates us from the curious golden retriever incessantly pokin’ round the bushes to mouth some nasty hunk-a-gunk for oral stimulation?

We can consciously override our animal behaviors and habits.

It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,

but rather, the most adaptive to change.– Charles Darwin

Thanks to you, true friend, for activating your prefrontal cortex and sticking with me. The wise understand the rewards of delayed gratification.

stop drinking Coke

That damn cursive black tattoo. It’s still there on my basal ganglia, right where they stamped it. Should I blame them? In my 20s, they always made sure I had exactly what I wanted to drink when I really needed it

like between alternating bites of kebab and chips with tuh-MAH-toh sauce the day after being “over-served” Jack and Coke on a pub crawl in downtown Torquay, Devon, England.

The two 18-year-old girls I met dancing on the table at the American-themed bar said they loved us cowboy yanks.

“I’ve never kissed an American before…”

Slap. Wake up! Wake up, Matt. You’re not 21 anymore!

Where was I?


Stop Drinking Soda — #2 Start drinking something else

stop drinking soda

[Saitama, Japan: 2003]

When I first came to Japan in my early 20s, I was still a pretty regular Coke drinker. 

Some vending machines in the countryside dispensed the prized 500 ml “tall cans” of Coke for the same price as the regular size cans.

There are vending machines everywhere in Japan. Except one place, there were never any at the schools where I worked as an assistant language teacher (ALT).

On Mondays, when I arrived at my desk in the teachers’ office at Shokai Junior High School, a cup of hot Japanese green tea was always waiting for me on the middle of my desk, sometimes with a packet of rice crackers.

I immediately warmed up to the grassy taste.


#3 Know the Truth about Drinking Soda…   

how to stop drinking soda

[Now living in Tokyo, Japan. The year 2017.]

Coming down the escalator at Omotesando Station, seeing the larger-than-life posters of American girls deciding whose midriff is hotter, bleached teeth ‘guy friends’ with Abercrombie abs laughing at their ‘girl friends’ for being so fricken hot, next to a great big professionally photoshopped bottle of Coke. You know, with the beads of condensation and small chunks of ice stuck to the sides.

The sweet brown, glistening pleasure liquid gushes, splashes in all directions.

Adobe Stock photo

Ahhh. After seeing one of those posters at the beginning of summer, man, there used to be a very high likelihood that I’d be drinking one the following weekend

by myself, re-staining my $400-bleached teeth job from high school, midriff protruding and given up on the fight against gravity.

Behind the scenes, the red baseball cap wearing marketing machine gets out its fancy calculator to count the millions made off of our carbonated flavored sugar water habit. Heh-heh-heh!


#4 Understand Your Environment

stop drinking soda

[Tokyo: present day]

Convenience stores are also everywhere in Japan.

Yesterday I went on a preliminary reconnaissance mission at my neighborhood Family Mart. In the cooler section, I counted 18 varieties of bottled tea (with no added sugar), regular Coke, peach-flavored Coke, and Sprite ‘Extra’. They also had six different bottles of hot tea.

That’s four choices of sodas in total compared to 30 tea options.

In Japan, even Coca-cola has its own brand of unsweetened green tea.

I asked my mom to go on the same mission back home in Amherst, Wisconsin.

Thanks, Momma.

Her report from the local BP gas station: 10 varieties of tea (all but two sweetened) and 30 kinds of soda, plus a fountain beverage machine with $1.50 cups big enough to wear as a hat.

It’s a number’s game.

If you’re American, the odds are stacked against you, big time.

Long story short: living in Japan for almost a third of my life, it was natural that I drank less and less Coke and later Diet Coke and Coke Zero. 15 years later, I almost never touch the stuff.

At my international school in Tokyo, every first and second grader knows I’m a green tea drinker.

Nowadays, my problem is drinking too much organic green tea, which is relatively low in caffeine and high in anti-aging compounds: polyphenols, catechins, other antioxidant flavonoids.

I can think of worse problems than being addicted to a superfood.

[The Year 2019- Are you ready for change?]

I learned from Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, that in order to change a habit, you must replace it with something else that meets your need. Or else you’re screwed.

At this point, I could annoy the hell out of some of you with health facts about drinking Diet Coke.

I won’t go there.

Learn how to stop drinking soda – 7 Tips 

For those of you who have decided to give up Coke, Diet Coke, or at least cut down, here are some tips I’ve found helpful.

1. Start today!- At first it’s hard, then it gets easier. Quoting Mel Robbins, “Motivation is garbage…You’re never gonna feel like it. You have to parent yourself. “It’s your job to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so you can be everything that you’re supposed to be. And you’re so damn busy waiting to feel like it.” (from her TED talk)

2. Remove temptation- This means clean out the fridge and the garage fridge.

3. Order tea bags online, cans of unsweetened tea, or low sugar soda alternatives like kombucha and stock up. Keep trying options until you find your new favorites. Mine are green tea (with added matcha), jasmine tea (with coconut oil), “bulletproof tea” (with grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and cinnamon), and straight iced tea in the summer. Thanks to the invention of the internet, having limited options is a thing of the past.

4. Change your environment to make it easier to succeed with new visual triggers- Give your tea prime real estate on your kitchen counter or in your fridge where you’ll always see it and where it’s convenient to grab.

5. Start small and build on your success step-by-step- Drink one less can a day for 10 days, or half a can if you’re a one-a-day drinker. Keep a journal to keep track of your progress: tally, graph, stickers. Measure it. Make your success and setbacks visual.

6. Celebrate your small victories! Reward yourself- (just not with Coke!). 😉

7. Refuse to be brainwashed!- Advertising influences our buying habits and it’s everywhere. When your eye catches a Coke logo or ad, turn away and don’t look at it. Reroute your commute or walk to avoid your Coke triggers.

Bonus: Change your identity! Stop saying stuff like “I’m a Coke drinker. I don’t have enough discipline to quit.” Excuses are holding you back- erase them! Declare to yourself and others: “I’m a tea drinker now! I’m taking charge of my health. I’m in control.” Take 100% responsibility for your choices.

You can learn how to stop drinking soda without moving to Japan! But even if you did, it won’t be easy.

The truth is there are no hacks, no shortcuts. It’s hard!

Drinking Coke meets a need we have as human beings, in the deepest part of our psychology. It’s a coping mechanism, like any addiction.

Your real work is to go deep inside yourself and figure out what need Coke or Diet Coke is meeting for you.

Does it make you feel comfortable and secure? Why don’t you feel secure?

Do you chronically lack sleep?

Are you self-medicating because of your stress or anxiety at work? Do you lack confidence or self-worth?

Are you bored or unhappy?

Ask yourself these difficult questions. Think back to your childhood, a trauma you experienced. It all starts there.

And forget about Coke.

You deserve better.

You are worthy.

You can change.

Note from the author: I’m not a trained psychologist or a doctor. This information is only meant to be used as a general discussion on the topic of how to stop drinking soda.

 What’s been preventing you from giving up your Coke or Diet Coke habit? If you quit, what worked for you? Please share your story in the comments below.

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