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Ask JJ: Crushing Your Soda Habit With Water

02/17/2015 11:35 am ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015
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Dear JJ: I have an awful four-cans-a-day diet soda habit. Every time I go cold turkey, I start uncontrollably craving it. Do you have any strategies to ditch diet soda without the struggle?

Soda hasn't looked good in a while, and we know now diet soda doesn't fare any better, as studies show among its many problems, it canwreck weight loss and gut health.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone Forbes announced last year Coca-Cola profit declined 14 percent and that future soda sales look equally dismal.

Declining soda consumption provides the perfect opportunity to increase your water intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends daily water intake of 91 ounces for women and 125 ounces for men, though those numbers include food you eat. Regardless, most people aren't meeting those numbers.

"Water's so boring," clients tell me. "Is there any way to increase intake without it being so, well, boring?"

For one, increase your low-sugar impact fruits and vegetables, which contain up to 96 percent water. Broccoli, to use one example, contains 91 percent water.

Such high-fiber, water-rich foods take longer to move through your digestive tract and slow down stomach emptying. You meet your water quota and feel fuller on fewer calories.

Even so, I still want you to drink plenty of filtered or sparkling water. "Think about it: Your body is 83 percent water," writes Dr. Jonny Bowden in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. "Your muscles are 75 percent water. Your brain [is] 74 percent water, and your bones are 22 percent water. You need water for every single metabolic process in the body."

Your Secret Weapon to Crush Soda Cravings

If filtered water leaves you a little flat, break those nasty soda cravings with spa or sparkling water. Spa water is inexpensive and can help liven up your liquid: Simply steep filtered water with lemon, lime, or orange in your fridge.

And sparkling water provides soda's fizz without sugar or artificial sweeteners.
"Sparkling Water is the New Soda," Jillian Berman declares in a HuffPost article.

"Long a kitchen table staple in European households, sparkling water is making inroads in the U.S. thanks largely to Americans' waning interest in soda," she writes. "Between 2009 and 2014, the volume of carbonated bottled water sold in the U.S. has increased by 56.4 percent [while soda] drinking declined sharply during the same period."

You might also consider flavored bottled waters, but read your ingredients carefully. They should contain no sugar, artificial sweeteners, or unpronounceable ingredients.

Water and Weight Loss

For many clients, increasing water intake becomes a needle mover for fast, lasting fat loss. Granted, you also need to reduce your sugar impact and address food intolerances, but if you're doing everything else correctly, sufficient water intake might give you that weight loss nudge.

Studies show sufficient water helps you lose weight. One in Obesity (Silver Spring) found drinking water was "associated with significant loss of body weight and fat over time" by boosting metabolism and reducing your appetite.

Another in that same journal found eight ounces of water before each reduced-calorie meal led to greater fat loss compared to people who didn't drink pre-meal water.

And a study presented at the American Chemical Society's annual conference showed two glasses of water before every meal helped people lose an average of 15.5 pounds (five pounds more than the non-water drinkers) over three months. If a supplement made that claim, you would probably queue up around the block to buy it, right?

I could name a zillion other reasons to drink more water, but can we all agree to just do it? I recommend people keep a canteen nearby filled with filtered or spa water and sip liberally throughout the day, starting with a big glass upon waking.

The only time I don't want you drinking is when you eat, so stick with four to eight ounces during meals. "Drinking while eating can dilute digestive enzymes and cause bloating and gas," says nutritionist Miranda Malisani.

If you've broken your soda habit, what strategy would you recommend for others struggling? Share yours below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.

Additional References
Bowden, J. 2007. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Massachusetts: Fair Winds.