It wasn't unusual. Me, going on a rant about soda consumption, rattling on about its contribution to the obesity epidemic and soft drink companies' insidious tactics to make consumers out of kids. My own three children were at the receiving end of this diatribe, their eyes glazed over.
But you never know when something is going to stick, because an hour later, my daughter Virginia, 8 at the time, appeared with a clipboard and a pen, having drawn up a petition for family members to sign. It read:
"I __________ promise not to drink sodas ever again. Sincerely, __________."
She was the first to sign. I followed suit (did I have a choice?).
Virginia stayed committed to her pledge. That is, until six hours later, when her resolve crumbled under the temptation of a Shirley Temple at dinner out with the grandparents.
But I decided to stick with it, and haven't had a sip in the two years since. Granted, I wasn't a heavy soda drinker to begin with, but over ice on a hot day or at the movies with a side of popcorn, Diet Coke was my beverage of choice. I always felt sort of crummy about it, in part because I know better from a nutrition standpoint. More importantly, though, was the hypocrisy of railing against soft drink manufacturers, hoping my kids wouldn't develop a taste for the stuff, yet drinking it myself.
I don't think soda is the devil, exactly. But I do know that we as a culture are downing it like water and it's doing nothing for us but expanding our waistlines and those of our children. According to the USDA, soft drinks, along with other sugary beverages, are among the top four sources of calories in the American diet. In the book Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim hit the nail on the head when they write, "With nothing but 'empty' calories, sodas have a nutrient density of zero. Think of them, as the Center of Science in the Public Interest does, as liquid candy. "
In our house, soda has always been treated like candy, reserved for special occasions, like dinner out with the grandparents. It has continued this way, even as I've given it up for good. So although I don't stock the house with Sprite, I also don't forbid my kids from drinking it at a birthday party. I look forward to the day when a bottle of bubbly water looks just as enticing to them as a bottle of bubbly sugar.
For now, I throw Virginia's pledge out to all the grown-ups. Consider her petition, even just for a week, or a month. Perhaps have a soda-free summer or no sodas on Sunday. Maybe just resolve not to keep it in the house anymore or reserve it for an occasional treat instead of a regular thing.
We could start a revolution.