By Jim Mitchem
If there’s one thing that most everyone can agree on, it’s that what we consume has a direct influence on who we are. From the air we breathe to the things we read, and what we hear to what we swallow, ultimately, our consumption defines us. We are what we consume.
As a boy growing up in Florida, I chewed sugar cane, kept my pockets full of Bazooka Joe and drank soda. A lot of soda. I’ve been blessed with a really high metabolism, and have never carried a lot of extra weight, but my teeth have suffered greatly from all of the sugar I consumed. Until about 2000, I was a regular soda drinker. At lunch, a Coke. At dinner, a Coke. At night in front of the TV, a Coke.
And this wasn’t all that freakish. If anything, I didn’t drink as much as most other people I knew. But the fact that I was constantly at the dentist baffled me. I couldn’t put two and two together. That is, until one day a dentist told me that soda was like ‘liquid candy.’ Candy. Root canals. Ok, now I get it.
And so when my wife and I became parents I was hyper sensitive to the harmful effects of soda in terms of dental health. Dentists are expensive. Dentists hurt. So for the past decade, we’ve consumed a lot less soda. Which isn’t to say that we’ve given it up entirely. We don’t keep commercial soda in our house, but we do enjoy natural soda that contains far less sugar than the stuff they use to stock the shelves at Walmart. I’m pretty proud of the fact that my kids don’t drink it the way I did growing up.
But we can do better. At best, soda is just sweet and cold, and does nothing for hydration. It’s one of those things that we can easily give up by replacing it with water, and hopefully see a big difference in our overall health.
As it turns out, we drink a lot of soda in America. And this has far-reaching effects on all of us. The US ranks first among countries in soft drink consumption at about 15 billion gallons per year. We’re also the most obese industrialized nation on the planet. There are no coincidences. And since soda is mostly sugar, 39 grams in one 12-ounce can of Coke for example, we’re consuming sugar at a rate which exceeds our body’s ability to process it.
To say nothing about what it does to our tooth enamel. The result is a nation that pays too much for health insurance due in large part to the kinds of things we consume on a regular basis that make us sick. In this case, soda.
But what can we do? The messages for us to consume soda are so prevalent that the messages themselves have become culturally iconic. Sure, that Pepsi commercial during the Super Bowl was really funny, but the fact that soda is directly and negatively contributing to our nations’s poor health is nothing to laugh at. But hey, soda isn’t alcohol. So it’s ok. Perhaps we should all just accept the fact that soda is part of our national diet, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.
Or is there?
A movement has started here in Charlotte to educate, enlighten and challenge people to give up soda for 30 days and consume water instead. And it’s brilliant. I noticed it last year when my friend Bobby DeMuro started tweeting about something he called a ‘No Fizz Challenge.’
DeMuro, a transplanted Coloradoan, clearly understood the benefits of water over soda and began challenging people to give up the pop for water for a month. People responded. The results were positive. And the movement is growing.
Today, DeMuro operates No Fizz America, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that targets everyone from school aged children and social media influencers, to athletes and government officials. His appeal is simple – take the challenge, experience the benefits and share the results with others. It’s a concept so simple that it’s actually making a difference. No Fizz has started operating challenges across the country, and could use the support.
I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about the movement and maybe even see how you can help make a difference in your family and community by consuming pure water instead of syrupy chemicals. After all, this kind of revolution is long overdue in a nation where the obesity rate is over 30%. As for me and my family? We took the challenge in March. And our kids were really excited about it.
You are what you consume. This may be the perfect time for the people of this country to give this proverb a long look in the mirror.
About the Author: Jim Mitchem is the Owner and Creative Director of Smash Communications, one of the first virtual advertising agencies in the nation. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, Tina, and daughters Agatha and Cozette (who are very good soccer players!).