All The Why Not’s … Chocolate, Caffeine, Diet Soda & More

This past weekend my family and I took a quick vacation to the beach.  You know how when you’re on vaca, all of your normal rules of life go out the window and you get to do whatever you want instead?  That is what makes vacation, vacation…letting lose and being free.  Whether it’s out of convenience or just a need to stop the structure, “vacation me”, has some bad habits.  Or, so they say.  If “vacation me” gets to just chill out and do whatever I want, why can’t that just be the real me?  Upon returning home to the daily grind, I find myself questioning why I can’t continue enjoying the simple thrills of vacation status in my every day life?   The voice in my head sounds a little like that of my five year old asking, “But whhhhhyyyyyyy nnnnoooootttt mmmmmmoooommmm???”  Let’s see…

Forget you exercise!
Exercise is one of the most important things for your mind and for your body. Exercise helps you feel better, look better and can decrease the risk of some diseases. Have you ever noticed after a stressful day of work, how taking a walk can make you feel more relaxed or how much better you sleep after exercising? After establishing a regular exercise routine, you grow to be more energetic, increase your ability to relax and improve your overall mood. Regular exercise can reduce stress, decrease depression and help you sleep soundly.  Exercise also burns calories and helps you to lose body fat. An hour of moderately brisk walking, bicycle riding or swimming can burn 200-300 calories. You need to burn approximately 3,500 calories more than you consume to lose 1 pound. Research has shown that exercise can also reduce, and in some cases, prevent the risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.


Chocolate, chocolate – feed me chocolate!
Chocolate can be good for you. Studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. That’s because chocolate comes from cacao beans (or cocoa beans), which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients. Most of the studies to date highlight dark chocolate’s health values because it has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more flavanol antioxidants. However, flavonoid content varies in chocolate products, so you might not be getting the healthy stuff with that candy bar. Also, along with the flavonoids, chocolate products also deliver lots and lots of calories. 100 grams of dark chocolate, for instance, yields approximately 500 calories, and eating this much chocolate daily without adjusting for the increase in calories will produce a weight gain of about 1 pound per week. So any benefit you might gain by eating chocolate could be completely negated by making yourself obese.  Moderating is where it’s at.


No time for sleep, gotta party!
Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month – with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more. Furthermore, 69 percent of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.  It’s important to your health to have a bed time and start winding down and unplugging about an hour before that time.  Missing the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep on occasion may not be so bad, but sleep is cumulative and missing enough sleep night after night, may lead to health issues.


Okay, now I need some caffeine!
For the most part, caffeine’s benefits and drawbacks are temporary. In small amount, about two cups a day, it’s rather harmless. If you overdo it, the one serious long-term harm is that it does strip you of some of your vitamins and minerals. For one thing, it interferes with the absorption of calcium. Also, if you have certain conditions, like migraine, it definitely can make those more severe. If you rely on caffeine to wake you up and keep you going, you aren’t alone…many of us do. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, alleviating fatigue, increasing wakefulness, and improving concentration and focus. For most healthy adults, moderate doses of caffeine — 200 to 300 milligrams (mg), or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day — aren’t harmful. Heavy daily caffeine use — more than 500 to 600 mg a day — may cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

What do I want to drink? – Soda please!
Diet soda isn’t a health drink or a silver bullet for weight loss. Although switching from regular soda to diet soda may save you calories, some studies suggest that drinking more than one soda a day — regular or diet — increases your risk of obesity and related health problems such as type 2 diabetes. First, diet soda usually has caffeine – which is really addictive. It also is dehydrating, so no matter how many diet sodas you drink you will never feel satisfied by it. Experts also believe that drinking diet soda can lead to a gradual gain in weight from overeating as a result of confusion of thirst and hunger sensations. Ingredients include Aspartame, which can cause a multitude of health problems.  Diet soda is an acid rich drink, which helps to explain why it is harmful to your body and may cause weight gain, due to your body hving to work harder to keep your pH levels in balance.

Watch this video to fully understand the science behind this point.

Plus, if you’re drinking diet soda, you’re missing out on a chance to drink water instead.  Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

How Much Water Do You Need Daily?
We’ve all heard that drinking 8 cups of water a day is the right amount for us, but is that really true? Let’s check how much water do you need daily! I know I drink water like a horse, and I drink 3 to 5 cups with my midday meal alone. If I were to drink just eight glasses of water per day, I’d probably shrivel up and die from thirst. So how much water do I really need? How much you do you need?

Your Body Knows Best
When it comes to drinking water, listen to your body. It will tell you, “Hey pal, how about some hydration? I’m getting a bit parched over here!” Your mouth will get a bit dry, and you’ll find that your head feels full of wool when you need to drink water bad. When it reaches this level, it means that you’re in serious need of hydration. In fact, if you notice that your mouth is very dry, your body is probably already suffering from a lack of water. Your thirst is only noticeable when the concentration of your blood increases by about 2%, and dehydration only starts at about 5%. Very few of us notice that our mouths are leathery and dry throughout the day, as we are fairly busy people. When we do notice, we usually take steps to drink more water, and we feel great that we’re solving our thirst problem.

However, drinking more water than we’re accustomed to can actually be good for our health! You’ve probably heard that drinking water can help to make weight loss easier, and studies in 2003, 2007, and 2008 proved that increasing water intake can help your body burn more calories, reduce the amount of food you eat, and speed up your metabolism. Water can help you to lose weight, but the primary way that it does so is by filling your stomach and stopping you from eating and drinking things that will increase your body’s calorie count.

So How Much is Enough?
The Institute of Medicine has determined how much water the average man or woman needs to drink to be healthy:

  • Men – The average man should drink 3.7 liters or 15 cups of water per day.
  • Women – The average woman should drink 2.7 liters or 11 cups of water per day.

That’s a lot more than the 8 cups that you’re used to drinking! The good news is that you don’t need to get all of your water just by drinking! The recommendations above is for total water intake, which means liquid in all of its forms. The water can come from fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and, yes, even beer! (I know what I’m going to do to increase my liquid intake this weekend!)

Lifehack: Make drinking water every hour on the hour a habit. If you drink one cup every hour, you’ll get more than your 8 glasses per day. Once you get used to drinking one glass every hour, it will be easy to drink 2 or 3 glasses per hour. You’ll have to pee a lot more, but it will help regulate your body!

A Word for the Wise: Cut Out Flavored Drinks
Drinking more water is just the smart thing to do, but many people opt to drink other liquids in order to increase their total water intake throughout the day. While drinking soda, coffee, tea, beer, and other drinks will help you to get more liquids in your body, you’re doing two things wrong:

  • Adding Calories — All of the drinks above have calories, which means that you’re adding extra calories to your diet and giving yourself more energy to burn to avoid gaining weight.
  • Adding the Wrong Nutrients — Coffee and tea both contain healthy nutrients, but they usually are accompanied by sugar and milk. Beer and soda both have lots of sugar and calories, so they’ll just go straight to your gut.

The truth is that water is the best thing for you to drink if you want to get more liquid and hydrate yourself properly! It’s a calorie-free beverage, so you won’t have to worry about increasing the amount of food you eat every day. There’s nothing harmful in clean drinking water, so toxins and chemicals aren’t a concern with water.

Pro Tip!
Find the fruits and vegetables that are rich in water and low in calories, and stay hydrated the tasty, low fat way. Watermelons and strawberries are both 92% water, and you can get about 115 grams of water from an apple or a red tomato. Get enough water and keep that calorie consumption low by eating these healthy fruits and veggies!

Conclusion for water
Add more water to your diet, and don’t be content with just the 11 to 15 cup minimum. It will do your body a whole lot of good to get more water, so bottom’s up!


It’s likely that my vacation mode bad habits are actually daily occurrences for you, as they are for me too.  Life keeps speeding up and I keep running because don’t want to miss anything big.  Once it’s on the calendar, it’s happening…The kids and I will enjoy meeting friends at the pool this afternoon, I’ll be front and center for my daughter’s school performance tomorrow morning, I’ll be at my Dr. appointment the following day, I won’t miss Storytime with my son or forget my daughters gymnastics class on Wednesday and I will be sure to arrive on time, with snacks for all, to the playdate we have on Thursday….to name a few.  What about all of those other urgent and important things, not on my calendar though?  Relax, be healthy, feel good, smile, enjoy life.

For me, what’s in between the chaos of the calendar, runs on habit and routine.  I am either in a healthy routine with good habits, or stuck in a rut of bad, bad, bad.  In the end, those bad are actually slowing me down and little by little stopping me from fully enjoying the big moments.  So, a little research, a little reminder of what’s bad for me and why….a fresh start to a new routine with a goal of building healthy habits.

What are your healthy habits? How and why do you stick to them?

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