For some, a daily soda fix is a refreshing reward. For others it’s just a habit they don’t think much about, but studies show that Oklahomans’ love for sweet drinks has a negative effect not only on our waist lines, but our overall health. Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10 among states for rates of obesity, physical inactivity and low fruit and vegetable consumption.
The majority of young adult Oklahomans, ages 18–34, drink sugar-sweetened beverages at least once per day—more than any other state in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, Oklahoma is ranked fourth among states with the highest overall sweetened drink consumption.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with weight gain and obesity. Roughly 1-in-3 Oklahoma adults and 1-in-6 adolescents are obese.
The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health are encouraging Oklahomans to choose water over sugary drinks as a healthier choice through educational messages from the Shape your Future program with Rethink Your Drink.
It may seem like a small choice to replace a soda with water, but it can make a big difference because sugar sweetened beverages count for one-third of added sugar consumed.
For Edmond resident Chad Cravens, it was the first step to getting on a path for improved health.
“For Lent in 2016, I gave up all pop. I was drinking five to seven Dr Peppers a day,” he said. “Looking back now, I realize how bad I really felt.”
When the Shape Your Future Rethink Your Drink messages came out, it prompted Cravens to continue his switch to water. By then, he had already lost 10 pounds.
“I didn’t really change my diet in the beginning,” he said. “It was the switch from soda to water that made the difference.”
Inspired by the difference one small change made, Cravens later added regular exercise to his daily routine, and noticed he was even more likely to skip unhealthy snacks at work.
In a little more than a year, Cravens has dropped 24 more pounds.
“I think the motivation now for me is my kids who are 8 and 3,” said Cravens. “I see people being diagnosed with diabetes, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and they don't live as long, or they'll have health problems and they won't be able to be who they need to be for their kids.”
“I am almost 40,” he said. “I don’t want to be 50 with diabetes, unable to play with my kids.”
Committing to weight loss requires discipline, which becomes a challenge for most people who are busy with families, work and other commitments. But small changes can go a long way.
“I had a gym membership for years because I thought I needed it, but never even went,” said Cravens. “It wasn’t until I realized you don’t have to change your entire life all at once to be healthier that I was able conquer things. One small step at a time changed my entire life.”
For Cravens, what started as a small choice to reduce the number of sodas he was drinking in a day was the push he needed to tackle other areas of his health – and it’s had a lasting impact.
“Once you experience the difference, you don’t want to go back,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much more I could have been doing for and with my kids. We play now, we ride bikes together as a family. We’ve made a lifestyle change that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.”
“People are aware of the impact a donut or fast food may have on their family’s calorie intake, but they tend to underestimate the amount of sugar in their drinks,” said John Woods, TSET executive director. “High consumption of sugary drinks is associated with obesity in adults and children, research shows.”
Making healthier choices is not only good for individuals but the entire family.
In addition to dropping soda, Cravens visits the gym regularly now, but that’s not his sole source of exercise. He walks in his neighborhood and gets out and plays with his family, because every minute of physical activity matters for all of them.
Inspired by his dad’s healthy life style, Cravens’ children have also taken note.
“My 8-year-old told me he wants to eat healthier and exercise like me,” Cravens said. “We drink water at dinner and do our best to try new, healthy foods whenever we can. I love that my kids are learning how to be healthy, and even more, they’re excited.”
More information, tools and resources can be found at ShapeYourFutureOK.com including the Rethink Your Drink sugar calculator. You can also connect with Shape Your Future on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.