No Jolt January

by Patrick “Trick” Jarrett.

I remember as a kid helping dad with his computer work for clients. We were the Geek Squad before Best Buy launched them as their tech support squad. I did all sorts of stuff, from building computers, to updating software, to even helping him pull networking cable. One of my favorite places for us to go do work was for a PR agency in Orlando which kept a fully stocked fridge of sodas. We had permission to raid their fridge when we were there working after hours.

Soda was just a drink to me for much of my life, almost the same as water, milk and juice. It was omnipresent at home, at school, and at work. College was when it reached a new level for me. I kept a 24 pack of Dr. Pepper next to my desk for easy access and endless drinking. I didn’t even refrigerate them, I’d just drink them warm because, well, caffeine. And also because Dr. Pepper is delicious warm (it was originally a hot drink.)

caffeineCaffeine is a powerful drug, and a crutch for many computer people. When plugged into a world which is always awake and there’s always a new door to go through, it’s very hard to find the strength to walk away and crawl into bed. So we end up clicking just one more link, or playing one more level, or chatting with one more person. And then in the morning we turn to our friendly copiously available friend: caffeine.

Well I had had enough of that, so for all of January I committed to a 30-day challenge that I called ‘No Jolt January’ devoted to purging my caffeine and soda addiction. Now, as I explained in my initial Facebook post: the goal wasn’t to avoid all caffeine — it was to avoid all soda which, since I don’t drink coffee, would dramatically cut my caffeine intake.

Now, last year I was not a ‘bad’ caffeine addict when compared to where I used to be. I had kept it to just a few diet sodas a day, but even as a limited intake it is very bad for you. Consider replacing that diet soda with just a glass of water, neither has calories, but water is just better for you: it hydrates better and doesn’t have any of the extra crap the soda does.

During my first programming gig we followed the simple methodology: “Caffeine is good. More caffeine is better.” We went out to lunch everyday and on the way back from lunch we always stopped by a convenience store. Everyday. And everyday I got a Red Bull or some other energy drink. Sometimes two. Because that was what was done.

This caffeine consumption continued, especially while I was hustling on ManaNation / GatheringMagic. I’d be up until 2 or 3 in the morning finishing an episode or editing articles before crashing for a few hours and getting up for my day job. When I went to work for CoolStuffinc, the office was right next to a 7/11 and I was quick to get an energy drink and doughnut in the morning, thus continuing the trend and addiction.

Caffeine is an addiction. You come to rely on it even when you get a good night’s sleep. And because there aren’t deaths tied to the caffeine addiction, it continues rampant and unchecked.

So, even though I had weaned back in the past year, I still had an addiction and I wanted to break those shackles. So… No Jolt January was born.

31 days without a drop of soda. The only caffeine I had was on three occasions where I had a cup of caffeinated tea. My caffeine headaches faded in just five days and after that it was simply a matter of determination. Even though I had passed through the worst of it, the years of advertising still embedded themselves in my head and I continually had urges to get a soda. I’d walk by a soda machine and think how good a Dr. Pepper would taste. At restaurants I would open my mouth to order a soda and then have to stop myself to ask for water. It was a constant battle.

I also added to this month that I would cut out juice. Why? Juice is healthy right? Well, sort of. It’s better than soda but worse than water. The majority of what you get from fruit is in the fiber and the chewy bits you get from eating the actual fruit. Also, most mass produced juice has extra additives, vitamins and sometimes sugar. So you have to make sure the juice is just juice. So, I largely cut juice out to ensure that I would drink just that much more water.

Well, over the course of January I lost a net result of 10 lbs, going from 285 down to 275. Part of that was obviously my working out and running, but its also the biggest amount of weight lost over 30 days during my march towards becoming a healthy Patrick. I attribute some of that success to No Jolt January.

So what now?

I don’t plan to drink soda again, I might have one on special occasions but I don’t need soda to function. So it is a treat for special occasions. For February I begin a new 30 day challenge: “Flexibility February,” which will be largely focused around yoga and just generally working to be more… bendy.

This post’s cover photo comes from Flickr photographer: Roadsidepictures.