My name is Ellen, and I’m almost a Diet Coke addict. I say “almost” because I don’t take addiction lightly, but I show some of those signs, though not all of them. Examples? I think just about everything tastes better with Diet Coke. I would tell myself every morning that I wouldn’t have one after breakfast, but I would, and when I’m stressed, nothing calls to me like those artificially-sweet bubbles. No one has diagnosed me, but I’ve been well aware of my dependence on Diet Coke for a long time. That said, I eat pretty healthily and love to work out, so I’ve always just said, “Everyone has some bad habits. This is mine.”
Plus, I love Diet Coke. Why would I want to give it up?
Frankly, I don’t. Not totally. I just don’t want to drink 4 (or more…) every day. For me, drinking Diet Coke was a habit, and it was a habit I enjoyed, even if I felt a little guilty about it. After all, you can find all sorts of studies and articles about how bad for you the stuff is. Still, none of that was enough to make me break the habit.
So, what was? Glad you asked. Whether you want to stop eating a pint of ice cream every night, hitting snooze too many times, or totally neglecting to eat your vegetables, I’d like to think I can help.
Decide you want to stop.
This is the most important thing. If you don’t want to break your bad habits, you won’t do it. The number of times I have been asked how many Diet Cokes I drink a day is embarrassing, and so is the number of times people have tried to tell me how bad for me it is.
I knew all that, but I wasn’t ready to give it up. If you aren’t ready yet, nothing you try is going to work. The tools I’m about to suggest aren’t infallible, but they’re helpful.
Change your routine.
At school, I go to the gym, eat breakfast, drink a Diet Coke, and then head to class. And then I have another Diet Coke when I’m back at my apartment, and another (and maybe another) while I’m studying.
When I was at home over winter break, I would often go to the gym, eat breakfast, and then head to a yoga class (to complete my teacher training). I wasn’t about to wake up earlier just so I could drink a Diet Coke before yoga. And I really wasn’t going to chug a Diet Coke and then go straight into downward facing dog. Blech.
By not leaving myself enough time for Diet Coke in the morning, I changed my usual routine. Not having that one was usually enough to stop me from having any others.
Do you know how satisfying a streak is? Once you haven’t engaged in your bad habits for two or three days, you almost don’t want to lose that momentum. I proudly told my family every time I added a day to my Diet Coke-less streak.
You don’t have to tell other people, though. Put stickers in your planner of mark an ‘X’ on your calendar. It seems silly, but you probably won’t want to break the chain.
Make new habits.
I used to feel a little empty after breakfast. I didn’t quite feel hungry, but I wanted something. And that’s where my first daily Diet Coke came in. Now, I focus on eating a larger, more balanced breakfast, drinking plenty of water early in the morning, and making myself some tea. That empty feeling is totally gone, and so is my Diet Coke craving.
When I’m stressed, I want chocolate and Diet Coke. Together. In large quantities. I totally used to go for it. Now, I’m creating new habits when I’m stressed. I make myself some tea, write down why I’m stressed, and then I play a couple games of Candy Crush (yep, I still play that) or call/text a friend.
And when I sit down to study, I make sure I have a full water bottle and mug of tea.
If you want to get out of the habit of snacking out of boredom, make a list of things you can do when you’re bored, whether it’s start in on some homework, hit the gym, go for a walk, or pick up a book.
Indulge yourself (maybe).
I don’t plan to cut Diet Coke completely out of my life. If I’m out a restaurant and it sounds good, I’ll probably order one. If I just want to sip and savor it, I’ll crack open a can. But my new habits make me feel good about myself, and they make me feel healthy, so I don’t want to revert back to drinking 4 cans a day.
If you really love your new nightly snack of well-topped rice cakes, but your friends want to go get Ben & Jerry’s and watch a movie, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have some ice cream. When you look forward to your morning workouts, but are really not feeling an early wakeup call, snooze for a bit. And if you drink water all the time, but decide you want a sugary coffee drink sometime, go ahead and get one.
When your less-than-healthy habits become treats rather than habits, you’re in a pretty good place.
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