“You need to read this book,” my stepdaughter said, and held up The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Work by Charles Duhigg. “It will help you get off of Diet Coke.”
“That’s not what we’re talking about today,” I grumbled. We were in the U.K., it was near my bedtime, and we had arranged a Skype session to discuss something happening in her life.
Internally, though, my response was more visceral: shit, shit, shit. She’d hit a nerve, and I knew it.
I’ve tried to quit many times over the years. Once, I went as long as two years without having one, and then convinced myself I could. Have. Just. One.
We have spent maddening moments in Europe tracking down sodas when we could be using that time to, oh, I don’t know, explore a foreign country? (They’re expensive in Europe, too — wine is cheaper!) I have watched with horror as my recycle bin fills to overflowing with empty cans, evidence that’s hard to refute. Friends have sent me articles about the possible health problems from too much aspartame.
Addictions, though, are, as they say in A.A., cunning, baffling, and powerful. It wasn’t enough to know I was doing my body harm. It wasn’t enough to point out how incongruent it is to drink the stuff when the rest of my diet is filled with organic food. I read about how soda corporations drain the water supplies of poor Indian villages, and I still couldn’t quit.
When we returned from the U.K., I bought The Power of Habit and read it. It’s interesting, and a good read, helping us understand how our brains work with our habits, both good and bad. It gave me hope. It is, however, a bit lean on strategies. I needed more information.
This time I turned to Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross and Carlo C. DiClemente, Ph.D. It’s a clunky title, I know, but the book is filled with useful ideas.
For one thing, I needed some safe replacement drinks. I like kombucha, though it has some sugar. I’m drinking more tea, and one of my favorites is Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for Root Beer Tea. I skip the stevia, because the licorice root gives it enough sweetness for me. If I want fizz, I can pour it in with some club soda.
Changing for Good recommends defining our triggers. For example, I know I want a soda when I’ve not slept well and am tired, but I also want one when I have something to celebrate. I realized this during a day when we received a lot of good news — suddenly I wanted to eat, drink, and be merry! (I didn’t.)
The authors also recommend rewarding the new behavior. Our brains like the encouragement! I started to pay myself the money I would have spent on diet soda (plus extra for each pound I lose — that’s another story). It’s fun to watch the money pile up!
I’m not foolish enough to think I’m done with diet soda for good, but it’s been nearly five weeks, and my cravings are minimal. I can change for good…one day at a time.
How about you? Have you struggled to change a habit? What did you do?