How I Overcame An Everyday Habit And Learned to Enjoy My Life

Recently I decided to quit drinking diet coke.

This is the third time in my life I’ve quit, and honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I was addicted in the first place. Healthy eating and living are values of mine—and I know enough to realize Diet Coke doesn’t fit into those categories. But I got addicted in high school, lured in by the glamour of all the taste with none of the calories, and it’s been an on-again-off-again relationship ever since.

Recently I decided I was going to give it up (hopefully for good this time). What I should have remembered from the other few times I’ve quit diet coke is this:

Quitting doesn’t come that easily.

bad-habit
Photo Credit: Jake Spurlock, Creative Commons

Now, you might be wondering why, on a blog about living with less and chasing dreams, I’m talking about Diet Coke. Why should my beverage choice make a difference?

Don’t worry. I’ll get there. I think there’s a strong connection here, one that can help you overcome the obstacles and addictions that are keeping you from achieving the things you dream of in life. But first, I need to tell you my story.

When it came to quitting Diet Coke, the hardest part wasn’t changing my habits. It was changing my cravings.

In other words, the hardest part about quitting diet coke wasn’t the act of choosing a different option when it came time to order lunch. It took a little bit of willpower to do that, but that was something I could manage. The hardest part were the moments when my body told me it wanted Diet Coke, and wouldn’t accept any substitute.

Have you ever had a moment like this?

Maybe, for you, it wasn’t about Diet Coke. Maybe it was about running back to a bad relationship, picking up a cigarette or buying something you couldn’t afford that would push you into debt.

Either way, the feeling goes something like this: I’ve been here before. I know this is bad for me. But it doesn’t feel bad. In fact, it feels almost like instinct—like what I am craving is something good and natural and normal for my body. It feels like, if I don’t satisfy this craving, I’ll never be able to enjoy my life.

In my case, the cravings were sometimes so powerful they would keep me up at night.

One particular night, I was actually lying awake in a hotel room, trying to sleep, but instead instead of sleeping I was reminding myself—over and over again—why I shouldn’t take a quick trip down to the hotel vending machine.

Frustrated, I sat up in bed, and sent a quick message—an SOS—to a friend who knows a lot about these things. It read: “Help! WHY CAN’T I STOP CRAVING DIET COKE?!”

Her response was telling. She said: “You’re addicted to aspartame.” She went on to explain how the powerful cravings I was experiencing were probably being triggered by aspartame somewhere else in my diet, and that until I stopped consuming it altogether, the cravings wouldn’t go away.

Your body craves what you give it.

In other words, changing my habits wasn’t enough. I needed to change my cravings.

That shocked me. Honestly, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I started to think about how often we try to change our habits, thinking those habits will change our lives, but instead of getting the life we dream about, all we get is a tired mind and a confused spirit from living in contradiction to our cravings.

How often, when we crave something but hate the consequences it brings, do we sink into depression? After all, if that’s what chasing dreams is like—if that’s what it feels live awake and alive to our desires—life must be a cruel joke.

No wonder we give up before we get to where we are going.

My cravings for Diet Coke have completely subsided.

Thanks to my friend’s advice, I discovered I was eating mints and chewing gum with aspartame in them, both of which were triggering the cravings. When I gave up the gum and mints, the cravings stopped. Remarkable.

Changing habits mattered, some. But what mattered more was changing my taste buds, changing my cravings.

I’m not sure what you crave, or what addictions you might be facing (and addictions can be anything from social media to video games to a bad attitude to an abusive or unhealthy relational pattern), but if following your cravings isn’t getting you the result you desire—if you constantly feel like your in a wrestling match with your habits—

Take heart. Maybe you don’t need to keep fighting. Your body craves what you give it. Maybe you need to change your cravings.

10 comments on “How I Overcame An Everyday Habit And Learned to Enjoy My Life

  1. Allison,

    I hear ya! I am almost 2 years (April) from drinking any Mountain Dew. I still crave it…sometimes daily. Sometimes a lot, daily. 😉 yet…I know I was meant for more than dumping that much sugar in me like that. I’m healthier than I have ever been now. So…to encourage you. This WILL be the last time you have to quit your Diet Coke. You are MORE than a conqueror in Christ. In short…it’s a done deal. Thanks for the post today. Have a great week!

    -Brett

  2. I also gave up diet Coke several years ago. I actually quit eating aspartame and high fructose corn syrup completely at the same time. I did something to cement my decision though, to truly make it stick in my heart; I sponsored a little girl in Guatemala with the money I saved by not buying the soda. Every time I craved something that I had taken out of my diet, I could look at Melania’s picture instead, and smile knowing that I was making a difference in someone’s life.
    Over the years I have taken many more things out of my diet, and have added others. I try to eat an organic diet with no preservatives or artificial food colorings. Its a choice that takes discipline, but its so worth it to me. And these choices made my life easier in the long run, when we learned that our son was lactose intolerant, and our daughter needs to be gluten free. Also we bought our local convenience store, which I manage as well. If you want to practice discipline, buy a convenience store. I have anything you’re craving within 40 feet of my office. (The fresh caramel rolls and scotcharoo bars are really tasty, unfortunately. )

  3. Your post couldn’t have come at a better moment! I am addicted to Dr Pepper which I justify by saying “well it’s not drugs, or alchol, so it’s not such a bad addiction to have” but lately I’ve been thinking that it is causing mood swings – usually if I don’t have some I’m in a bad mood!
    I too have given up a few times but you have given me the inspiration to try again for the long term. I’ve been decluttering my home for a good few months. Maybe it’s time to declutter my diet!

    Thanks for another great post.

  4. I enjoyed your comments on cravings this morning…..as I was contemplating why I have the expensive and time wasting habit of getting Starbucks hot chocolate each day of my life. I am challenging myself to change my cravings….it is starting today. Thanks for the insight. I think you were a “God message” for me.

  5. Ally this was a great post. I really like this “Your body craves what you give it.” I know that sugar of any kind wreaks havoc on my body, yet for months I was stuffing myself with sugar. I, again, recently gave up sugar in all of its natural and unnatural forms, and I am amazed at how well my body is performing without it. I have lost weight without trying, I’m sleeping better and I feel more focused. Part of this has also been not eating gum or mints because they have sugar in them. It is hard but it has been so worth it for me. Thanks for sharing. Such a great reminder.

  6. I can relate to this. I was addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper even though I knew it was not healthy for me. I quit drinking it cold turkey but still want is sometimes; I just have to remind myself how unhealthy it is for me and how it will negatively affect my body. I am currently trying to overcome an addiction to my smartphone and checking FB multiple times a day. I read somewhere that if I don’t have a good purpose for being on Facebook (such as messaging a friend or checking upcoming events) to not even log on. That has helped me be more intentional about the time I do spend on FB and has given me more time to spend with my spouse and children.

  7. Yesterday, I got in my car and drove into town because I wanted a diet Mt Dew. lol. This was great. I like how you got to the root of the problem. Habits spring from our cravings. This logic reminded me a bit of the recommended reading you gave this weekend, particularly the article on “Trying vs Doing.” I was quite moved by it. In a good way. I realized I’m trying a few things I need to be doing. I mean, really, I WANT to DO them. Roots are important. A principle based life is important. A reactionary life never leads me where I want to go and it definitely doesn’t tell the story well of who I am. Seeking first His kingdom with you! (Once I get more established with my Eat, Pray, Paint work, I’ll be contacting you about 1 to 1 writing coaching. Thank you so much for offering it!) Your sis, Michelle

  8. I am also working on quitting Diet Coke. My triggers are other food though. Going to the movies and not getting a diet coke, seeing someone else with a fountain drink… it’s all hard. I just keep reminding myself that I didn’t even drink that much of it anyway (maybe a fourth of it) and that it ruined my stomach for days after. But it’s still hard, I miss the taste.

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