We all have habits that we wouldn’t mind changing, don’t we? For me, my downfall has been diet soda. In fact, for most of my adult life, I have traveled with a Diet Coke in my hands at almost all times. I was fiercely, severely addicted. I loved it soooooo much. I gave it up for Lent a few times, but gradually fell off the wagon after those 40 days had ended (even though it tasted pretty gross the first time after going so long without drinking it).
I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to let it go (as the song goes), but it seemed like an insurmountable goal to actually give it up for good. Turns out it’s not that hard at all. I am so thrilled to have put diet soda behind me. It’s now been months since I had one, and I never crave them. So, if you need any help dropping diet soda like the bad habit it is, read on. It’s easier than you think.
1) Find your motivation. To make a long-term change, it helps to keep in mind why you’re doing it. Once you know your motivation, you’ll have a touchstone to come back to when you’re thinking about faltering. Though I theoretically wanted to quit drinking diet soda, I wasn’t planning on doing anything about it (yet). I’m not sure what I was waiting for, given that I knew it wasn’t a healthy habit (artificial sweeteners are terrible for your body, and beyond all the other data, have been shown to lead to weight gain), but I wasn’t ready yet. Until my nutritionist friend Ashley mentioned that studies have shown that it kills brain cells. That was the deal-breaker for me. Who has brain cells they don’t want to keep? That was all the motivation I needed. I stopped drinking diet soda that day. To this day, when I think about having a diet soda, this fact is the first thing that comes into my mind. I’d rather drink something else and keep my brain cells.
2) Change up your environment or schedule to help you break your unwanted habit. We happened to be leaving for a weekend away when I made the decision to quit, which really helped. If you want to disrupt a habit, it’s helpful to do it when you’re already in a new environment or your schedule is otherwise different than normal. There are so many ways to do this. For instance, you could plan to run an errand around the time you’d normally crack open a soda. You could also promise yourself some other “treat” in lieu of a soda. Or go for a run, go window shopping, or something else you enjoy doing. Go get a cup of coffee with a friend. Any way you can change your schedule or environment will help.
3) Find alternative drinks. For me, it helped to find Zevia sodas. They are made with stevia (a naturally grown sweetener), rather than aspartame. I drank those for a few weeks as I learned to curb my addiction to more chemically-laden sodas. But you could opt instead for sparkling water, coffee (or iced coffee), water with a twist of lemon, or even other sodas that do not have aspartame in them. Now, I drink coffee in the morning and drink mostly sparkling water the rest of the day. If I’m feeling sluggish in the afternoon, I’ll have a snack or a green juice. And, if I’m really dragging, I’ll get another cup of coffee (but make sure it’s before 3 or 4 pm, or it can negatively affect your sleep).
Don’t worry if it’s not a cold-turkey process for you. If it’s easier for you to simply reduce the amount you drink each week until you’ve kicked the habit, that works too. I had originally planned to quit diet soda this way, but once I found my motivation to give it up completely, I never looked back. I have had two diet sodas since that day (when I had a terrible headache, could tell my body was craving caffeine, and wasn’t able to get coffee), but I never think about diet soda anymore. It’s a huge relief and a weight off my back.
And, besides all this, it turns out there are hidden added benefits to giving up diet soda:
1) Weight loss. As I mentioned, studies show that drinking diet soda can lead to weight gain. Quitting it can cause those pounds to drop off. Since quitting diet soda, I’ve dropped a few pounds that had previously been hard to get rid of. Bonus!
2) Reduced cravings. Quitting diet soda can reduce cravings for sweet and carb-laden food (which may, of course, also help with weight loss). Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking that food or otherwise nourishing ingredients will be coming to the body. So the body craves those things, which aren’t present in diet soda. So diet soda makes you crave these things. When you stop drinking diet soda, those cravings stop too.
3) Less of a sweet tooth. Diet soda is, obviously, quite sweet, and it also causes the body to seek sweet foods. Quitting diet soda has changed my taste buds, and I find myself needing much less by way of sweets. Since quitting, even fruit seems sweeter than it used to. And it’s changed my tastes for other things. Getting rid of the artificial sweetener in my life has changed what I want to eat and has helped me make smarter choices with the other things I’m putting into my body. Talk about a win-win!
So, quitting diet soda is totally doable and totally worth it. I’m amazed at the difference it has made in my life! You, too, can quit it easily and without looking back. And, if you have any other tips or insights to share, I’d love to hear them!