How long does it take to break a habit? Some say 21 days; others say more. A quick Google search reveals numerous books and articles that present varying view points. I suppose, in the end, it’s up to the individual. I broke a habit just over 36 days ago, a habit I never thought I’d break. I grew up drinking Diet Coke, well diet sodas of any type. I’m not sure when the habit started, but start it did. I drank several cans a day. Some days that would be all I would drink.
I don’t intend for this to be an essay debating the harmful aspects of diet soda—there’s a veritable fountain of information on that. Besides, I don’t think anything is really bad in moderation. This piece is about breaking a lifelong habit.
I remember being a teenager and clipping coupons from the newspaper so I could get a deal on diet soda. I’d go to the local library so I could cut coupons out of their newspapers. I’d have so many twelve packs of diet soda in my room that the stacks would be as tall as me. I lived on the stuff. LIVED ON IT.
Diet orange soda; diet coke; diet cherry coke; fresca—and the list goes on. I didn’t really care for Diet 7-up unless I felt sick. I never drank regular soda as I felt it left a coating on my teeth. A gross coating–like the coating of grease that would line my mouth after eating an apple fritter. I love apple fritters but don’t much care for that greasy feeling that lines my mouth after eating one or two or three; consequently, I haven’t eaten one in ages.
The decision to quit diet coke wasn’t necessarily a conscious one. I just woke up one day and was done. It was as though the universe made the decision for me. There was no battle. No fighting. My cells didn’t cry out for more. I never expected any of that. I never thought I’d give up the habit. Never.
The funny thing is I don’t crave diet coke as I sit here typing this. I think about it but do not have an urge to go buy it or drink it. I’ve even discovered a suitable replacement. Canned carbonated water infused with flavor. I have no idea how they make it, but it fulfills the need I have for fizzy drinks. A healthy replacement. Who knew? Certainly not me!
Many of my memories of diet coke are combined with sugary foods. I never saw a problem with eating a slice of chocolate cake while drinking a diet coke. A tasty combination no doubt. A combination that tasted so darn good. So darn good. Yet I don’t crave that combo now, at least not the Diet Coke part of it.
They say when you’re ready things happen. I guess this means I was ready. It gives me hope for breaking other habits, habits that have nothing to do with food.
A habit I’d really like to break is continuing to define myself by my relationship food and weight. I’ve lived my entire life defined by how much I eat and how much I weigh. People define me by my relationship with food. I can recall so many instances where people would tell me “you need to lose weight” or “you have a pretty face, but…..” I also define myself by my relationship with food and my body size. I feel as though I don’t have worth as a larger individual. That mental framework is reinforced by so many external factors. The average woman is a size 14 or 16, yet those are considered “plus-sizes”. I no longer wish to do define my self-worth by my body-size. That time has past. Long past.
I understand now what people mean when they say “I may have fat” but “I am not fat”. I am not fat. I am the soul. Don’t get me wrong I’d like to get rid of some of this fat, but I don’t want to define my self worth by my fat. I don’t want that to be my future. And I don’t want it to be my past. I certainly don’t want it to be my now.
That habit of thought is a habit I’d like to break. And I’d like to break it now.
Not tomorrow but now. NOW.
If you’re reading this, see the beauty in the now. I could write a list of the parts of my body I don’t like but I’d rather write a list of the parts that I do appreciate, such as the eyes that allow me to see. The fingers that allow me to type. The ears that allow me to hear. The mouth that allows me to speak. The legs that allow me to walk. That’s what I’d rather celebrate.
The negative thinking is a hard habit to break. But if I can give up Diet Coke I can break other lifelong habits while forming new habits. I belive that now. I didn’t believe that before.
I’m not saying I’ll never have another diet coke. I likely will. Or maybe I won’t but I won’t be controlled by that habit. And that’s a gift I’ll cherish.
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