Back in college, I had a roommate that used to drink 6-10 Cokes a day.
That’s a lot of soda…
And as you can imagine, he was about a hundred pounds overweight, and found it very difficult to kick the habit (especially since he’d get serious caffeine withdrawal headaches).
For most of us, soda is pretty much everywhere and it’s HARD to stop drinking it 100%, even if we know it’s filled with crap.
So what’s the fix?
It all comes down to one tiny habit.
The World’s Most Awesome Guide to Breaking the Soda Habit
First… here’s a quick primer on how habits work.
As it turns out, habits are created in a three step process:
The cue is whatever sets off the behavior and triggers it. For a smoker, they might be sitting at work around 3 pm when the boss comes over and drops a huge project in their lap. They start stressing out and need a break. They feel agitated and need to do something. That’s the cue.
So what does the smoker do? She gets up and goes for for a smoke break and takes a little walk / de-stress session outside. That’s the routine.
As a result, she feels relaxed and much more calm than before. That’s the reward.
Here’s another example many of you are probably familiar with: Compulsive texting / emailing.
The cue in this case is the phone sending us a notification. The routine is checking the notification. And the reward is feeling satisfied – like our ADD has been temporarily relieved :-).
So let’s take a look at this soda habit cycle in particular:
The cue in this case depends on the individual. Here are some super common cues that I’ve seen working with clients:
- Being bored at work around 3pm (or right after work, or late at night ~ 9 pm with TV)
- Feeling sad after getting into an argument with your spouse or mother/father
The point of the cue is the same: when the cue is triggered, the habit begins.
So whenever that afternoon boredom hits, that’s when we begin fidgeting and looking around for something to do – craving stimulation – and that’s also when the soda habit is often triggered.
The routine here is super simple. Drink the soda.
The reward is the feeling of “no longer feeling bored” – in other words, having something to do.
But there’s a problem – if you don’t know what triggers it, how can you fix it?
So Here’s How We Break This Habit Cycle
Take a look at the habit cycle for soda once more:
The first step is that you need to figure out what your cue is.
And here’s an easy way to do it: the index card method.
For an entire week, I want you to carry around an index card and every time you get a soda craving, you’re going to write down two things.
- What you were just doing
- What you were just feeling (what state you were in)
So here’s what that looks like:
I was just:
… Just at work, working on a spreadsheet…. Feeling ridiculously bored.
… Just at work, finishing up that project… Feeling stressed because the boss yelled at me.
… Just got off work… feeling a bit stressed and eager to sit down and relax.
After you do this for an entire week, you’re going to notice some eerie similarities.
In fact, I would say in the majority of people, this habit is usually linked to boredom (in-between periods), or routines – like having a drink with lunch, having a drink with a movie, having a drink immediately after work, etc.
So remember, after doing the index card method, we’ll know why we’re consuming the soda.
What that means is that we know WHY we’re drinking the soda, for example:
– We want stress relief
– We want “something to do”
But now, we’re going to swap the routine to get the feeling of relief, or stimulation, or whatever we want, from something other than soda.
So if you’re just bored, you can swap out your soda for a dozen other drinks: coffee, fizzy water, seltzer, another drink.
Or, you could technically even swap it out for an activity, like taking a 5 minute walk around the office or play a video game on your phone (which is what I do… closet nerd).
The cue goes off – I’m so bored working on this damn spreadsheet again – and then instead of drinking the soda, we can get up and go outside, or go talk to a friend for a few minutes, or play angry birds on the phone for a bit to get the same ultimate feeling of relief.
Or, if you want to make it even lower friction, just drink another beverage (mentioned above) so it mimics almost everything about soda.
Your Tiny Habit For Today
Today’s tiny habit is one to help you stop drinking soda, or excessive fake fruit juice, or any other form of liquid calories if you’re trying to get off them.
First, do the index card exercise.
Second, swap out the habit routine for another activity that’ll give you the same feeling of relief.
Sound awesome and pretty easy?
Thoughts? Share them below.