How to Quit a Diet Coke Addiction

Make it No Big Deal

If you’re a Diet Coke addict the idea of quitting is probably a HUGE deal, but thinking of it that way will only make it harder.

I tried quitting many times, each time making a big production of the longing and torture, but let’s get real here, it’s not like I gave up heroin or something.  At no point was I convulsing on the floor in agony. 

If you’re going to be dramatic about something make it interesting, and quitting a Diet Coke addiction is not that interesting in the grand scheme of things.

When I quit for good I kept catching myself thinking “This is huge” because I had been guzzling the chemically deliciousness for 30 years, but I realized that I didn’t have to believe that. It was only a big deal if I chose to make it a big deal.

And if I made it a big deal, it felt much harder and more dramatic.

I was delightfully surprised to report that it was easy, but not by accident. I didn’t rely on willpower or motivation, the standard operating behaviour for anyone trying to quit a bad habit. Instead, I used the Alignment Coaching Framework as a guide. This is the framework that I use with my online group coaching program for women and with my one one-on-one clients. It’s rooted in Neuroscience, takes the best from life coaching and mindset coaching, and it works.*

The Steps to Break a Diet Coke Habit:

1. Figure Out Your Motivation (the real reason, not the “should”)

The truth is that I’m not quitting for health reasons even though everyone says I need to quit because of Aspartame. I think there are worse things. And this is why when I tried to quit in the past it didn’t take. I was only doing it because I felt that I should.

This is why I want to quit:

  • To change my relationship with sugar and cravings.
  • The environmental impact of cans and bottles.
  • I don’t want to give my money to Coca-Cola
  • It feels a bit dated and uncool, kind of like cigarettes.

2. Decide and Be Specific

I made the firm decision to quit Diet Coke a few months ago. I didn’t decide to try to quit, I decided to quit**. In Kickstartology, one of the Rules of ALignment is “Don’t just tre, decide.”

I set December 1st as the quit date in order for it to be two weeks past it on my birthday. This gave me time for the next steps.
 

3. Brainwash Yourself Intentionally 

I joke that the biggest difference between coaching and a cult is that a cult brainwashes you, while coaching teaches you to brainwash yourself. 

I imagined what it would be like to be the person on the other side of this addiction. Me far enough past it that I don’t even miss it.

  • What would that person think about Diet Coke?
  • How would she start her day?
  • How would the new habits fit with the other things I want to build in the future?

I started practicing these thoughts and reviewing them daily as I bumbled through the next phase. It was a bit tricky because this imaginary “future-me” wouldn’t even think about Diet Coke because it’s not something that is relevant to her life.

Some of my go-to thoughts included:

  • “Why am I wasting brainpower and feelings on a drink?”
  • “I love my morning coffee so much.”
  • “It would be so much fun to be physically transformed by the time everyone has vaccines! This is step one, and then sugar and fitness!”

4. Building New Habits

I set things up so that I had new habits to try out as I practiced step #3. I wasn’t a coffee drinker a few months ago but I liked the idea of loving my morning coffee. It didn’t take immediately because I was drinking a Diet Coke as I made my morning coffee but now I love my morning coffee.

Read More: Resetting Habits | What Works and What Doesn’t

The game changers were: 

  • The new programmable coffee maker that has my coffee ready
  • The keep-warm coffee mug because I only like burning hot coffee
  • Flavoured coffee (Vanilla nut creme found at Winners is my current favourite)
  • Bubly (lime or cherry) because the crispness of the bubbles is strong enough

5. Catch & Redirect As Needed

Catching yourself and redirecting as opposed to negotiating with yourself or looking for loopholes dislike building a muscle. I found myself doing exactly what I tell my clients not to do: I tried to change everything at once. I decided that it would be fun to quit Diet Coke while concurrently upping my fitness and diet habits because moderation is boring and I love a good perfectionist fantasy. 

It never works. I had a small injury and went right back to the same old patterns in everything. Note to self: You can’t change everything at once. If you successfully change one thing at a time, one thing after another, you will always come out ahead in the long run. I chose to prioritize quitting Diet Coke.

Catching my auto-pilot thoughts was harder than catching my auto-pilot Diet Coke drinking. If I caught myself thinking that I wanted a Diet Coke or looking for loopholes in the quitting plan, I reached for thoughts from step #3. It takes a little time and effort to reprogram yourself after a 30-year habit, but it got easier.

Pro-Tip: When something goes off track don’t judge yourself, examine what happened and consider it a data point. Ask yourself the following:

What didn’t work?

What could you do differently?

6. GOAL DAYr

Yesterday was my last mini-can. I made a live video on Instagram and I even made my first TikTok video, but it was so weird because I didn’t even really want it. I was already over it. I felt no inclination to enjoy every drop, I was more focused on figuring out Tiktok actually. I was more excited about my coffee this morning. 

As a coach, I knew intellectually that I could feel this way today if I did the work beforehand, but a piece of me was refusing to believe it. I had to do the work in order to get over the resistance to the belief.  I can’t pinpoint when things flipped and I was suddenly operating from complete certainty. (What’s extra cool is that now I can explain how this maps out from a neuroscience perspective, get in touch if you want to geek out with me about that!)

I’m still working on the imagination and brainwashing to deal with future situations where I could easily default back to old habits (cottage I’m looking at you), but I’m already there. Actually, I’m already thinking about what’s next… sugar.

If you’re serious about busting the Diet Coke habit I have the tools that will make it easier and help you stay committed. Book. acall to find out how to work with me.

-SJM

* Phew
** Yoda was right about “Try”

UPDATE: 3 years later and I’m still not drinking it

P.S. Getting started and getting results can happen fast once you decide to commit to yourself.
Get out of your own way and get aligned with who you want to be and how you want to live with the support, guidance, and tools of Alignment Coaching.

Book a free coaching exploration call to find out how to work with me 1 on 1 or in my group coaching program for women.

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