This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.