Ted Talks: Can You Just Stop?

By Ted Spiker

For more than two decades, Diet Coke, the artificial liquid was my oxygen. I had it with breakfast, all morning at my desk, with lunch, all afternoon at my desk, with dinner, all night by the couch. I pumped so much Diet Coke into my system that I think my blood type was carbonated.

I can tell you why it was the only time I went cold turkey on a habit — there was a flux of headlines that linked diet drinks to weight gain — but I can’t tell you why it has stuck. Why was that the one food item I chose to give up for good? Of all the things that I could have ditched — cheeseburgers, cheese fries, cream cheese — WHY DID I PICK THE ONE WITH ZERO CALORIES?

I’m not sure if there’s been any significant effect to me quitting that soda addiction, but maybe now it is time to find something else to give up. Here’s what is on my current list.

Habit: Other *clears throat* beverages *clears throat*

Percent Chance I Can Quit: 4

Why I Probably Won’t: I believe in the power of a responsible happy hour. Plus, #resveratrol!

Habit: Picking my toenails

Percent Chance I Can Quit: 43

Why I Probably Won’t: It’s not really hurting anyone. Except my own livelihood, if I leave them where I shouldn’t. (Sorry, Liz!)

Habit: Ice cream in a coffee mug

Percent Chance I Can Quit: 22

Why I Probably Won’t: My current dessert of choice is an automatic way to limit portion size. It’s also great because you can experiment with all kinds of add-ons. My preferred mug includes a drizzle of chocolate milk over it. And coconut flakes. And dark chocolate chips. Dammit.

Habit: Coffee in an ice cream bowl

Percent Chance I Can Quit: -31

Why I Probably Won’t: When I gave up diet soda, I discovered the joy of java. Now I drink so much of it that my blood type has turned from carbonated to creamed. Coffee is good for you, however, so there’s really no need to ban my brew.

Habit: Cracking my knuckles, neck, back, elbows and knees

Percent Chance I Can Quit: 13

Why I Probably Won’t: Maybe I can start slowly — like by not doing it in meetings or bed, which is very difficult for a lifelong cracking addict.

Six years is probably long enough to go without completely giving something unhealthy up. So anybody want to join me in a challenge? You give up something, I’ll give up something, and we’ll see how we do. Want to jump in? Email me at Profspiker@gmail.com. Together, we’ll switch an unhealthy habit to a healthy one. I’ll drink (something other than Diet Coke) to that!

Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker) is the chair of the University of Florida department of journalism, as well as a health and fitness writer. He is the author of DOWN SIZE, a book about the science and soul of weight loss and dieting.