Saying “Goodbye” to an old friend

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I said goodbye to an old friend this week…its name was soda. Soda and its skinny kid sister, diet soda, have been part of my life since the record button was pushed on my memory. Throughout that time, the soda siblings have always been within easy reach and would never refuse my call regardless of the hour. Their addictive sweetness always pepped me up and sent me cheerfully on my way.

Over the years, I have found everything about soda comforting as well as compelling. It may sound silly, but just the sound of a soda lid being popped or the fizzy liquid being poured soothes me and tells me, “Don’t worry, everything will be all right. I’m here now.” Pretty impressive feat for a carbonated beverage! Also pretty compelling evidence that I have been what you would call a soda pop addict.

So why leave a friend who has been so good to me? A friend who has gotten me through all-nighters, brought extra sparkle to parties, given me courage when feeling shy and been there in my most desperate hours? Well, there is another dimension to soda that isn’t touted in commercials. Soda has a treacherous side that can alter your brain chemistry, bloat your body, attack your tooth enamel, leech calcium from your bones, promote caffeine dependency and dehydration, put you at risk for diabetes and a whole host of metabolic dysfunctions…and that’s just the short list.

In my experience, no warning label or list of eventual harmful effects will make most of us stop doing something what makes us feel good in the moment. Too often we have to suffer consequences before we believe that rules apply to us. I know that drinking soda has negatively impacted my body, my outlook and my wallet for years, but that wasn’t enough to make me stop…despite many attempts to do just that.

My turning point came after weeks of discomfort, lethargy and poor performance in trying to ramp up my workouts while still drinking a steady stream of calorie-free bubble water.

Deciding to part with my old and dear friend – hopefully this time forever – got me thinking about the things we do that sabotage our success. The bad habits we can’t seem to break. The self-imposed rules we constantly break. The shortcuts we take because we believe we deserve a break.

Stopping self-undermining behavior isn’t just about will power. The temptations we face are ubiquitous, marketed to our desires, seemingly harmless, attractive, easy to get and filled with ingredients our brains are hard-wired to crave.

With the deck so stacked, how can we stop giving in to unhealthy desires? The sad truth is that many don’t. The happier truth is that many do succeed in ending behaviors that exact a toll on their well-being. Though it may take several to many attempts, people can and do find the motivation and support to break free and stay free of self-defeating habits.

My motivation for ending my soda dependence is finding a physical performance level never before known to me. My support system is everyone who believes I can make a change…one soda-free day at a time.

What behaviors or addictions limit your potential? If you have any, they likely came to mind instantly. We who have been hooked are on intimate terms with the gremlins that ride our backs.

If you want to make a change, first try imagining your life without that nasty devil hanging on and telling you what to do. Clarify your motivations and make them meaningful. Write them down, keep them near and read them often. Then remember all the good times the little bugger brought you and thank it for its service before saying goodbye. When the door finally slams on your gremlin’s parting cries, envision your future. See in detail all the positive changes that will come into your life. Plan healthy adventures and rewards to celebrate dependence-free milestones. Think only and continuously of success and move toward it. And make certain to rally the support that you will need to try – or try again – to succeed.

In many ways, we choose our levels of health and happiness. Our best possible selves are waiting and we are the only ones who can live them into being. Why not work toward bringing forth your best self? You might really like the person you discover.

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