i just can’t quit you (diet pop)

When trying to change a behaviour, it can be helpful to write a pro and con list. I plan to change things up in my life over the next little bit and my diet is an excellent place to start.

I consume too much food that isn’t food; that needs to change. At the top of my hit list is diet pop. The irony of writing about changing my consumption of the stuff when there’s a bottle to my left on the desk is not lost on me.

I’m not changing because of a general antipathy towards artificial sweeteners. They have their place. For me, the problem with my consumption comes down to quantity.

I started drinking the stuff pretty much the instant it became available in the local corner store. I was embarrassed to buy it; I felt like people were watching me do something I ought not to be. It was such an obvious diet aid. In the days before diet pop became ubiquitous, consuming it felt like letting people know about my secret eating disorder life.

The embarrassment was not enough to stop me. The promise of zero calories was too heady to abandon.

I didn’t consume it as an extra or treat, though my initial consumption was low, comparatively. It was a staple and a substitute. If I have a diet soda, then I’m allowed five gummi candies. Can’t have both – the calories would be too extreme to deal with. And if I have a diet soda, I can skip caloric liquids entirely.

That’s how it started. A can a day, bought from the corner store or the vending machine at school. Like most things eating disorder related, however, the behaviour escalated. One became two, and two became four. Soon, I was consuming the stuff all day. Four to six litres was not uncommon. I no longer used it as a way to have a treat. Treats were abandoned from my meal plan entirely, unless purging was involved. The pop was used for something else. It filled up the empty space in my stomach, quelled the hunger pangs, and allowed me to eat less. The pop gave my mouth something to do.

The commercials for diet soda are also good. They promised me my dream body, and, on some level, I bought that too.

Soda is really bad for you, unfortunately. Setting aside the harm it does to the pocket book, there’s the harm it does to your body. It burns up your teeth; mine are already lousy from years of nutritional deprivation and purging. It leeches calcium from bones that don’ thave it to spare. It prevents me from consuming enough water.

There’s also the plastic. The amount I’m contributing to our overall plastic footprint, recyclable or not, hurts my heart.

It’s hard to live with doing something that’s harmful. It doesn’t matter if the harm is internal or external. The guilt you carry wrecks the enjoyment you get, and generally drags you down. Protracted guilt makes you feel like shit.

The amount I consume is down from my high point to a paltry litre and a half a day.

That’s still awful. I grab the bottle from the nightstand when I wake in the morning and one is with me all day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. It’s a caramel-coloured and bubbly security blanket. It’s a habit that’s harming me and costing me at least $750 a year. That’s not nothing. I should change, I know I should. I think about it every day. But thinking about it doesn’t get the job done.

It’s just that I find change hard and scary. I get very wedded to my routine; it soothes my anxiety and OCD tendencies. Even when I know a change would be beneficial, I find it hard to make. I am a fan of the status quo, even when it’s harmful.

But things aren’t going that well right now, I’m not happy with where I’m at, and nothing changes if nothing changes. As to the pros and cons –

The pros of diet pop consumption:

  • It has zero calories and my eating disorder likes that.
  • That’s pretty much it.

The cons of diet pop consumption:

  • Buying diet pop is costing me a lot of money.
  • Consuming it wastes resources – hello plastic bottles.
  • It’s burning out my stomach.
  • My bones are getting weaker.
  • My teeth are getting thinner.
  • My skin looks horrid (that’s not all on the pop, but it plays a part).
  • It stops me from consuming things that are nutritionally valid.

Quitting seems like a no-brainer, but I struggle because as mentioned, I absolutely, positively hate to change my habits and routines. My brain likes to pretend they keep me safe. They keep things stable, but stable’s not the same as good. Is the cost of my consumption still something I’m willing to pay? Since I’m going to be making a change, the answer appears to be no. The truth is, sometimes stability feels like a prison.

I’d planned to set up a complicated plan on reducing the amount of diet pop I drink when I realized that doing so is a way to allow for failure. A way to allow myself to continue to consume. Making a change, quitting something, is actually very simple (i can hear the voice of an old yoga teacher in my head – the idea is simple; keep it simple) – you just do it.

To make a change, I simply make the change. It’s that easy and that hard.

I’ve decided to go all-in and get it over with. It’s like jumping in a cold lake – working up to it just prolongs the torture. The best thing to do is to jump in and get it over with.

I have three 500 ml bottles left. That’s it. When they’re done, I’ll be done. No more bottles of pop on the wall. I’m not going to buy any more when I’m out, and I’m not going to be bringing it home. My eating disorder is already bitching, moaning, and negotiating but I’m ignoring her. I’m going to make a change and I’m going to get it done by doing it.

I’m curious to see how it goes. Complicated and failure-guaranteed plans have not been generated and that feels weird. I have no new notebook. I didn’t make a spreadsheet. It’s a new way of doing things for me and I think it’s likely to lead to more success than I’ve had in the past with gradual approaches and soft limits. At least, I hope it will. Sometimes a line in the sand is the only way to go.

Just do it.

One day at a time.

Get it done.

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