I have a confession to make. I’m dependent on my 1 large glass of wine every day. Do you have a habit you want to break? I thought this process I’ve started to break my habit may help you too.
My Bad Habit
In past years, I loved my fruity vodka cocktails. Pear martinis and lemon drops (links are to my cocktail recipes) were my drinks of choice. My friends knew that if they came over, they’d get to enjoy one of my delicious vodka drinks that were restaurant-quality!
But when I realized how much sugar went into these fruity drinks, I scaled back and switched to white wine. Although wine also has sugar, it was less than in my mixer drinks. I also found the wine to be much lighter in taste and took longer to drink. Eventually, I switched over to white wine completely. My favorite wine is a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Yum!
So for the last 2 years or so, Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs have been my drinks of choice. But after gaining 10lbs this year, I realized I need to make some serious changes to my alcohol consumption.
I was in denial for a while that the wine is the culprit of my inability to shed my excess weight. I mean, each glass of wine is only 125 calories… how bad can that be?
But my diet is very healthy and I am back to running 6 miles, every other day. When I met my friend for a run this weekend and complained about my weight not budging despite my efforts, she asked, “What about the wine?”
I came home and found in a google search that 1 serving of wine = 5 ounces. That’s a very small glass of wine, which means I’ve been consuming a minimum of a glass and a half every day = at least 200 calories of sugar.
There are debates over whether alcohol is good or bad for our health. For me, it’s more of a calorie issue as well as not liking the feeling of being dependent on something. I don’t have physical issues like waking up with headaches etc. but I do have anxiety which I buffer with alcohol – I know, I know, it’s longer-term work I’ll need to address.
Do you enjoy a glass (or 2) of wine every day that you’d like to cut down? Or do you have another habit you’d like to break like needing dessert every night, smoking, etc? If so, read on.
The framework of a habit
I read in an article by the author of Habits Academy, James Clear, that every habit has these four stages which are necessary to form and keep a habit.
This four-step pattern is the backbone of every habit, and your brain runs through these steps in the same order each time.
The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward.
Cravings are the motivational force behind every habit. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the observer are what transform a cue into a craving.
The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. The response delivers a reward.
Rewards are the end goal of every habit.
The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. Rewards teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future and complete the habit cycles, which will start again when cued.
All four stages are needed to form a habit
If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Eliminate the cue and your habit will never start. Reduce the craving and you won’t experience enough motivation to act. Make the behavior difficult and you won’t be able to do it. And if the reward fails to satisfy your desire, then you’ll have no reason to do it again in the future.
For me, my cycle is as follows
Cue = Evening after work
Craving = Wine which gives me a small buzz that leads to relaxation
Response = Pour a glass of wine
Reward = Relaxed!
The proper way to rid of this habit would be to eliminate alcohol altogether and find a healthier way to feel relaxed. But I’ve found that drastic changes don’t work well for me. I am much better with baby steps with the least amount of discomfort! So, I’m replacing my glass(es) of wine with a less desirable reward for me… a vodka soda with lemon cocktail. Why did I pick this substitute?
I dissected why I like wine and concluded I enjoy it for the following rewards
- Alcohol buzz= relaxation
- Social aspect
What if I complicated the response and diminished the reward? What I love most about wine is the feeling of relaxation it gives me at the end of the day. And I love how easy it is to grab a bottle from the fridge and just pour myself a glass.
I do not like cocktails that aren’t sweet. The bitter taste is a deterrent for me. Vodka has calories but no sugar, which makes it one of the best options for alcohol if you’re trying to lose weight.
So the last two nights, when I gave myself the option of a vodka soda with lemon instead of a glass of wine, I decided to have nothing at all! I would’ve had to measure the vodka, pour both that and the diet tonic water, then wash, cut and squeeze a lemon. Not hard to do, but more of a process than pouring a glass of wine. And my association of the taste of vodka soda to get my quick bolt of enhanced relaxation was not strong enough to create the response to make myself a cocktail!
It’s only been 2 days, and I’m sure it won’t be this simple to break my wine habit. But, until I made this decision to cut wine out altogether, I didn’t even try this substitution method. Why not give it a try?
My new break-the-cycle action will be
Cue – Evening after work
Craving – Wine which gives me a small buzz that leads to relaxation
Response – Make myself a vodka diet soda with lemon which is more work than pouring a glass of wine
Outcome – Bad taste but get a small alcohol buzz
Putting a few kinks in my habit cycle may be enough to break my wine habit. But I may also fail and have a glass of wine this week. Even if I do, though, I can go back to trying again. Is there a chance I will get used to making vodka tonics and acquire a taste for them? It might become easy to make the drink, but it’s doubtful I’ll ever love the taste of them.
If this simple substitution can change my wine habit from almost every day to 2x a week, I’ll be happy.
So, what’s a habit you’d like to break? Think about how this habit cycle applies to you, and let’s get to work!