Column: A pointless, albeit successful resolution

 

The most wonderful time of the year is right around the corner, and for some it will be followed by the most miserable time of the year.

I have written in the past about the foolishness of trying a resolution to the start of a new calendar year (Online at tr.im/2cans). Every day is the start of a new year, I argued. Commit to change whenever it gives you the best chance of success, not because a new calendar tells you to, I rationalized.

I wrote about that foolishness nearly three years ago, as I attempted to curtail my consumption of diet cola, starting on Christmas. I argued giving up something you consume every day, several times a day, is foolish. My goal was to limit my consumption to two cans per day, with occasional exceptions. That made more sense to me than trying to go without.

I did pretty well for a long time, and even without the same mental focus during the past year or more, I was still consuming less than I did three years prior.

My doctor never said I had to reduce my diet cola consumption – it was something I chose to do. I wasn’t drinking six cans per day, but I knew all those inexplicable chemicals in a can of diet cola weren’t doing me any favors.

I wasn’t addicted to the caffeine. I didn’t need a can every morning in order to go about my day, but I assumed the daily caffeine stream that had fueled my body for two decades or more had some influence on how I functioned as a human in 2013.

When it comes to my daily soda consumption, I’ve had an eye-opening experience during the past month, and it happened for the silliest of reasons.

Inspired by Adam, the “urban explorer” I wrote about in September, I just made it 30 days without drinking a single can of diet cola.

But it gets better. I didn’t consume anything but water during those 30 days.

No, there wasn’t a particular purpose to this 30-day experiment. It was simply a personal challenge. Could I survive without diet cola, or other beverages for 30 days? I had my doubts.

While watching one of Adam’s old videos a few months ago, he noted during that particular day that he was in the process of going 60 days or more with drinking only water. And it wasn’t the first time he had done so. He had previously put together a 30-day streak, he noted.

It wasn’t clear if there was a purpose to his binging, but it struck me as odd. And that’s all the inspiration I needed. There wasn’t a “get healthy before the holidays” challenge at the office, or an exotic herbal detoxification process I was undergoing. About the only purposeful aspect of it was that I waited until after I returned from a week of vacation.

Sometimes you run a marathon or climb a mountain for a higher purpose. Sometimes you do them just to prove to yourself that you can. Falling into the latter category, I decided to challenge myself to give up anything with flavor for a month, beginning Nov. 7.

And the shock of it all: It wasn’t that hard.

I felt drowsy at times, but that had little to do with the lack of caffeine. There were a few times I would have enjoyed a soda instead of a glass of water, but I didn’t have to fight temptation. I’m guessing part of my success is owed to the fact I knew this was a temporary measure. I wasn’t giving up soda, beer, milk or juice for the rest of my life. This was a 30-day challenge, and nothing more.

I dined out more than a few times during the past month, and it was suggested to me during one dinner that my 30-day abstinence might inspire a new habit. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, I was told. Yeah, I’ve heard that somewhere.

I did a little research and found a forbes.com article that dispels the notion (Online at tr.im/21days). But the article offers good advice about the three phases of habit formation, especially if you’re in the market for a resolution to start the new year.

What does my future hold? I’m not sure. I didn’t give up soda – I merely went without it for 30 days. I enjoyed a caffeine-free diet soda on Wednesday to mark my accomplishment, but I didn’t race out to the grocery store to buy a diet cola. Perhaps this 30-day experiment will accomplish what I didn’t think I could do three years ago. The jury is still out.

Regardless, I resolve to do nothing different on Jan. 1.