How To Kick A Bad Habit

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After our call to stop drinking bottled water, we asked for reader advice for how to kick a bad habit. You responded with with hard-earned wisdom and tips for how to cut back or cut out everything from sugar to smoking. Here’s how to break free.

From a professional:

BrianF wrote:

I am a Behavior Analyst and as such this topic comes up frequently. It is an issue of immediate, short term, low payoff reinforcement of smoking vs. more delayed, bigger pay off reinforcement....assuming you want to live a longer life.

Create contingencies/consequences and incentives for yourself based on successful abstaining from smoking. For instance, if you refrain from smoking for one day, treat yourself to something awesome.

If you do smoke, then you submit money to a cause that you are personally against. Otherwise, you could change environment to remove things/places that are “triggers” to smoke (begin small). Eliminate morning smoke with coffee, work breaks going up flights of stairs and not smoking. Find a healthy behavior to replace smoking like green tea.

Remember also that cravings are typically short in nature, so if you distract yourself or keep busy, you’ll find that cravings pass after a few minutes. This is where an incompatible behavior can help diminish cravings.


How to reduce your sugar consumption:

lightnquick wrote:

You don’t have to completely kick it. Just try to get in less (sodas, juices, bakery-stuff). Try something like trail-mix (the ‘pure’ form, just nuts, raisins etc., no M&Ms!!) - it is very satiating, takes care of the sweets-craving, AND is healthy.


NorthernRoamer wrote:

Use Stevia. It’s made from a plant in the tropics. People there have been using it as a sweetener for decades with no apparent ill effects. It doesn’t taste artificial, has almost no calories but it’s expensive. I cut the cost by using 1/2 sugar and 1/2 Stevia. A 50% decrease in your sugar consumption? That’s a good thing.


How to stop smoking, a vice too close to my heart:

frankenbike666 wrote:

I quit smoking 17 years ago by chewing nicotine gum.

One day, I’m going to break the nicotine gum chewing habit.

NorthernRoamer replied:

Unfortunately, chewing gum looks a little tacky. Maybe you don’t care about that but if you do, the nicotine lozenges work even better and nobody notices you using them.


Andrew Daisuke wrote:

Regarding smoking; for me, I stopped and really thought about what I was getting out of it, versus what it was getting out of me.

It sounds obvious, but it really makes no sense, and I was sick of it. So I tried the gum (didn’t like it) tried the patch, worked much better. Actively wanting to quit is the key though.


Icecold Davis:

I used an ecig to quit, one of my friends is a Nic gum addict. Once you really want to quit smoking it suddenly becomes doable.


gizmoFan wrote:

A question I always ask cigarette smokers, “Where do you find the time to smoke a pack of cigarettes?” Speaking for myself, the whole “ritual” of smoking took at least 2 hours.

1.Decide if I should smoke a cigarette (30-60 minutes)

2.Ponder if I should have a coffee (10-15 minutes) I would have a coffee 90% of the time.

3.Prepare coffee/drink (10-15 minutes)

4.Go outside and smoke the cigarette (5-10 minutes)

5.Clean up, & wash: cup, hands, rinse mouth, brush teeth (5-10 minutes)

Long ass process saved me from developing a habit, I guess. I was usually too busy to seriously consider smoking a cigarette on a daily basis.


ThaCarter wrote:

I am currently in the process of quitting smoking. Coming from somebody who used to smoke a pack a day to not having a single puff of a cigarette in a month tomorrow, I might have some tips for you. My first tip is throwing away that e-cigarette. The only thing an e-cigarette is going to do is keep you in the habit of putting something to your lips whether its a real cig or not and lets be honest who want to quit one bad habit for another. My second tip would be if you have a friend who also smokes quit together. When you eliminate the people around you smoking it will make it easier with less temptations.

Another tip that I learned through my many times of trying to quit smoking is to not tell everybody your quitting. When you tell everybody your going to quit people start to talk about it and the last thing I want on your second day without a cig is to start a conversation about smoking cigarettes. Another tip is to take the $8 ( in Iowa ) you spend on a pack every day or week (how ever often you buy them) and save it! Watching the money you have spent on cigarettes add up is kinda scary and will help motivate you to quit smoking. I’m sure I could keep writing for days but here are a few tips I can pass on that help me quit smoking.


RobDeLaSol wrote:

Smoking is not a bad habit. It is an addiction to nicotine. The only thing that ever worked for me (after smoking for 20+years) was reading the book, “The Easy Way To Quit Smoking.” Sounds really corny, but the book helps you to realize that you are addicted to a drug, and exposes the trap that you have fallen into. It also helps you find the way out that trap. I recommend it to anyone who is trying to quit. Of course no one has ever taken my advice but wth, right?


NorthernRoamer wrote:

I smoked for 56 years. I tried all the remedies for quitting and finally found Nicotine Lozenges. They were the only thing that worked; that is to say, they got me off the cigarettes. Now I take a 2mg lozenge 5 or 6 times a day. You just park it between your cheek and gum where it dissolves over a period of an hour or so. No tar, cyanide, or other harsh chemicals going into your lungs. I’ve had lung cancer twice since I quit smoking about 5 years ago. It’s nasty business, believe me. Don’t use inhalation as a nicotine delivery system.


Hxxrmonkey wrote:

You’ve got to break the routine. I quit smoking about 7 years ago, (but in the interest of full disclosure I was a really light smoker to begin with.) I avoided the routines, locations, triggers, essentially, that would make me want one. You have to reset your actions, not just your mindset. My husband was a far heavier smoker, he quit when his dad got lung cancer. He had to taper off instead of going cold turkey. He still wants one when he smells smoke, but the idea is the same: we changed up his routine, threw off his habitual behavior. It’s not a silver bullet, but it did help.


Cheve wrote:

Smoking, cold turkey. Had a habit of about a pack a day.

Also took a page off AA and did the one day at a time thing, trying to make it rational by saying: I’ve already not smoked for X time, going through this craving takes way less effort than I’ve already done. And so, over 5 years clean.


Geoffrey wrote:

To quit smoking there is an awesome mobile app : Kwit []

How not to have a Coke:

StegoToys wrote:

I kicked daily soda consumption! Funny enough, it was as easy as going to the UK on a week long trip in order to accomplish it. See, I used to consume a two liter of Diet Pepsi a day, not including refills at restaurants and the like. So of course this habit is incredibly unhealthy, and I end up going to the UK on my first international trip. Two big takeaways from it:

1) Clark’s Pies are DELICIOUS.

2) It’s super easy to kick a soda habit when you have to pay two quid per drink.

OrganizedChaos wrote:

I recently cut down my soda consumption. It’s been almost a month now...I’s all a blur. I would normally drink three a day, sometimes four now & again. Now I only drink one...two if I’m really craving. I’m a big Pepsi drinker, so as part of cutting back, I switched to the Pepsi made with real sugar for when I do drink one. I know it’s still a lot of sugar, but it’s better than HFCS. We do have a SodaStream, but haven’t bought a new CO2 canister for a while. Need to do that because if I am craving a soda, their syrups have a fraction of the sugar & caffeine (I don’t drink coffee).

I don’t care for water with my meals, so in place of the soda, I’ve been drinking sugar-free “kool-aid” (generic) in the single serve packets. We have lemonade, fruit punch, and kool-aid for the SodaStream too, so that’s another reason I need to get more CO2. I think the carbonation will help fight the craving for a soda.


lkraft97 wrote:

I’m trying to cut back on my snacking and sweets. I used to drink about 2-3 cans of mtn dew per day, about a 24 pack every two weeks. What I have done may seem unorthodox, but it has been working for me. I actually use vaping to satisfy my sweet tooth. I have never smoked before in my life, but a friend of mine vapes and never smoked before either, and suggested I try it. I vape pretty sweet juice with 0 nicotine. Vaping really is no worse than junk food, and it doesn’t have any calories or sugar. With vaping, I took me a month to finish a 24 pack of dew. Vaping not be cheaper, but it seems to be helping me.



RobRuns wrote:

I’m trying to give up my daily three cups of coffee habit. One thing that is helping me focus on kicking the habit is know that it’s not just the physical reaction to lack of caffeine, but a behavioral reaction and temptation. For the last several years, I’ve gotten off the train and gone into the Starbucks and paid with the app. It feels weird not to do that because that’s what I’ve always done. In the past I’ve focused just on the caffeine headache and not the behavioral cues.

This isn’t an all-out solution, but a small part to help focus mental energy to kick a habit.



Oppo! wrote:

I used to drink (not a ton, but 3-5 beers a day) to “bring me down” from a stressful day...which meant basically every day. Instead I started running to lower the stress. Do you have any idea how delicious ice cold beer is after a run!?


Norm wrote:

Former addict here. The only way I was able to stop what I was doing was by completely severing contact with anyone that used or anything that reminded me of it. Of course in some ways it’s a bit easier to do that for an illegal substance that’s hard to get in the best of circumstances.


Our favorite addiction

javictor wrote:

My bad habit is I post a comment and wait for the stars - I keep checking over and over to see if anyone has noticed my comment…


We don’t know how to help you with that one, but we can’t wait to try the advice and tactics doled out here. If you’ve tried some of the same strategies or have others that have worked for you, tell us about it in the comments.