How to replace a bad habit with good one – How I stopped drinking Coke Zero

Shay Cohen
6 min readNov 4, 2018


I remember the day I found out about Coke Zero

It was back in 2006. We were visiting Sydney Australia hanging with our good friends when I went to buy Coke Diet and saw the new black bottle of the Coke Zero. It was a love from first sight. Since that moment and for the next 7 years I was drinking Zero several times a day. I even installed a fridge in my Land Rover so when we travel, I will still get my little piece of heaven.

In 2013 after I suffered from deadly pains for 24 hours, I was diagnosed with stones in my kidney and they had to be removed by a very unpleasant medical procedure …

When I got back from the hospital I reflected on my drinking habits and come to the conclusion that I only drunk Zero and Coffee, almost never water :(

As many of you know it is very difficult to stop drinking Coke and especially Coffee. I didn’t want to stop drinking them, but I had to make a major change in my drinking habits to avoid ending up with the same painful situation (not to mention the other issues with Coke and Coffee).

My solution was not to stop drinking Zero and Coke, but to apply a new rule in my life:

You can drink as much Zero and Coffee that you want, as long as you drink one glass of water before.”

Wanter and Coke

This arrangement worked perfectly!
After only 1 week I was cutting my quantities by half.
After 2 weeks we stopped buying Coke.
After 1 month I was only ordering Coke (with water) at restaurants.
After 3 months I stopped drinking Coke completely.

Today After 5 years I don’t drink any soft drinks and I have only 2–3 cup of coffee per day (with a glass of water) I know that I will never go back, the triggers of the Coke Zero, the rituals are gone.

I always knew that Coke is not healthy for me, but this was not enough to stop consuming it. I needed a bigger reason/event to shake me.
And at the end, a small habit of preceding a drink with a glass of water made the change.

To read more on how to start a new habit by anchoring them to existing rituals/triggers visit — Building habits, Teaching an old dog new tricks.

Breaking Bad Habits

Stopping bad habits with just willpower is very difficult and in many cases, we are getting the opposite effect — we are depleting our willpower and strengthening the trigger of the bad habit.

A more effective way is to replace the bad habit with a good one. For example:

On your mobile home screen — put only “good” applications, so when you unlock your phone, you will open your day with your diary app and not your Facebook / Email.

Leaving fruits on the kitchen table, so when you are looking for a snack, the first thing you will see is an apple (it is also good to put the problematic food far from your eye and reach)

Putting a bottle of water next to your working-station, so it will be the default option when you are thirsty (or at least you will not use thirsty as an excuse to get other drink)

A Formula for replacing a bad habit:

  1. Identify the trigger for the habit — a place, event, time, feeling, specific people.
  2. Reduce the trigger frequency — avoiding the trigger will eliminate the bad habit.
  3. Substitute the bad habit with a good alternative — What will you do instead. you have to plan for this in advance to make it happen.

Let’s review some more samples:

  • Let’s say we want to avoid staying up late:
    Identify: usually in the evening, I’m watching Netflix and/or browsing the web on my mobile/laptop.
    Avoid blue light (phone, computer) before bedtime which tricks our brain to believe it is still day. We need the darkness to full asleep. So no phone/laptop in the bedroom. Charge them in another room.
    Placing a book next to the bed. Meditate and or do Yoga as a ritual before bedtime.
  • If you want to reduce your Facebook time:
    Identify: I’m opening Facebook when I’m bored or when I’m getting notifications.
    Move (or even remove!) the Facebook app from the home screen to another page (preferred in a folder). Turn off the notifications.
    Subscribe to a mailing list of you proffered self-development or professional topic. make sure the app for this is in the home screen so you will see it every time you unlock your phone.
  • If you want to stop interrupting people mid-sentence:
    Identify: When I feel the urge to speak (not really answering) in a conversation.
    Try to really listen, and wait for 3 seconds before replying.
    Substitute: S
    tart every response with a summary of what was said: “So what I understand from you is that …
  • Stop reaching your phone first thing after waking up:
    Identify: I charge the phone next to my bed so I reach to it every time I see it.
    Don’t charge your phone in the bedroom.
    have a morning ritual — brush your teeth, meditate, bath, sit and plan your day, think and write of one thing you are grateful. Whatever you do make it a ritual. a ceremony.

Last but not least

In addition to replacing the bad habit with a good one, it will be helpful to:

  1. Hangout with people that behave like your goal. You are the “average of the five people you spend most of the time”. Don’t expect to reduce your alcohol consumption if you spend every evening in a pub with friends.
  2. Find a Partner. It is much fun and easier doing things together. Find a partner for the new behavior.
  3. Plan to fail. Everybody fails when adopting a new behavior. Don’t be hard with yourself. It’s part of the journey. Remember the big picture and that every step count.

What is your Coke Zero ?!

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Shay Cohen

Life Learner. Problem Solver. One Life Live It.