When you stop smoking, you may have no idea what else to do during those moments you used to smoke. The things you come up with may not really 'do the trick' at first. Finding new emotional coping tools and behaviors can be challenging. The newly-quit often feel lost. Rest assured, most every smoker goes through this during their quit! Allow yourself a month or so to get to the 'feeling better' part. To help you navigate the beginning phase of your quit process, give these 3 tips a try:
1. Get To Know Yourself
What interests you? Motivates you? Inspires you? What do you find relaxing, rewarding or fun? Identify new meaningful activities, effective emotional coping tools and daily routines that really appeal to You. This is your quit, so get involved!
2. Plan For Success
Planning ahead for your personal triggers will ensure you make it to the other side successfully! Identify your top 2 smoking triggers, and that is where you'll want to put your time, energy and focus during the next month. Make a plan. What are some things you can do instead of smoke whenever you encounter a trigger? Could you take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, write in your journal, repeat a mantra or wash the car? What has worked for you before? What else can you try? Where will you go to enjoy yourself that is smoke free & supports your quit? How will you handle anger, stress or boredom? Know your triggers and have a clear plan of action for each and every one of them.
3. Smoking Is Not An Option
If you do not smoke today, you will never smoke again! The new you does not reach for a cigarette, no matter what happens, no matter how you feel. Smoking is not an option, so always ask yourself, "What is an option?" "What can I do?". It is in that moment of choosing something else that you will find the very answers that work perfectly for you. You will also reinforce your identity as a nonsmoker, increase your self confidence and strengthen your quit resolve. N.O.P.E. - Not One Puff Ever!
It takes more than just not smoking to become a nonsmoker! It takes ongoing, daily effort and practice. Try these 3 tips so you can work your quit effectively, make healthy lifestyle changes and gain long term quit success!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki C. CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Remember; you can quit smoking for good, and QuitNet is here to help:
Last week we talked about the many benefits of drinking water. This week, we will look at how certain food choices may help you KTQ by reducing cravings.
Smokers usually smoke the minute they feel anything. That can make it difficult for the newly quit to even know what they are craving! It takes practice to identify thirst, hunger, fatigue or boredom. Chances are a tall, cool glass of water and the right snack can have a quitter feeling back on track in no time. Selecting foods that may help kill craves can also help prevent overeating and weight gain. Eating small amounts throughout the day can manage blood sugar levels, reduce cravings, increase energy, kick up metabolic rate and stabilize moods. Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it? Here are some great food choices:
• Fruit For sugar cravings, reach for fresh fruit. Eating fresh fruit is a good way to increase your fiber and water intake, and to fill up without filling out. Most fruits are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Blueberries, apples, cherries, watermelon, grapes, plums, and oranges are a few of the many fresh fruit options.
• Vegetables For hand-to-mouth snacking options, try fresh, sliced vegetables. Vegetables are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories. You can eat enough to get full without affecting your waistline. Most vegetables are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Try sliced bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber, celery and carrots. Or, mix up a salad with lettuce or spinach greens.
• Mint To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, try strong mint flavors. Peppermint, spearmint, and menthol-flavored cough drops, gum, sugar free hard candies and breath mints may help kill a crave.
• Sour/Tart To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, you can also try sour or tart flavors such as lemon, lime, lemon drops, dill pickles or stuffed olives.
• Spicy Try spicy foods like hot salsa, Tabasco sauce, red or green chilies, and jalapenos to kill cravings. A generous sprinkling of black pepper may help take the edge off of cravings, as well.
• Warm Eating a warm meal is often more filling than a cold one. Oatmeal is a good choice. Add some cinnamon, applesauce or raisins to increase fiber and crave fighting properties.
• Hot Sipping hot tea is time consuming, and hot liquid may help satisfy cravings. Choose licorice, peppermint, lemon, cinnamon or other such flavored teas to help kill the crave. Green tea is high in antioxidants, and detox teas may offer added support for the newly quit.
• Crunchy The hand to mouth habit associated with smoking is hard to break. Eating crunchy foods like apples, almonds, seeds and raw vegetables can help to satisfy this trigger.
• Fat Foods that are high in healthy fats help you feel full longer and experience cravings less. Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocados are some examples of healthy fats.
• Fiber Healthy foods that are high in fiber help you feel full longer and can counteract some of the constipation associated with quitting. Oatmeal, raisins, vegetables and legumes are some examples of high fiber foods.
To help yourself make good food choices, stock up ahead of time. Arrange your cabinets so the best food choices are front and center. Better yet, make a 'Quit Shelf' with all your go-to crave-killing foods and tape up a few motivational cards with images, mantras, or inspiring statements on them. You can even add your quit stats to your cards weekly. :) With preparation and commitment, you can make this quit your healthiest quit, your best quit - and your last quit!
Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Quit with us!
People who have smoked for most of their lives may not recall what life was like before smoking. For years, smoking was a reward, a past time, a coping tool for stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, sadness, frustration and every other emotion or challenge that came along.
As a result, longtime smokers may not have developed emotional coping tools or practiced letting go or learned to sit with their feelings. This can leave the newly quit in double trouble! At the same time withdrawals, anxiety and stress step in, the quitter's only known coping tool (smoking) steps out. When you stop smoking, you stopped doing something you were used to doing every day for many years. It is no wonder why your emotions go through a challenging time!
It is normal to feel nervous, restless and even sad when you quit smoking. You miss your daily ritual; even more so if there are no new behaviors in place for each of the moments throughout the day that you used to smoke.
Quitting is a process. It takes time. It does not feel comfortable at first and that is OK! When you stop smoking, you can no longer do what you used to do in the same way you used to do it. Temporary mood swings can result from quit related hormone fluctuations and quit related withdrawals. It will get better, so keep going!
Know that every smoker goes through similar challenges. As you work your way through your quit, you are actually 'becoming a nonsmoker', not just 'not smoking'. Make a commitment to find new emotional coping tools so you can move forward happily and successfully as a nonsmoker. Plan ahead how you will meet your emotional needs as a nonsmoker. Your answers to the following questions will help provide you with a personal road map to success:
- How will you relax?
- How will you reward and celebrate?
- How will you process feelings of anger?
- How will you deal with anxiety?
- How will you cope with stress?
- How will you overcome sadness, depression?
- What will comfort you and get you through a bad day?
Chances are, you have no idea how to answer these questions because you have never had to! This is a normal experience, and rest assured you can find things that interest you, inspire you, calm, comfort, entertain and support you as a nonsmoker.
Think of things that have helped you get through strong trigger moments in the past. Think of things that make you laugh or recall fondly. Really work your quit process; brainstorm and come up with new emotional coping tools that can address your individual needs effectively. Next week, we will take these new coping tools you've identified and discuss how to move forward successfully as a nonsmoker!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki CTTS-M Celebrate your quit with other quitters:
A healthy diet can be an effective quit tool to help reduce cravings, mood swings, withdrawal symptoms and weight gain. Fear of weight gain is a common barrier to quitting smoking, as well as a primary relapse trigger. Following a healthy diet can put you in charge of your weight and wellbeing. Myths surrounding diet and exercise create justifications for weight gain, continued smoking, and relapse. Many people assume the following:
- If I keep smoking, I won’t gain weight. Did you know many quitters are over their ideal weight, so smoking hasn't helped prevent weight gain?
- If I relapse, I will lose the weight I gained during this quit. Did you know most people do not lose weight when they go back to smoking, and that quitting is not usually the cause of weight gain?
- I can’t afford to gain any more weight; it is bad for my health. Did you know that the stress on your heart from a pack a day habit is equal to an extra 90lbs of body weight?
The Awesome Truth About Weight Gain
Weight gain does not happen overnight. To gain 5lbs of actual body fat, you'd need to consume 17,500 calories more than what is required to maintain your current weight! This means you are in control of weight gain - it does not attack you against your willl.
Weight gain is almost always a result of overeating. many people eat too much or eat foods high in sugar and fat. When this is done consistently without exercising, you take in more than you can burn off -- and you gain weight. Eating within individual caloric requirements prevents weight gain.
And, that weight gain alters your muscle to body fat ratio, further slowing your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabiloc rate. The more fat you have, the slower your metabolic rate. Men generally lose weight faster than women, as they tend to have more muscle. People who are overweight tend to store more fat from the calories they eat than those who are slender. This is why losing weight is harder each time you give it a try. Overweight smokers may already have a reduced metabolic rate as a result of current eating habits, lack of exercise and weight gain. The key to managing weight successfully lies in making different food choices than those that led to weight gain. Adding exercise is a great way to help get a sluggish metabolism going again.
Nicotine is a stimulant, so stopping smoking can potentially affect metabolic rate to a small degree. Reducing calories by just 200 per day can offset any changes in metabolism after quitting. This is the equivalent of bypassing one tall mocha from Starbucks (no whipped cream) or half a ham & cheese sandwich per day. Preventing weight gain realted to quitting smoking requires minimal changes to current lifestyle.
‘Scale Weight’ fluctuates from day to day based on multiple factors, including food consumption, sodium intake, water retention, hormones, medications, amount of sleep and stress levels. Weighing daily is not advised for this reason, as it can needlessly discourage the quitter. Most quitters gain less than 10lbs, which can be managed by making reasonable daily diet choices.
Hormones and Weight Gain
Women who quit may experience symptoms from hormone fluctuations similar to PMS. These symptoms may include increased appetite, bloating, cravings and water retention independent of dietary intake. Women quitting during or after menopause may experience increased fat storage (usually in waist/abdomen area) and reduced metabolism independent of quitting smoking. Hormone levels usually balance out within several months of remaining smoke free.
Some studies show quitters who use nicotine gum, lozenge or bupropion to support their quit may be less likely to gain weight during their quit. However, this effect only lasts while on the meds.
The Best Kept Secret: Fruits and Vegetables!
Research shows that among current smokers, those who ate the most fruit and/or vegetables were more likely to smoke less than a pack a day and wait at least 30 minutes before smoking their first cigarette of the day. This reduced dependence on smoking is huge, and a testament to the importance of dietary choices during your quit. Research shows abstinence rates were higher for quitters that consumed the highest amount of fruits or vegetables, and 3 times higher for those who ate both. (1)
Fruit and vegetable consumption, non-caffeinated beverages and dairy products worsen the perceived taste of cigarettes. On the other hand, meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol were perceived as enhancing the taste of cigarettes. Drinking coffee or a cold beer may increase your cravings, so choose wisely for success.
Fruit comes to the rescue! The sugars in fruit also increase dopamine levels and thus reduce the craving for a cigarette, resulting in fewer cigarettes smoked each day and less nicotine dependence. Fruit contains fiber and many other beneficial nutrients (such as vitamin C) which also interact with the dopamine system. By getting your sugar crave fed with fruit, the newly quit can avoid candy and other junk foods that lead to binging and weight gain.
Daily Diet Tips for Success
Eat small, healthy, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels steady. This will reduce cravings, fatigue and mood swings while revving up the metabolic rate. This one tip alone may counteract potential metabolic changes from stopping smoking.
1. Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables! Half of your plate should be filled with F&V.
2. Eat nonfat dairy products, lean protein and whole grains.
3. Drink plenty of water, for both fullness and cleansing.
4. Avoid soda, junk food and excess sugar,fat and sodium.
Pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat and how often while consuming as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. These steps will ensure you keep both your quit and your waist line. The quit process brings opportunity to reach your weight management goals, as well. Another key component to success is exercise, which will be my next blog topic!
Keep going and KTQ,
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
You don't have to quit alone:
(1) Reference: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Cigarette Smoking Jeffrey P. Haibach, M.P.H., Gregory G. Homish, Ph.D., & Gary A. Giovino, Ph.D., M.S., Nicotine Tob Res (2012) doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts130
The most commonly asked question in tobacco treatment is, "What's the best way to quit smoking?" The best answer is: "That's not the right question." What most of us really want to know is, "How can I quit for good this time?"
The evidence tells us that Quitting is a Process, Not an Event. Very few of us quit by simply putting down the death sticks and then willing ourselves to not pick them up again -- though most of us try that approach at least once. Multiple quit attempts using various methods are the norm, not the exception. Why?
The US Public Health Service reviewed 8,700 quit-smoking studies, and declared that smokers enjoyed the best chances of quitting for good when they not only took advantage of quit-medications, but peer and/or professional support as well.1 Why the dual approach? Because tobacco addiction isn't only physical. It's mental and behavioral as well, and interacting with professionals and/or other ex-smokers is the most effective way of getting at the psychological reinforcers of our addiction. When we try to quit by dealing with the physical aspect alone, we're usually tripped up by long-held thoughts and attitudes associated with smoking (which can 'trigger' urges to smoke even years after quitting).
Make Quitting Your Idea
So how can we put together a quit plan that addresses the mental component up front? One good way is to develop our own reasons for quitting. Most of us first consider quitting smoking because of external motivations--the pleas of spouses or loved ones, health scares, smoke-free workplaces, or increases in cigarette or insurance costs. For us to be best-motivated, it helps to mentally position our quit as our idea.
A simple Pros & Cons list is one way to do this. Ask yourself: What do I like about smoking? Is it a welcome break from work, a reward, or time spent with friends? And what don't I like about it-- the smell, coughing, the expense, the hassle of smoking publicly? List these things so you can compare and contrast. Do your reasons for quitting outweigh reasons to keep smoking? Let your brain play with this list for a few hours/days/weeks; you'll notice your mental picture of smoking changing over time.
Another way of changing how you think about quitting is to imagine a smoke-free life, full of all the possible advantages of quitting. A dramatic improvement in health is one possibility, as is a longer life. But there are other benefits, as well. You could look younger, with fewer wrinkles, softer skin, and shinier hair. You might save a lot of money that would have gone up in smoke, or been spent on treating tobacco-related illness. You could have more stamina and endurance; sleep better; enjoy more tastes and smells; have whiter teeth; increase your self respect; be a better role-model for your children and grandchildren; save your loved ones from second or thirdhand smoke--the list of great reasons to quit smoking is potentially endless. Try listing as many of these benefits as you can think of, and then ask yourself: What are my 3 BEST reasons for quitting? Write these down, too, and return your thinking to this list whenever you find yourself obsessing about cigarettes in your mind.
Reframe Your Quit History
Though some of us quit smoking on the first try, most of us have made more than one attempt. We tend to think of such attempts as failures, so it will be helpful for us to reframe our perceptions of previous efforts. Actually, each quit-attempt teaches us something valuable, something we need to know to stay quit for good. This means that the more times we've 'failed' at quitting, the better our odds of succeeding this time!
Your quit-history is your greatest asset, so reflect on these questions, and change how you think about quitting: How did I quit before? What worked, and what didn't? Did I use the chosen quit method as recommended, for as long as recommended? How did I start smoking again? Are there other tools I could have employed that I could use this time? Has anything changed in my life that might make this quit easier or harder?
Do Quit-Medications Help the Mind?
Most of us can't put our lives on hold just because we're quitting smoking. Quit-meds help us deal with the physical aspects of withdrawal, but they also help us to stay mentally on track, and to be less affected by post-quit smoking obsessions, concentration or memory problems, or the irritation and mental restlessness that accompany tobacco detoxification.
Control Your Self-talk (Or It Will Control You)
Finally, consider taking charge of your thought processes altogether by controlling your self-talk. Self-talk is that conversation you're having with yourself right now, as you read this: I agree with this, I disagree with that, what am I having for lunch, etc. We tend to think of our thoughts as driven by our environment, our emotions, etc, but that scenario has cause and effect reversed. Our thoughts right now become our attitudes tomorrow, which determine our actions the day after, and mold our future next week.
Your tobacco-dependent mind will attempt to self-talk you into abandoning your quit before you start, or to slip/relapse afterward. It'll whisper things like, I don't want to do this now/anymore, or, This is too hard! or, I can have just one. Remember, the addicted brain doesn't have your best interests at heart; it only wants you smoking again, and it's going to lie to you in your own voice.
Pay attention to what you're saying to yourself. Whenever you catch yourself self-talking the idea of smoking again, or of throwing away your quit, you can literally interrupt that thought. Command yourself to , "Stop the presses!" as you visualize your mental machinery grinding to a halt. Then turn your thinking back to positive things. Remind yourself of the reasons you're quitting; grab that list you made earlier and read it. Affirm positive concepts like:
- I don't smoke, no matter what; no matter what, I don't smoke
- No power on earth can make me smoke
- If I do give in, how will I feel afterward?
- I love being a non-smoker!
- I have all the support I need to stay quit!
- I quit and can stay quit, regardless of anyone or anything!
- I am proud to be a non-smoker
- This, too, shall pass
The more you exercise control of your own thinking, especially regarding smoking and quitting, the less power tobacco will have over your thoughts. Eventually, your mind will stop trying to trick you this way altogether.
Good luck, and KTQ,
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
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1. Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008. Clinical Practice Guidelines.