Quitting smoking is difficult, especially in the first few days. Physical and psychological withdrawals hit hard at this time and cravings and urges to smoke are strong. When a craving to smoke occurs, action needs to be taken. The choices are endless, but here are three of the best tried and true crave busters.
Drinking water is a great crave buster. Hand-to-mouth is a habit that's hard to break and water is a good choice for an oral substitute. Not only does water give you something to do with your hands, it’s also filling, reduces your appetite and has zero calories. Water is not a beverage that is usually associated with smoking, so it will unlikely trigger the same response as a cup of coffee or a beer. Staying well-hydrated is important in keeping your body healthy. Water removes the toxins from your body and helps with the healing process after quitting smoking. Reaching for that glass of water to quell a craving will help prevent constipation, which at times accompanies quitting smoking. If you don’t like the taste of water, try jazzing it up with a slice of lemon, lime, fresh fruit. When a craving to smoke hits, drink up and enjoy the benefits water offers.
Cravings to smoke often pop up when feeling stressed. Life stressors run the gamut, from issues with family, finance and health to the daily annoyances of traffic jams and waiting in grocery store lines. In the past, smoking may have been how you handled the stress in your life. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to manage cravings to smoke and stress. Now you can take a deep breath without inhaling the poisons in cigarette smoke. As you deep breathe, visualize yourself in a peaceful, soothing place where you can totally relax, escaping for a few moments. Repeating a personal slogan to yourself ‘Smoking is not an option’ while taking the deep breaths will reaffirm your decision to quit.
Take some time to practice deep breathing exercises. Begin deep breathing from the diaphragm, rather than the chest, by getting comfortable lying on the bed, floor or reclining in a chair. Begin by placing a hand on your stomach and breathing in slowly, through the nose while mentally counting to five. When you are inhaling picture the air going down into your stomach until it’s totally inhaled (you should feel your stomach rise up where your hand is placed). Now slowly exhale through your mouth for the count of five and picture the air emptying out of your stomach until it’s totally expelled (you should feel your hand on your stomach go down). Repeat this ten times during practice and you should feel stress and anxiety symptoms decrease. Taking a deep breath to get you through a craving will get you to the other side more relaxed.
Getting physical and moving helps distract from the cravings to smoke and reduces the intensity of the cravings. Quick and easy exercises that you can do in spurts when a craving appears work well. Knee bends, lunges, going up and down the stairs, or sitting in a chair alternately relaxing and tensing your muscles are exercise that can be done at home or work when time and space is limited. Even just getting up and walking around for a few minutes will help. Choose an activity you will enjoy, whether it be yoga, dancing, biking or swimming -- any activity that has you moving will do. Both high and low impact exercises increase your endorphin levels, which makes you feel good, more alert and energized. Physical activity helps reduce stress and tension. Not only does exercise help you deal with the physical and psychological cravings of nicotine addiction, but it’s also a major player in managing the weight gain associated with quitting smoking. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have a sedentary lifestyle or any medical problems. Daily exercise will improve your mood, lung function and stamina. Using exercise to handle your cravings to smoke will keep you fit and healthy.
Keep Going and KTQ!
Quit with us!
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
Expectations. Crowds. Obligations. Family Issues. Loneliness. Money. That wonderful holiday season is here again. Will yours be filled with joy, good company, relaxation and time off work? Or, will it be filled with stress, too little time, over spending, over eating and wishing it were all over with? Holidays can be a big relapse trigger, so today is a great day to set yourself up to succeed. How? Just say No!
Just say No to parties you have no interest in going to, that gathering that ends up in a fight every year, gift exchanges you can't afford and any other obligation you feel pressured in to. For some people, being alone is depressing. For some people, depressing is attending a dinner gathering of married couples when solo. Couples may prefer holiday alone time to enjoy each other's company minus the crowd. Feel free to stay home or go where you feel happiest. That may be a crowded theater, your favorite restaurant or some precious at home time off work with zero 'to do' items. You really don't have to be, go or do anything you don't want to. This year, commit to saying No to everything you don't have a heartfelt interest in doing. The secret to having a fun, relaxing, wonderful holiday is giving yourself permission to do Only Things That Are Fun, Relaxing And Wonderful to You!
Relax. You may have time off work, or time off family as they are out shopping and visiting and so forth. Take some well deserved time for You, whatever you want to do with it! Reach out. Call people you care about and want to spend time with. Meet for coffee, wrap presents together, catch a movie, go for a walk, have a nice holiday breakfast. A long holiday weekend means you can connect with friends your work schedules may not usually allow for. Married, single or somewhere in between, there are always ways to share the spirit of the season in a manner that is meaningful to You. You may want to just hang out in your house alone for once and relax - it is up to you!
Plan ahead. Think about about how you want to spend your time and your money, how you really feel about crowded malls, stressful obligations and so forth:
- The most relaxing enjoyable things I could do this year are:
- One thing I will say No to this year:
- One thing I will be sure to do for Me this year:
- To reduce stress I will:
- To enjoy my time off I will:
- One person I will be sure to reach out to:
- One thing I am not getting pressured into this year:
- I give myself permission to:
- I commit to keeping my quit my first priority. If I feel tempted, I will:
- As far as dieting or not dieting, I am going to:
Enjoy. By actively choosing to have a wonderful holiday, you can reduce stress and relapse triggers. By learning to say No to things that you feel pressured or obligated to do, you will be saying Yes to an enjoyable and rewarding holiday season. This year, give yourself a gift ~ the gift of Happiness:)
Happy Holidays, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Have a Smoke-Free Holiday at the Q:
Smoking triggers can increase stress and weaken resolve. Triggers haunt the newly quit and sneak up on long time nonsmokers. You can prevent triggers from leading to relapse by being prepared. When a trigger strikes, repeating a personal quit mantra can help you feel focused and strenghten your commitment to keep your quit.
Smoking thoughts and negative self talk also sabotage your quit. Repeating your mantra can change those addictive thought patterns from "I can't" to "I was born to do this!"
So what is a mantra? It is a positive phrase, motivating statement or empowering affirmation that inspires you. It could be spiritual or religious in nature, a favorite quote, an acronym or a statement you create yourself. Mantras make effective quit tools when repeated during times of stress, triggers and junky thinking ("Just one won't hurt").
Mantras can fire you up or calm you down. Some people respond better to "Nothing defeats me" while another would be inspired by "My health is a blessing I treasure." The most effective mantras focus on what you do want ("I love being a nonsmoker") rather than what you don't want ("I hate smoking.") Mantras should be in present tense, reinforcing success is here and now. Start with a short statement that is easy to recall and repeat. Make it personal! You should feel a sense of calm, inspiration or energy when you repeat your personal statement. It should really resonate with you. Here are a few examples:
- Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw
- The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph! ~ Marvin Phillips
- I'm a successful nonsmoker.
- I've got this!
- My best is always good enough.
- Breathe, Let Go, Enjoy
- Just Do It
- My Life Matters
- It's not easy, but it's worth it.
- N.O.P.E. (Not One Puff Ever)
- KTQ (Keep The Quit)
- Look at me, finally free!
- Cravings last 5 minutes, my health is forever!
Get in the Zone! Elite athletes use mantra's in their mental 'training zone' to attain peak performance. You can, too. To create your own zone, think of your favorite place, song, person or personal memory. Visualize it. Is it by the ocean, a reunion with a loved one, a childs birth? Where are you? How does it feel; is there a breeze, the sound of laughter, smell of rain? Breathe deeply. Next, repeat your mantra several times as temptation and stress fade away. This process will help you stay grounded whenever you feel your resolve slipping. Use your mantra to help you quit smoking, and any time you need to take a minute for yourself.
Please feel free to share your favorite mantra in the Comments section below, and KTQ!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't Quit Alone
Times change and life moves forward. Few things are the same for us as they were back in the day. Many smokers grew up smoking. At a young age, we were drawn to a glamourized perception of smoking. Maybe we thought it looked masculine, sexy or rebellious. Maybe we wanted to be cool or important, or part of the 'in crowd'. Perhaps it made us feel exotic, independent, edgy or grown up. With cigarette in hand, we were no longer shy or boring, uncomfortable or lonely - we were smokers!
When we needed a break, we smoked. Angry, sad, mad, tired, in trouble, needed a friend – we smoked! There were always smokers hanging around to listen, feel our pain and keep us company. Smokers understood us, were there for us and supported us. Relationships were forged over the common bond of smoking.
Years and years of smoking followed; through marriages, jobs, kids, joy, change, disappointment and day to day life – all experienced via the porch, kitchen table, favorite chair or parking lot with a cigarette.
Fast forward to today... smoking is not considered rebellious or cool anymore. In fact, it is frowned upon by many and illegal in most places! Everyone knows Cigarettes Kill. They kill you, your children, your pets, your friends, your family and future. They kill opportunity. You may not get that apartment, job, insurance policy or date if you are smoker. Of course, you know things have changed since your youthful choice to start smoking, and you really do want to stop.
But you are a smoker! How do you let go of who you are? What about your special lighter, that crystal ashtray your mom gave you, your favorite brand that has been in your pocket or purse for the last 20 years – how do you just stop being you? And what about your smoking friends? Will you lose them? What will they think of you? Will you even be you anymore?
Truthfully, smoking was never ‘who you were’, but rather 'something you did'. You have done lots of things differently since then, and stopped doing many things from your youth. (Hopefully the mullet, snakeskin boots or shoulder pads are long gone?) And yet, here you are and you are still you! You will do lots of new things as your life moves forward. You are not only still you, but reveal the Real You when you courageously let go of the old habits and patterns that no longer serve you. Smoking no longer serves you! Only by letting go and embracing the gift of change can you move forward to your best possible future.
Celebrate your quit. Let go of the past and make room for some new things to come to you that really are cool – like feeling great or having more energy, time and money to enjoy, living longer and breathing deeply as you move about the day. That is all about you, and you deserve it!
Every long term smoker goes through the ‘Letting go of the old me’ process during their quit. As you go through this process, you are actually 'becoming a nonsmoker' and as a result, will find your quit gets easier and easier as time goes by. You will come to think about things differently. Instead of thinking "I am stressed, I need a smoke" you will think "I am stressed, I’d like to go for a walk/call a friend/make tea." You will learn new ways of coping with old habits and triggers that are healthier than smoking. You will gain confidence and have a sense of pride and accomplishment.
As you let go of your old attachment to being a smoker, you will welcome in a new indentity that is healthier, happier and cooler than ever before :)
Keep going and KTQ!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
When you quit smoking, the first thing you may notice is a craving. Your immediate thought will be “I need a cigarette!” because that is what you have always thought whenever you get ‘that feeling’. As a matter of fact, longtime smokers transfer just about ANY feeling or sensation to “I need a cigarette!” Doing so probably leads to more relapses and failed quit attempts than just about any other factors combined. So what is really going on here?
In the very beginning, cravings are a valid physical response brought on by quit related withdrawal symptoms. Remember, it is not just nicotine but 4000+ chemicals, smoke, tar and gasses leaving your system – a system used to inhaling all of the above every hour on the hour for years on end! Stress, irritability, craving, agitation and anxiety are weapons used by the addictive brain to convince you to re-dose via another cigarette. Physically, your body really does think it ‘needs’ a cigarette! Nicotine clears your system in just 72 hours. That is why your physical cravings are often stronger on days 4, 5 and 6 of your quit than they were at the beginning. It is the absence of nicotine & other smoking related chemicals in your system that signal withdrawal. Your system is not used to this sensation at all. Let these cravings pass by you, as they are temporary!
Once your body adapts, the withdrawal related aspect of cravings is no longer a factor. So why is that craving, ‘that feeling’ still there? Why do you still think to “I need a cigarette!” when you know your body does NOT need a cigarette anymore? Because this is the craving that does not pass; it is a void that must be filled.
Your mind still tells you that you ‘need a cigarette’ because it has become your lifelong habit to smoke in response to every emotion or sensation! You could be stressed. You could miss the ritual of lighting up and smoking. You could really need comfort, something to look forward to, something to occupy your time or some social interaction. The secret is to find the real want/need behind each sensation or emotion and ‘feed the crave’ with what you really need in that moment. That is how you fill the void, and that is how you become a nonsmoker vs ‘not smoking’. Your body let go of smoking, now it is time for YOU to let go of smoking! You’ve ignored what you really feel/need for so long, ‘the sensation behind the crave may be hard to identify at first. That’s ok – it’s perfectly normal! The next time you have a craving, stop and ask yourself “What am I feeling? What do I need to feel better? Would a long walk, new hobby, hot bath or good book help right now? How about talking to a friend or your kids or spouse?
Work hard to meet your needs successfully as a nonsmoker. Once your emotional needs are met, those old thoughts of 'I need a cigarette' will fade away. You will not feel stressed, crave, or seek a quick fix. You'll be happier, healthier and able to keep your wonderful quit going strong. That is how cravings pass and being a nonsmoker becomes a comfortable, permanent lifestyle change!
Vikki Chavez CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
*~*~* You don't have to Quit Alone *~*~*
Debates between ex-smokers about the meanings of 'slip' and 'relapse' are often contentious. Such discussions generally reflect fears that a break in tobacco abstinence makes full relapse inevitable, or that anything short of NOPE (Not One Puff Ever) implies permission to light up at will. Many insist that quit-dates should measure absolute abstinence from tobacco, and that loose quit-smoking definitions threaten quit-smoking peers. Dually-addicted ex-smokers often object that if alcoholics or junkies ingested even a tiny amount of alcohol or heroin, they'd have to start over and change their sobriety date. The common consensus of these debates is that there should be no distinction made between slips and relapses.
So Is There a Difference Between Slips and Relapses?
In the quit-smoking world, a slip is defined as a simple break in abstinence, while a relapse is considered a return to previous smoking levels and behaviors. Both terms refer to smoking episodes, with the primary difference being the degree, duration or severity of smoking. Seems pretty cut and dry, but the issue gets more complicated when we consider a common psychological phenomenon called the Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE). If you've ever broken a New Year's Resolution or gone off a diet, you've probably experienced the AVE yourself; it's that little voice that told you, "You messed up, so you might as well give up." Among smokers, the AVE usually manifests as, "Well, you already had a puff and blew your quit, so just go ahead and buy a pack (or a carton)."
Post-slip inventories often uncover thought and behavior patterns that led to the abstinence break, but slips typically appear to be spontaneous, coming 'out of the blue' in moments of anxiety, boredom, or lowered inhibition. The power of the AVE requires an urgent response. Research consistently indicates that if promptly addressed, most slips can be stopped in their tracks before the AVE sets in. Treating a slip as just a temporary bump in the road can more effectively prevent a full relapse than heated arguments about definitions, resetting quit-dates or quit-stats, etc.
[Note: What distinguishes smoking slips from those of other addictions is environment: ex-smokers are more likely to have been breathing the secondhand smoke of others prior to their slip, meaning they were already ingesting their drug of choice before they made a choice to use it. In alcoholic terms, this would be analogous to a sober person drinking a diet Coke into which his peers were methodically dropping small amounts of booze.]
In our opinion, the question isn't really about slips vs relapses, it's about what the ex-smoker's attitude ought to be during the quit, and what their response should be if a slip occurs. The default position during quitting must be N.O.P.E. at all times. Not One Puff Ever. No level of smoking is safe, and any deviation from that position threatens the health of everyone connected to the smoker. But since nicotine is one of the most powerful addictive substances known to humans, and use of it can transcend normal willpower, we must be prepared for a slip and ready to prevent its escalation into full relapse. All other questions about quit-dates, accumulated time, and quit-statistics should be dealt with later on, once the quit is again secure. First Things First.
So What Does All This Mean to Ex-Smokers, and Those Who Support Them?
To the 'slipper': Avoid bad environments whenever possible, until you're strong enough to handle them. Pay more attention to your triggers. Connect with your support network often (and immediately, if you slip), by phone, text, internet, or personal visit, and next time reach out before you take that puff. Examine the thought patterns that seduced you into the lie about 'just one'. Be grateful you dodged the bullet this time; next time you may not be so lucky.
To those who care about the 'slipper': Try to be supportive, and be upset at the addiction, not the addict. Use tough love if you feel the need, but remember that slips and relapses are often part of the process, and can convince apathetic ex-smokers to be more committed to their quits. A good rule of thumb? "Say what you mean, but don't say it mean." Don't pressure the slipper to define quitting your way, or you may make it easier for them to conclude they can't succeed. And remember that tobacco is the toughest addiction of all to beat; if you've been smoke-free yourself since day one, you are blessed -- but not invulnerable.
KTQ, and visit QuitNet if you think you might slip,
Alan P, MTTS