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!
Many people find once they quit smoking, they are inspired to make other healthy lifestyle changes. Almost everyone would like to either lose weight or be in better physical condition, but have no idea how to get started. Read on for some basic suggestions to help you get headed in the right direction!
~*~ Start From Where You Are ~*~
Everyone can lose weight, gain muscle tone, increase lung capacity and feel better. It is normal to want to see results right away. They will come, but only if you take the time to set yourself up to succeed from the beginning. So, make sure your first week is all about Starting From Where You Are.
Why does that matter? If you go on ‘the diet’ and suddenly cut your calories in half, or go from doing nothing to a 5 times per week workout (or even double your current workout while dieting too hard) then your system will shut down. Any perceived overexertion with diminished fuel is like a car running out of gas - you end up going nowhere. Just like that car, your body needs fuel to run and better fuel brings better performance.
Despite common diet myths, you simply can't go from 3,500 calories a day to 1,200 and get good long term results. Your metabolism will slow down at the beginning, leaving you nowhere to go from there. The same goes for starting at zero activity then working out like a contender. You will feel tired, sore, weak, hungry and demotivated. As a result, it is unlikely you will follow through long enough to kick up your metabolic rate and reach your goals.
There is no safe, fast way to lose what has taken many years to find! It takes time. Time to shift your body from fat storage mode to fat burning mode. Time to get your muscles back in shape and your endurance levels up. Time to learn to new eating habits.
Healthy eating is the best way to lose weight and support your exercise efforts. No magic pills or secret methods or food combinations will make it happen any faster. To get started, just clean up your current eating habits by making healthier choices. Drink more water, eat less sugar and limit portion size. Every week, add a new goal to the previous week, such as eating fresh vegetables 2 times day, or reducing soda to 1 times per day, or replacing a serving of red meat with a serving of chicken or fish instead. Be specific! That way, every week you will continue to add new habits while reinforcing the ones from the week before. As time goes by, you will be eating healthier and healthier while losing weight and making permanent lifestyles changes.
These changes will ensure your weight loss is maintained, as this is your new personal best lifestyle and you are no longer in ON the diet/ Off the diet mode. Sound boring? It is Not! You can allow yourself those times when something is splurge worthy. Think of it like a savings account. You save up every day by eating healthy. When something super special comes along, you dip into your savings for it. You only have so much in the bank, so spend it wisely if you want to reach/maintain your goals! For example, you can eat cake anytime you want so just because someone brought it to work does not mean you 'have to have it.' The vending machine will always be there. A bag of chips will always be there. Dessert will always be there. And such things usually make you feel worse for having eaten them anyway. On the other hand, if your favorite food in the world is pizza and a friend is standing at your door holding a steaming hot one with a stack of new release movie rentals, of course you’ll go for it and Enjoy!. Or, if someone takes you out to your favorite steak restaurant ~ Enjoy! Saving ‘treat’ foods for special moments and eating healthy and low calorie the rest of the time is how thin people stay that way. And, that is how you can reach your weight loss goals! Just be sure to get immediately back on track with the healthy lifestyle diet habits you’ve acquired. In other words, 'special meal' does not mean special week!
As far as exercise goes, adding it to your routine can double your weight loss efforts when combined with proper diet. The best tips I can give you for exercise are:
1) Be Consistent
Think Move. Walk faster, take the stairs, park further away – take every opportunity to move more than you do now. Exercise 3 times every week. Week by week, it adds up and it becomes a habit. Choose something you Like To Do. Bike, walk the dog, meet a friend for a walk at the park or get a group together on your lunch hour at work.
2) Be There
Intermittent napping on the recumbent bike is Not exercising. Your body may be semi present but the mind is gone! Take the time to really Focus on your exercise, not just complete movements on autopilot. Weight lifters and athletes call it being in the Zone. It is like meditation to some, an adrenaline surge to others. No matter what you call it, when you really focus on your muscles, your breathing, your tempo, each contraction or stretch or stride or sensation you experience as you move, you will get a lot more out of your exercise both physically and mentally. Commit to moving with Intensity.
Whether you are walking the dog, running a mile, vacuuming or training at the gym, watch your posture. Correct posture helps prevent fatigue and injury as well as strengthen your midsection (abdominals) and low back. To increase focus, try to feel your muscles contract. How is your breathing? When should you inhale and exhale? How can you do the movement longer, shorter, faster or slower? Do you feel stronger than last time? Can you keep your abs tight while doing it and maintaining your breathing? Try it right now as you read this! Pull your belly button in to your spine hold. Breathe normally. That is a focused moment feels like.
Doing things with purpose and focus makes them more enjoyable, prevents boredom, increases your skill set and makes you more likely to continue! Are you ready to start from where you are? Was that a YES? Select a few goals that appeal to you from the lettered items in the list below and then pick some of the bulleted action items to help reach them:
A) Pay Closer Attention To My Diet
- Cut out all junk food: cookies, chips, candy, fast food fries, shakes, desserts, etc.
- Drink more water, limit or stop soda, limit alcohol, drink coffee black or sitch to tea.
- Eat at least 4 times per day to keep your metabolism going.
- Eat lean protein: nonfat dairy, fish, egg beaters, skinless chicken or vegan options.
- Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
B) Commit to Doing More Activity
- Pick 3 days per week that you commit to set aside time to exercise No Matter What.
- Perform movements correctly (DVD, book, class, trainer, pal - whatever works for you).
- Start slow so you can keep going all 3 days consistently
- Try starting with a walking routine 3 x per week; take a good brisk walk 15 minutes up the road, then turn around and come back. Easy, free and fun - bring the dog :)
C) Increase Effectiveness of My Exercise
- Breathe deeply and exhale fully during each movement.
- Add more contraction to each movement (ex: squeeze each calf as you walk).
- Add more focus to each movement.
D) Change Up My Exercise Routine
- Add cardio to your weight workout.
- Add weights to your cardio workout.
- Add a new kind of class or activity.
- Add ab crunches and and stretching.
- Add walking, yoga, spinning, biking, joggin or swimming.
E) Increase Intensity Of My Exercise Routine
- Increase resistance on cardio for 10 minute blocks.
- Increase incline on cardio for 10 minute blocks.
- Increase speed on cardio for 5 minute blocks.
- Add another exercise to your routine.
- Increase reps or sets per exercise or both (ex: do 4 sets of 12 instead of 3 sets of 10).
Be responsible for your health by monitoring your condition and experience. The old battle cry 'No Pain, No Gain' applies to conditioned athletes enduring beyond their pain threshold, not a former couch surfer who's up and moving again. If you feel pain walking briskly or lifting a 15# dumbbell, you are doing too much, too soon or using less than ideal posture while doing it. Always stay within your level of fitness, follow your personal medical guidelines for any medical conditions and individual diet restrictions, pay close attention to physical limitations and old injuries, and of course, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, increasing your current one or changing your diet.
If you start where you are at today, you can – and will be - a Fitter Quitter! Good luck, keep moving and be well :)
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
With the summer 2012 Olympics just around the corner, you may feel inspired to get out and cycle, swim, row, or play a sport. The good news is that exercise is not only for athletes, but for quitters as well!
A recent, small study from the University of Exeter showed that moderate, physical exercise can help reduce cigarette cravings. Researchers believe this may be due to the fact that exercise releases chemicals in the brain, called endorphins, which improve mood and hence reduce a smoker’s perceived need for a cigarette. But the benefits of exercising when quitting go beyond brain chemistry.
Exercise will not only help you feel better, but it might also give you longer and better quality of sleep at night, help you reduce stress, and perhaps even influence healthier eating habits and food choices. Specific benefits for ex-smokers may mean that exercise counter some of the side effects of quitting like insomnia, fatigue, and weight gain. Best of all, exercise provides time to yourself; something many ex-smokers say they miss when quitting smoking.
Previous literature assumed that focusing on one behavior change at a time was best. We now know that to be untrue. In fact, ex-smokers who address weight management (through diet and/or exercise) while quitting smoking are more likely to quit successfully. Weight gain and stress are two of the biggest triggers ex-smokers often contribute to relapse. Hence adopting other healthy habits--healthy eating, exercise and stress management techniques--in addition to quitting smoking, make good sense.
What’s the best exercise to do when quitting smoking? The one you enjoy and will do consistently and regularly!
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try a sport or a new class (spin, yoga, or Zumba). Get outside and go for a walk, take a hike, or paddle in a canoe or kayak. If weather is a deterrent, join a gym or a group of mall walkers. If you have pain and/or mobility issues, look into home videos or chair exercises.
If you are new to exercise, start with a small, attainable goal. Initially you may start with ten minutes of exercise one or two days a week. Over time you will build muscle strength and stamina and will eventually be able to increase duration and frequency of exercise. Don’t forget to bring water and warm up properly before engaging in any type of physical activity. Also, finding a buddy who can work out with you can help you stay motivated and accountable! Last, always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Ultimately, you may not win a gold medal, but you can definitely quit and still be a winner.