Quitting smoking is quite an accomplishment! You have braved your way through doubt, cravings, stress, triggers and other smokers, yet remained true to your Quit. Congratulations! You may find that your self confidence has increased since you quit smoking, and that confidence has spilled over to other parts of your life. If you think it hasn't, perhaps you need to step back and really take a look at the new you!
You have become an even better smoke-free version of You! Keeping your quit takes commitment, resolve, problem solving, delayed gratification, a willingness to change, let go and give up your well worn path for the unknown adventure ahead.
While going through the quit process, you also learned a lot about yourself! You learned how to control your response to emotions such as anger, sadness, loneliness, frustration, boredom, craving and irritation. You’ve sat with these emotions and come to accept that they are normal and will pass. You now understand your emotions instead of avoiding them, and have new coping tools so your needs are met. As a result, your emotions do not affect you – or those around you – adversely. By doing this, you've improved your overall well being!
Improved well being, self efficacy and healthy self esteem are the cornerstones of a happy life. They reduce stress, give you a sense of control over your choices, increase your ability to handle day to day life situations and help you work through challenging times successfully.
As a successful quitter, you continue to make ongoing, daily choices that enhance your life. That means you have discipline, courage and tenacity. Along the way, you've learned some new things about yourself, set new goals and acquired effective tools to make your goals a reality. Quitting smoking has an unexpected side effect - it opens the door to a healthier lifestyle on multiple levels.
The truth is, You are amazing! What will you do next with your newly discovered confidence, competence and success? Keep going, keep up the good work and KTQ:)
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
No One Has To Quit Alone:
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
For more, visit or
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.
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
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
Although some of us quit smoking on the first try, most of us have made more than one attempt. That's not necessarily a bad thing; each attempt taught us something valuable about staying quit. In fact, the more times we've 'failed' at quitting in the past, the better our odds of succeeding this time.
One reason many of us make so many quit-attempts is that we don't always have the motivation to quit, or to maintain our quits afterward. Most smokers first consider quitting because of external motivators--the pleas of spouses or loved ones, health scares, smoke-free workplaces or financial incentives by our employers, or increases in cigarette or insurance costs.
Many of us grudgingly agree to quit smoking to satisfy others, but don't really have compelling reasons of our own to do so. For us to have the best shot at quitting and staying quit, it helps if quitting is our idea. Just how do we make it so?
Some simple exercises can help to move us in that direction, at any time before or after our actual quit-day. Ask yourself:
- On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest), how much do I really want to quit right now? What would need to change for me to raise that number a couple of notches? Is that a change I can work on?
- Using the same scale, how confident am I that I could quit right now? What would need to change for me to raise that number a couple of notches? Is that a change I can work on?
Next, a set of pros/cons questions can help clarify what we really think about our smoking. Ask yourself:
- What do I like about smoking? (is it a welcome break from work, a reward, or time spent with friends?)
- What don't I like about smoking? (the smell, coughing, the hassle of smoking publicly, the health risks?)
- Do the negatives outweight the positives?
- Are there healthier replacements for the things I like about smoking?
Next, a sort of Cost/Benefit Analysis will help uncover fears and other obstacles to quit-motivation. Ask yourself:
- If I continue to smoke, what's the worst thing that could happen to me? What's the best thing that could happen?
- If I quit smoking, what's the worst thing that could happen to me? What's the best that could happen?
- Does the best or worst weigh most in my analysis?
Imagining a Smoke-free Life
Finally, an effective way of making quitting your idea is to imagine all the possible advantages of quitting, and to focus on them. 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.
- What are five good reasons for me to quit smoking?
- What are my three best reasons to quit smoking? Note: Record My Three Best Reasons, and keep that list for handy reference in your phone, wallet or purse.
Motivation isn't something we can turn on and off like a light switch, but once we set our brains in motion solving a problem (like smoking), they inevitably move us toward a solution (quitting). The process may take a day, month, or a year, but as long as we're contrasting and comparing our old ways to the new way, our old desires to the new ones, our smoking life to a smoke free life, our odds of developing the motivation to get us there are greatly increased.
Good luck, and don't forget to visit the Q for more education and support.
Alan P, CTTS-M