If you knew me back in college, then it probably surprises the hell out of you that I'm a marathon runner and full time health and fitness advocate! Why? Because I was smoking at LEAST a pack a day back then. I know, absolutely disgusting, how did I let that happen, why did I do it, etc etc etc. Y'all, if I could go back in time and never start such a terrible habit then trust me, I would. But it never helps to dwell on past mistakes, the best you can do is keep moving on and help others learn from your pitfalls!
So, how did I go from an overweight chain smoker to where I am now? Keep reading for my practical tips on how I quit smoking and have stayed smoke free for over six years! Disclaimer, I am NOT a health professional or a doctor. These are simply the things I used to help me quit and I hope that they can help someone else!
You have to WANT to quit! I tried several times to stop, but it didn't actually take hold until I decided once and for all that I was done with cigarettes. The easiest way to decide for good that you're ready to quit? Come up with your "why" and put it EVERYWHERE! For me, it was because I was tired of people complaining about how terrible I smelled (vain but true). Big "whys" to think about... your children, your health, your LIFE! Do you have a family or loved ones that care about you? Do you want to continue to see them grow and flourish? Does heart disease or cancer run in your family? Find your why, and put it where you can be constantly reminded. Phone wallpaper, on the refrigerator, in your planner... wherever!
Lose the "I've already done too much damage" mentality. This one is tough for a lot of people, and it was tough for me as well. I had been smoking since high school (I know, I know, terrible, but true), so after several years I thought "why quit? I've already damaged my lungs so much" and figured it wouldn't do any good. Guys... that was a completely bullshit excuse! Whether you've been smoking for 3 months, 3 years, or 30 years, it is NEVER too late to quit! Lose that mentality and know that every day you go smoke-free is another day your body has to start repairing itself.
Don't be scared about weight gain. I was really concerned about this one. I was overweight and had a lot of weight to lose, but knew that quitting smoking would make me gain weight... or so I thought. Once I quit smoking, to offset any weight gain, I increased my exercise and buckled down with my nutrition. Yes, things tasted SO much better when I quit, but I took this time in my life as an opportunity to really focus on ME and my health, learning all about portion control (thanks Weight Watchers) and really starting my fitness journey with weight lifting and running. And guess what... not only did I quit smoking, but I actually LOST weight and developed healthy habits!
Use the "Since I Quit" app: I cannot recommend this app enough! It was, without a doubt, one of the biggest driving factors in helping me quit for good. In the app, you set up how many cigarettes you smoke per day (on average) and the cost of a pack. With each minute that passes, the app not only tells you how long you've been smoke-free, it also tells you how much MONEY you've saved! Y'all... do you know how damn expensive smoking is as a habit?! Within the first week I had saved almost $50. As I watched the amount of money increase, I became even more motivated to never give another cent to cigarettes. I also became so proud of the length of time since my last puff. What started as a few hours, turned into a few days, which then turned into a few weeks, and all of a sudden I was at two months smoke-free with no plans to ever see that counter turn back to zero! This app is free on the app store!
CELEBRATE THE SMALL VICTORIES!!: Quitting smoking can seem like a daunting task. Especially because, if you're a smoker, it's probably likely that you really enjoy smoking. I know I did! So the thought of never having a cigarette again was honestly pretty mentally tough. So instead of thinking about how challenging it would be, I celebrated the small wins. I celebrated my first day without a cigarette. I celebrated the first road-trip home without smoking. I celebrated going to a party without lighting up. Even the smallest victories are monumental, and they deserve to be celebrated! And when I hit one year smoke-free, I went all out and used a (small) portion of the money I had saved over the past twelve months to buy myself my dream present, a David Yurman ring! I still wear that ring and it reminds of how far I've come with my commitment.
Find your champions: I can guarantee you there are people in your life who desperately want you to quit smoking. Find those people, and ask them for support. Ask them to check in on you (but to not pressure you), ask them to champion your journey and be excited when you have even the tiniest victory to share! I promise you, they will be HAPPY to do it, and I'm so thankful for my champions!
Update your "why" as you go: When I first quit smoking, I did it because I was tired of smelling awful and knew I had to. But as each year passes and I get further and further from my original quit date, my "why" changes to keep me committed. Now, I stay smoke-free for my health. I can't run, practice yoga, and teach constantly if I'm having to stop and smoke. I stay smoke-free for my future family. One day I'd like to get married and have children, and I want them to have a smoke-free example to see each day. I stay smoke-free because I've seen brain aneurysms rupture and lung cancer set in in my family. And I stay smoke-free because I'm proud to! Make sure that as your life changes, so does your "why" and make sure that it's constantly in the back of your mind reminding you why you made this important decision for your health and life!
I'm so thankful I decided to stop smoking over six years ago. Sure, it's tough. And yes, I've had a few slip ups here and there, but I will NEVER go back to smoking! I hope that some of these tips and tricks will help at least one person struggling to quit and know that if you ever want someone to talk to, my inbox is ALWAYS open at firstname.lastname@example.org!