SmokersFitness.com

An essential health resource for current and former smokers

SmokersFitness.com - An essential health resource for current and former smokers

This holiday season, don’t forget to move

Exercising over the holidays

As you’ll notice in our upcoming book, I am a BIG believer in the power of regular exercise in improving practically every aspect of a person’s life. During the holiday season, it is especially important to not neglect your exercise regimen (or to initiate one if you currently don’t exercise). Although working out is important and relevant throughout the year, unique challenges arise during this time of the year that have the potential to ruin our health.

1. Overeating: As many of you are aware from previous holiday seasons, the constant barrage of fattening, calorically dense foods from family gatherings (e.g. Thanksgiving), office parties, etc. make it quite easy to gain weight. (I have had patients who gained 10 pounds in a little over a month.)

2. Depression and anxiety: For a variety of reasons, some people have a tendency towards becoming depressed and anxious during the holiday season.

3. More time indoors: Because it’s quite cold in many parts of the country (such as here in New York where I live), people tend to spend less time doing active things outside such as running around with the kids in the yard or park, taking walks, riding bicycles, and playing sports.

Exercise is an effective tool to counter all three of the above threats.

By exercising you can burn off calories from some of that extra food you indulged in (although I still recommend coming up with ways to avoid too much overeating – see the previous blog post.

Exercise is also a wonderful way to improve your mood. Many of you can attest to the mental high one gets after a good workout. (However, keep in mind that if you do suffer from depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, it’s important to involve a health care professional in your care as well.)

Coming up with creative ways to maintain physical activity despite the cold weather is important to offset the fact that you’re spending less active time outside. You can join a gym. You can play sports such as basketball, tennis, or racquetball indoors in many areas. You can go swimming indoors, workout at home, take up winter-type activities such as ice skating or cross country skiing, or you can simply bundle up and still enjoy a power walk outside despite the inclement weather.

Finally – and this is true for all times of year – doing exercise can help relieve a cigarette craving; even a set of some light intensity exercises may help you fight off an urge to smoke. If you’re trying to quit smoking or at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, finding ways to incorporate exercise into your life is especially important.

(Also consult with a doctor about what exercises would be best for you in whatever state of health you’re in, and discuss any concerns such as weak joints, a bad back or high blood pressure.)

- Tamir

Share

Tips for not overeating

I came across an interesting opinion piece which addresses how to avoid gaining weight on Thanksgiving (or for that matter any other holiday):

What I found unique about this article is that instead of offering low fat or low cal variations to Thanksgiving classics, the author addresses behaviors that affect overeating. This, to me, is a much more pragmatic and commonsense approach. The problem with simply trying to shave some calories off of your favorite dishes is that

1. They may not taste as good (or may even taste terrible). This may make your holiday less enjoyable.
2. You may still overeat. Even if that low fat pie has 25% fewer calories, if you eat piece after piece after piece, it probably doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference that you substituted sugar free pie filling.

So this holiday season, be smart and be mindful of what behaviors and environmental triggers cause you to overeat. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite dishes without packing on the pounds.

- Tamir

Share

This too shall pass: cravings for cigarettes or junk food don’t last forever

Life often takes us on ups and downs. Most of us have had amazing days, weeks, months, and even years when we are on a high and everything goes according to plan. On the flip side, many of us have faced less amazing periods in life full of challenging situations and struggles.

This is especially true for those of you trying to quit smoking or lose weight (or both). You’re excited about starting a smoke-free existence. You have it all planned out. You’ve stocked up on nicotine replacement products, you called the quit lines, you smoked your last cigarette, and then comes that first craving. Oh man do you feel the urge to smoke. You’re anxious. Those butterflies in your stomach feel like they drank 5 double espressos. As you walk down the street, every smoker you pass seems to be taunting you as they casually puff away at those oh-so-good smokes.

All of you out there trying to lose weight know what I mean as well. You wake up in the morning and watch your family feast on a heap of fluffy, golden pancakes smothered in maple syrup and butter while you’re stuck with that half grapefruit that suddenly looks dull and tasteless. You get to work and watch your fellow co-workers munching on donuts as you sit there sipping your coffee staring longingly at the chocolate glaze and sugar-powdered dough. You sit down next to your friends at lunch, and as they dig into juicy burgers, fries, and super-sized sodas, you poke at your salad that’s sprinkled with some tuna. Finally you arrive home for dinner, just in time for pizza night; and to add insult to injury, Mrs. Jones next door brought over a freshly baked chocolate cake in appreciation for a favor you did her husband last week. As the smells waft through the air, you slowly munch on your steamed broccoli and baked turkey breast.

In both of these cases your life gets frustrating, and at times you feel hopeless. How will you ever stay smoke free? How will you possibly stick to your diet?

A nice little mental trick that can help is what is know as “this too shall pass.” Tell this to yourself. “This too shall pass.” If you look back at the difficult times in your life, when things seemed hopeless, you’ll often notice that you were indeed able to persevere. You may have lost a job but eventually found another (perhaps better) one. You may have had a long-term relationship end which at the time was devastating, but in time you found true love. You may have had a health scare, but were able to overcome it. “This too shall pass.”

I remember the first time I used this technique. I was a little boy and was at the top of a high dive at the local swimming pool. I slowly walked to the edge of the board, looking at what seemed to be a 1,000 foot drop (it was closer to 12 or 15 feet). I was scared, but having seen the other children jump off, I saw that the entire thing took a second or two. “This too shall pass.” And indeed it was over before I knew it.

Since that time, I have used this technique during a long, difficult, sleepless, and seemingly endless surgery rotation in medical school. I have used it when sidelined with a broken ankle for several weeks. I have used it during times when finances were very tight.

“This too shall pass.” It stinks now. You really crave that cigarette. It’s not fair. Your friend Joey quit with no problem. You break out into a cold sweat whenever you catch the faintest hint of tobacco. “This too shall pass.” Persevere. Eventually, with enough will power, you will be smoke free, and you will see that the seemingly insurmountable mountain known as smoking cessation was conquered. Cravings come and go. They don’t last forever, and they don’t have to control you.

Finally, “this too shall pass” works when things are going well. You are financially secure. You haven’t smoked in 6 months. You passed your last check up with flying colors. You should also consider that the good times may pass. You may have to struggle financially at some future point. You may have a strong temptation to start smoking again. You may have a health scare. This type of view point, although seemingly morbid on the surface, is actually the opposite. By appreciating life and living every day to its fullest when things are going well, you learn not to take things for granted when the going is good. Furthermore because life throws us curveballs and we never really know when the seemingly good will pass, we hopefully strive to accomplish the most that we can in the time that we have.

- Tamir

Share

Cigarette smoking procrastinators – tomorrow is The Great American Smokeout

Many of you out there who are thinking about quitting, are aware that in 6 weeks 2012 ends and 2013 rolls in. That New Year resolution to quit smoking is right around the corner. But why wait another 6 weeks? Tomorrow (November 15th), is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout, in which you and close to 44 million others like you who currently smoke are encouraged to quit, or, at the very least, formulate a plan to quit. I know that many of us have a tendency to procrastinate.

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

“I’ll quit when I finish college. Right now things are too hectic, I’m busy with tests, papers, and end-of-year projects.” Then of course, school ends, but now it’s summer vacation! What a stupid time to quit. What can be better than settling down by the pool with a bunch of friends, cigarette in one hand, cold drink in the other… “I know, I’ll quit once my new job starts next month. I’m not allowed to smoke in the office anyway, and since I’ll be quite busy, it will be pretty easy to quit.” Well, the new job starts and… “Whoa this is a stressful job! Who knew it was going to be this much work? Plus the long hours! I NEED my cigarette breaks or else I’m going to go INSANE! I know I have to quit, but it’s going to have to wait. Once I settle into my job, the stress levels will come down a little, and then for sure, smoking will be a thing of the past.”

Several years, and many promotions later, the work piles on, and that promise you made to yourself to quit smoking is a vague afterthought. But then, you meet the woman of your dreams. You are dating seriously, and decide to get married. “Now I HAVE to quit. Sally HATES that I smoke. Plus she is always telling me that she doesn’t want to be widowed at a young age when I croak from a heart attack or lung cancer. So as soon as I get married, I am definitely quitting.” After the beautiful wedding, it’s off to the honeymoon, where you find yourself relaxing by the pool with a cold drink in one hand and a cigarette in the… hey wait a minute – weren’t you going to quit when you got married??? “Well, yeah, I am quitting, this is the end. As soon as I get off the plane at the end of the honeymoon, that’s it for me. You’ll see.”

You have a fabulous honeymoon, get back home, settle into your new lives together, but unfortunately, you were away from the office for 2 weeks, and the amount of catch up needed simply to get your head above water is unreal. “I know I promised to quit honey. And I AM going to quit. It’s just REALLY crazy at work right now. Within a couple of weeks, I’ll be caught up, and then I’ll quit. I promise.” Things do die down, and you contemplate quitting, when one day your boss comes in with the news that a new HUGE account came around which will land everyone a very nice bonus. However… You are looking at several weeks of LONG hours and much stress. Oh well, so much for quitting now.

Months later, your loving wife is now pregnant. Now you HAVE to quit. You’re going to be a father! You can’t expose your baby to second hand smoke! “I hear you loud and clear honey. I am in complete agreement that as soon as the baby arrives, I will never smoke again. After all, I wouldn’t want to harm our baby.” 9 months later junior arrives. You have to make good on your promise. But now is the worse time to quit! Junior is up all night crying. You haven’t slept in weeks. Work is piling up. You’re stressed out. Your wife is stressed out. You MUST have that cigarette…

Decades pass. You are chronically short of breath. You can’t stop coughing. You look woefully at that pillbox sitting next to your toothbrush filled with pills for your bad heart, poor circulation, and to prevent a second stroke. You can barely play with your grandchildren let alone run around with them without becoming extremely winded and feeling that pressure in your chest. You long to turn back the clock to the end of high school and start with a clean slate…

So do yourself a favor, and quit on the Great American Smokeout day. Don’t wait for New Years, or any other milestone in your life. There is never a better time to quit than now.

- Tamir

Share

A Smoker’s Guide to Health and Fitness: Book Launch Giveaway

To celebrate our upcoming ebook, A Smoker’s Guide to Health and Fitness, we’re holding a giveaway.

If you subscribe to our blog via email (it’s free), follow us on Twitter, or ‘like’ our page on Facebook, you’ll be entered into a raffle and get the chance of becoming one of four winners who get the following prize:

A $25 dollar gift certificate for Amazon.com, plus a free copy of the book.

The giveaway will end the day the book becomes public (the expected release date is sometime between early to mid-December – we’ll keep you posted).

Winners will be announced on this blog and on our social media platforms, as well as contacted personally to make sure they know they’ve won.

Find out more about the book on the main page of the site. And don’t hesitate to sign up. Even if you don’t win the giveaway this time, by following our site you’ll receive news about the latest research on tobacco, tips on exercise, healthy eating, and good mental health, suggestions for medical screenings and tests, and health/fitness stories and questions from other readers.

- T & H Katz

Share