SmokersFitness.com

An essential health resource for current and former smokers

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

Fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions

With the coming New Year and the resolutions that often accompany it, I thought this article was quite well written and apropos for all of you out there, whether you’re resolved to become more fit or to quit smoking or to fulfill whatever other promises you’ve made to yourself.

An important point made in the article is to anticipate setbacks and not see them as signs that you’re too weak and need to give up.

- Tamir

Share

One of the best monologues on alcoholism I’ve seen

Not that I’ve seen many monologues on alcoholism, but I did like the frankness and the humor of this one from a few years back, as Craig Ferguson (who hosts the Late Late Show) talks about his alcoholism; he starts with a story of waking up on a Christmas morning in a room above a pub and wanting to kill himself.

He’s been sober for years, but when he says that alcoholism goes beyond a drinking problem and is really a thinking problem, he drives home the point of having to be vigilant your whole life if you’ve ever had alcohol problems.

Likewise, I enjoyed his emphasis on taking responsibility for your life: knowing yourself, your limitations, and your effect on others. Ultimately no one else can help you if you aren’t willing to make the effort yourself.

(I also love his Scottish accent, but that’s besides the point.)

How does this tie into smoking? For one thing, as we discuss in our book, smoking and alcohol problems often go together; rates of smoking among alcoholics are significantly higher than among people who aren’t dependent on alcohol. (If you’re addicted to both cigarettes and alcohol, there are different opinions, also discussed in our book, as to what approach might be best if you want to quit smoking as well as become sober.)

Furthermore, if you become addicted to cigarettes and then successfully quit smoking, you’ll have to be vigilant your whole life. Even ten years down the road it won’t be a good idea for you to try “just one cigarette” because the habit can easily come back.

Lastly, the struggle against addiction can be very difficult, and it’s also a personal responsibility. Others are there to help you, encourage you, and direct you to resources, but success is impossible without your personal efforts. Ferguson does point out how spending time talking to other people with similar problems helped him immensely, and the same goes for people with a smoking addiction. There are support groups, online and offline, including Nicotine Anonymous, that many smokers have found useful in aiding their quit attempts. But you have to show up, stay focused, and really commit yourself to it if you choose to quit; you also have to persist in the face of relapse as many times as it takes without giving up on yourself.

- Hila

Share

Smoking is even bad for hangovers

Homer Simpson bingeing

Although we all know that smoking increases one’s chances of developing cancer, heart attacks, strokes, etc, it’s often hard to convince young people to give up their habit. Many people in their teens and 20′s live in the here and now. Since they mostly feel good in spite of their smoking habit, it’s at times hard to find a compelling argument to convince them to quit right away. These same teens and 20-somethings are often experimenting with alcohol and other drugs.

A recent study shows that people who smoke suffer from worse hangovers. Let me state clearly that I do NOT advocate getting drunk. Binge drinking in and of itself can have serious health consequences. However, people who do drink (hopefully rarely), at the very least should give strong consideration to not smoke as well. Many of us have been through a hangover and know how absolutely awful it feels. Despite purported remedies such as coffee and aspirin, there are no real effective treatments for hangovers. Hopefully staying off of cigarettes will make the difference between lying in bed for the morning with a pounding headache or being able to go to work.

- Tamir

(Image links back to its source: Simpsoncrazy.com)

Share

The potentially dangerous . . . grapefruit?

Pink grapefruit - Citrus paradisi

Hopefully, all of you who have been following our blog are incorporating healthy changes into your lives. Many of you know that increasing your daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to better your health. All of that is absolutely true. However, I do have one caveat: Grapefruit.

For the average person, including grapefruit as part of a healthy, balanced diet is a good idea. These fruits contain nice amounts of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and other beneficial substances. The problem is that grapefruit also contains a class of substances known as furanocoumarins, which may interfere with how your body breaks down many different types of medications (anything from certain blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, heart medications, antibiotics, and psychiatric medications among others). Depending on the specific medicine, the effect may be to increase the blood level of the drug to toxic levels, or to reduce the level to one that is not effective. Not all drugs interfere with grapefruit, so many of you who take medication can feel free to indulge, but definitely run things by your doctor.

- Tamir

Share

Get a flu shot – the flu can hit smokers extra hard

Medical experts recommend that EVERYONE from the age of 6 months and up receive a flu vaccine every year. This is especially true for those of you who smoke, since smokers often have worse complications from the flu.

Many areas around the country are already witnessing many cases of the flu, and unfortunately, one of the strains circulating is a more aggressive, dangerous type that killed many more people the last time it reared its ugly head. Fortunately, this year’s vaccine does cover that strain, as well as most of the other ones going around. Even if you received the flu shot last year, it’s still important to get vaccinated this year as well. Unlike many other diseases for which we are immunized, such as measles, diphtheria, and chicken pox, the flu virus mutates, and there are often different strains going around from year to year – therefore, last year’s vaccine is insufficient to protect you this year. In addition, it can take up to 2 or so weeks to achieve effective immunity from the vaccine, so the sooner you go get vaccinated the better.

- Tamir

Share

Important medical tip about smoking and blood pressure

Sphygmomanometer

Although smoking doesn’t lead to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure) per se, smoking a cigarette can result in the transient elevation of the blood pressure and heart rate. Therefore, if you currently smoke cigarettes and have scheduled an appointment with your doctor, try your best not to smoke for an hour before that appointment. Doctors need accurate blood pressure and heart rate measurements to decide whether or not you suffer from high blood pressure. The last thing you want is to be started on a blood pressure medication that you don’t really need.

If you forgot and accidentally smoked a cigarette right before your visit, then definitely mention it. You can offer to hang around after the visit for half an hour or so (depending on how soon before the visit you smoked) and have the doctor or nurse recheck your blood pressure.

- Tamir

Share

Don’t treat smokers like pariahs

It often amazes me how judgmental people can get. In many places today, being a smoker often makes you a social pariah, a degenerate of the worst kind. This attitude is prevalent in the health care field. The mighty doctor will glare down at the lowly patient. “How can you smoke?! Don’t you know it will kill you?” Or the local neighborhood loudmouth who seems to have an opinion about everything and everyone will huff at the neighbor down the street smoking a cigarette as he mows his lawn. “Yuck! What a filthy habit! What’s with this guy?”

Social pariah pear

Is smoking harmful? Absolutely. Should we encourage people to quit? Of course! Are smokers evil people possessing a lowly character and weak morals? Well, I’m sure some are, but not because they’re smokers. I bring this up because in our self-righteous quest to rid the world of the scourge of tobacco, we often don’t realize that by treating people badly, we push them away instead of helping them. Most smokers have thought about quitting, and many have tried. Having a warm, non-judgmental, supportive environment can make all the difference. It’s hard for many people to quit. Being made to feel like a cockroach doesn’t help.

Imagine for a moment a different situation. Someone you know is obese and needs to lose weight in order to improve their blood pressure and sugar levels. They’re struggling with their diet and exercise regimen, and often end up cheating by sneaking in some candy bars or skipping trips to the gym. Would you go up to that person, glare at them and yell, “Come on, fatty! What’s up with you? Don’t you know you’ll die if you don’t stop eating?! Ugh! Why don’t you just wire your jaws shut?!” How do you think they’ll feel? Do you think that they’ll be encouraged to continue with their weight loss efforts?

Smokers struggling to quit face an analogous situation. They KNOW that smoking is bad for them. They’re trying to quit. They might be trying to eat healthier as well and to exercise. Instead of putting them down, offer some positive feedback and constructive criticism. “Jim, I notice that you’re down to smoking half a pack a day instead of 2 packs. That’s amazing. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you quit.” Or, “Wendy, I see that you started to smoke again. I know that it’s really hard to stay smoke free; I’ve been down that path before. Hopefully you’ll try to quit again. I care about your health. I’ll be happy to go with you to the doctor – maybe you can get medicine to help you this time around.”

Remember, we all have strengths and weaknesses. All of us can improve. And I doubt that among us there are people so perfect they can look down on others. So next time you see someone you know smoking, hold off on the judgment and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much farther you’ll get.

- Tamir

Share

Keeping it simple

Famed aeronautical engineer Kelly Johnson coined the acronym K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, stupid! Since I try not to insult others, we can keep the principle, but perhaps abbreviate the acronym to K.I.S.

People often fail when trying to effect positive changes in their lives, such as embarking on a new diet or exercise regimen, because they complicate things too much. For example, many of us, when deciding to start working out, proceed to join a gym. Instead of following a simple, straight-forward program, on advice of self styled experts or weight training magazines we adopt something along the lines of:

Day 1: 20 minutes on stationary bicycle. 20 minutes on elliptical machine. 3 sets of bench press. 3 sets of incline bench press. 3 sets of decline bench press. 3 sets of dumbbell flys. 3 sets of dips. 3 sets of standing triceps extensions. 3 sets of lying triceps extensions. 3 sets of close grip bench presses. 3 sets of dumbbell bench presses. 3 sets of crunches. 3 sets of reverse crunches. 3 sets of hanging leg raises.

Day 2: 20 minutes on treadmill. 20 minutes on stepper. 3 sets of lat pull downs. 3 sets of underhand lat pull downs. 3 sets of dumbbell rows. 3 sets of close grips machine rows. 3 sets of T-bar rows. 3 sets of dumbbell pullovers. 3 sets of back extensions. 3 sets of stiff-legged deadlifts.3 sets of barbell curls. 3 sets of alternate dumbbell curls. 3 sets of concentration curls. 3 sets of easy bar curls.

Day 3: 30 minute swim. 3 sets of leg extensions. 3 sets of leg curls. 3 sets of squats. 3 sets of leg presses. 3 sets of machine squats. 3 sets of dumbbell lunges. 3 sets of overhead barbell presses. 3 sets of dumbbell presses. 3 sets of front raises. 3 sets of lateral raises. 3 sets of cable raises.

Etc. etc.

Complicated vintage exercise machine

What I’ve described isn’t an uncommon type of routine you may encounter at the gym. And you know what? If you’re a bodybuilder with many years of experience, it may not be a half bad routine. However if you’re just starting out, and have many other commitments such as job or family obligations, then working out for 2 hours a day on a regular basis is probably not going to remain a long term reality. In addition, this routine may lead to overtraining, making you so sore as to ensure that a second masochistic trip to the gym is probably not worth it.

A similar scenario often occurs with diets. No carbs. No fat. 800 calories a day. Eat only one meal a day, drink gross tasting shakes the rest of the time. How many of us can stick to such spartan eating plans? Perhaps in the short term it’s doable (although in some cases not so healthy). However, within a few weeks, those endless plates of nonfat cheese, egg white omelets and alfalfa become a monotonous if not nauseating experience.

Green smoothie

A better approach for most beginners is to start with a simplified exercise regimen and diet.

For example, the exercise regimen could consist of:

1. 1 mile fast walk
2. 2 sets of 10 push-ups
3. 2 sets of 10 sit-ups
4. 2 sets of 10 squat thrusts
4. 3 minutes of jumping rope
5. 3 minutes of stretching

Your diet:

1. Avoid sugary foods.
2. Avoid fried foods.
3. Eat 3 more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily than you currently do
4. Allow yourself one off day a week.

A regimen such as the one above takes much less time to complete and is overall simpler, increasing the chances of long term adherence.

Am I saying that you can’t increase the complexity of your health & fitness routine? Absolutely not. Go wild! But do it slowly, adding small steps that you can stick with.

Another scenario that I encounter is one in which someone has a few months to get into shape – say a college student off for summer vacation. You’re done with school and are gung-ho about embarking on that lengthy and complicated diet and exercise routine you read about in the May copy of whatever fitness magazine you subscribe to (see above). You go all out during the summer and shed the excess fat. Now school is starting again. The school work piles on. You have a part time job. . . and there goes the entire routine. You don’t have 2 hours daily to spend at the gym, so you stop going. And who has time for a complicated, super restrictive diet? So a donut (or 2) with coffee is breakfast, a burger and fries or pizza on the go is lunch, and a repeat of lunch is dinner. Of course let’s not forget about the snacks! Gotta give that brain an endless supply of sugar to help it function at optimal speed so that you can ace that math midterm.

Within a few months, all that weight that was so hard to lose is piled back on (and then some). Had you followed a simple maintenance routine (again, see above), you could have kept the weight off (and your cholesterol down).

- Tamir

Share