From Dr. Gilchrist:
I strongly recommend that you visit your primary care physician for a full physical at the beginning of your stop smoking effort. He or she can identify what physical health problems may have already begun within you, along with personalized changes needed to begin correcting them. These changes may include proper diet, exercise, medication, and other lifestyle changes for your particular situation. Your primary care physician should also let you know which, if any, food, activity, or medications you should avoid taking or engage in moderation.
Strategy #1: Exercise Regularly
Under the direction of your medical doctor, I recommend meeting with a personal trainer and getting set up with a regular exercise program to help improve your heart rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular health - some of the main casualties from smoking that will probably require improvement.
Other benefits of regular exercise include managing your weight and dealing better with difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and boredom.
Strategy #2: Change Your DietIt makes sense to eat more of the healthy foods that will lessen your smoking cravings. It also makes sense to avoid those foods and substances that will only increase your cravings. Foods that have been shown to both increase your health and help to lessen cravings include:
- fruits (especially apples)
- vegetables (especially carrot and celery sticks)
- unbuttered popcorn
- lean meats
- drinking large amounts of water, tomato juice or tea.
It is also recommended that you eat moderate portions spread out through the day across 3 or more meals for the best digestion. Also, choose foods that take a long time to chew to keep your mouth occupied.
Finally, commit to only eating when you are hungry, not when you are bored, upset, or want a reward (known as "emotional eating").
Unhealthy substances that will aggravate your cravings and will need to be minimized include foods or drinks high in sugar or fat, alcoholic beverages, and all illicit drugs-especially drugs that involve smoking, like marijuana.
Strategy #3: Keep Your Mouth and Hands BusyIn the past, smoking cigarettes kept your hands and mouth very busy a lot of the time. Now, as you are stopping smoking, it may be helpful to keep your hands and mouth busy in other ways, at least for the first 6 months or so until your cravings lessen considerably.
Ideas for keeping your mouth busy include:
- eating foods that take a long time to chew (like apples, celery, carrots, etc.)
- drinking water (or another low calorie beverage)
- chewing gum
- whitening your teeth
- gargling with mouthwash
- experimenting with different styles of lipstick or lip gloss, or anything else that will keep your mouth busy.
Ideas for keeping your hands busy include:
- holding a pen or pencil
- writing letters or notes
- drawing or painting
- playing a piano (or other musical instrument)
- squeezing a wrist exerciser or stress ball
- sewing or knitting
- working on a puzzle
- trimming your finger nails
- washing your hands or face
- playing with a yo-yo
- playing cards (like solitaire)
- learning sign language
- doing push-ups or pull-ups
- putting on hand weights
- carrying a cane, or engaging in anything else that will keep your hands busy.
Strategy #4: Dealing with Family and Friends who Smoke
For many people, smoking served as a way to socialize and bond with other family members or friends who also smoked. Now that you are quitting, they may feel awkward around you or even betrayed. Some light friendships and associations will be easy to end. Do it. Your health requires it.
With your more important relationships, you may need to reassure them that you still care about them and want to keep the relationship, but that you'd like them to please refrain from smoking around you because of your changes. If they forget and "light up", politely remove yourself until they are finished. Then, reengage with them. They should "get the hint" soon enough to stop smoking around you.
Most people should respect this approach. However, if, by chance, they are negative or even hostile about your quitting smoking and even try to sabotage your efforts, you may need to confront them respectfully and ask them to change their behavior. If they still refuse, you may need to limit your contact around them until they can respect and support your needs to be smoke free. A true friend or close family member should respect and support your efforts to change.