Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 6: Common Hazards & Pitfalls

Topics:  Alcohol | Co-Dependency | Blood Sugar | Caffeine | Crutches | NRT | Placebo Fraud | Pharma Secrets | Chantix/Champix | E-cigs | Negative Support | Second-Hand Smoke | Bad Days & Disturbing Dreams | Weight Gain | Weight Control | Menstrual Concerns | Pregnancy

Recovery Weight Control

Reaching for a Zero Calorie "Aaah"

The cornerstone of our dependency was nicotine's ability to release dopamine and briefly end wanting. And yes, an extra mouthful of food also provides a short-lived burst of dopamine (see Chapter 1). But reflect on how many times and how long each day that you devoted to nicotine use.

What if, day after day, you started reaching for and eating extra food, as often and long as you reached for and used nicotine? Yes, reaching for and adopting extra food as a nicotine replacement crutch could turn into a "huge" mistake.

Some researchers classify increased eating as a symptom of nicotine withdrawal.[1] If true, it's clearly one within our ability to minimize.

Consider reaching for a non-fat "aaah" sensation. Take a slow deep breath. Do you feel the "aaah" while exhaling? Drink a glass of cool and refreshing water when thirsty. Do you feel the "aaah" that arrives when satisfying thirst?

Give your favorite person a big, big hug. Are you feeling it now? Take your normal walk, even if just around the yard but this time go a little further or a little quicker than normal. Do you feel accomplishment's "aaah"?

Dopamine "aaah" wanting relief sensations are the mind's way of motivating behavior. Lifetimes of living our priorities teacher's lessons, we each have a hefty collection of durable "aaah" wanting relief memories.

Reach for the healthy zero calorie "aaah" if seeking relief from wanting without weight gain.

Picking mealtime

Nicotine no longer our spoon, increasing the frequency of meals while decreasing the amount eaten may be all that's needed to avoid adding hunger atop withdrawal.

Instead of eating large meals, consider eating little and often as a means to enhance appetite control. One study found that eating more frequently resulted in 27% fewer calories being consumed.[2]

Consider fueling your body with small, healthy food portions at least five times daily during the first two weeks. Doing so should diminish blood-sugar swings and hunger pains, thus reducing risk of binge eating.

Ending Mealtime

Many of us conditioned our mind to believe that eating was complete and mealtime was over by putting a cigarette between our lips or oral tobacco into our mouth. Now, without a new cue, there may be no clear signal to our brain that our meal is complete. It could result in reaching for additional food with zero leftovers.

Healthy meal completion cues may be as simple as pushing away or getting up from the table, standing and stretching, clearing the table, reaching for a toothpick, taking a slow deep breath, doing the dishes, giving a hug or kiss, stepping outside, brushing our teeth, a stick of sugarless gum or a walk.

Diminishing body weight

A "diet" is a temporary program for losing weight, which by definition ends. The key to sustained weight control isn't dieting. It's in committing to minor changes in our daily calorie intake or activity level that become part of the fabric of our life.

If the removal of one pound of body weight requires the expenditure of 3,500 calories, attempting to burn all 3,500 during a single session of activity or exercise may leave us tired and sore. It might discourage us from being active again tomorrow.

Instead, consider a small yet deliberate increase in today's level of physical activity over yesterday's, or if today's level seemed sufficient, maintaining that level tomorrow.

It can be exercise or a bit more of any physical activity that we love and enjoy. Consider gardening, walking your favorite path, visiting or caring for a neighbor, extra house or yard work, a lap around the block, a bike ride or any other activity that expends energy.

Although a minor daily activity adjustment may seem insignificant, burning just 58 extra calories per day will cause our body weight to decline by half a pound per month (1,740 fewer monthly calories). What if we add a minor change in eating patterns to a minor activity adjustment?

If we consume 58 fewer calories per day we would experience a total monthly decline of roughly 3,500 calories and the loss of one pound per month. Learning to sustain these minor lifestyle adjustments could mean 12 fewer pounds within a year!

How do we lose 12 pounds? Baby steps ... another moment of activity, a few less calories, just one ounce at a time!

Small adjustments can be made anytime. As mentioned, we can eat more often while consuming the same or less, focus upon, savor and chew each bite longer, take just one less bite, get comfortable leaving something on our plate, use a tad less butter, choose baked over fried, portion control or cooking less food, one cookie versus two, eliminating evening snacks, or trading empty carbohydrates for longer lasting ones.[3]

Get excited about climbing from the deep ditch in which our addiction forced us to live. Savor the richness and flavor of life beyond. Be brave and explore the world that obedience to our dependency's wanting kept hidden from view.

If already impaired or disabled by smoking, your physician should be able to assist in developing an increased activity or exercise plan appropriate to your abilities, even if done while on oxygen, in a wheelchair or in bed.

Should you find yourself gaining extra pounds during recovery, don't beat yourself up. Your breathing and circulation will improve with each passing day. Whether realized or not, your endurance potential is slowly on the rise.

In a way, we are turning back the clock to a time when we had greater ability to engage in prolonged vigorous physical activity. As smokers, most of us lacked the ability to build cardiovascular endurance. Not any more!

Aging gracefully does not require "dieting." Our slowing metabolism simply requires a minor calorie or activity adjustment now and then, which over time results in the desired body weight.

But what if your dopamine pathways refuse such simplicity when it comes to food? Frankly, I'd rather be slightly bigger and alive, than a tad smaller but dead.

Today and tomorrow are worth vastly more than a few extra pounds.

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1. Benowitz NL, Neurobiology of nicotine addiction: implications for smoking cessation treatment, The American Journal of Medicine, April 2008, Volume 121(4 Suppl 1), Pages S3-10.
2. Speechly DP, et al, Greater appetite control associated with an increased frequency of eating in lean males, Appetite, December 1999, Volume 33(3), Pages 285-297.
3. The Glycemic Index,, University of Sidney, 2002, website accessed August 9, 2008.

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Page created March 29, 2016 and last updated March 26, 2016 by John R. Polito