Smoking & Dieting – the same flawed approach


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My name is Katie. I am a nicotine junkie. I’ve been clean for 64 hours.

I know you’ve heard this all before. This is my third attempt to give up smoking. Once I gave up with patches, once I gave up with Champix and this time I’ve done it cold turkey.

The main thing that has kept me smoke-free these past three days is that if I have a cigarette, I go back to square-one and have to go through this discomfort all over again. Unlike some people who can give up at any time without any effort, it’s not easy for me. So I never want to do this again.

Like an alcoholic who can’t have a drink, I can’t have nicotine in my system. If I don’t get free now, I never will. I’ll end up that wrinkled old woman with grey skin hooked up to an IV trolley, with only one lung, outside in the hospital car park lighting up a cigarette.

[As an aside — I don’t think it’s acceptable to call smokers ‘filthy and disgusting’ because of their addiction. Believe me, almost every smoker wishes she never started. Instead of showing us clogged arteries, blood spotted tissues and oxygen masks on TV, instead of taking the moral high ground and judging us, maybe love instead of hate might help more people get free…]

The thing with cigarettes is although they seem to offer relief and soothe the craving, the cigarette is actually the cause of the craving. The anxiousness needing relief is the body’s reaction to the level of nicotine in the body subsiding. The nicotine in the cigarette makes the problem worse by introducing the addictive substance in the first place and then topping up the supply. No cigarette = no nicotine craving (once it’s completely left your system). The price of freedom is discomfort.

Cigarettes = Counting Calories

It reminds me of dieting (for normal weight women without medical or psychological conditions). When you eat too much because you’re hungry or missing your favourite food you gain a little weight and start to feel uncomfortable. To relieve the discomfort you embark on a diet, eat clean or eliminate treats. It feels like it works. You lose a bit of weight and feel better … for a while … until you find yourself eating too much at your friend’s party, on mother’s day or when you’re too tired to cook. You’re overeating again, you’re feeling uncomfortable again and you head straight for the same old dieting behaviour again and again.

Dieting causes overeating

Listen carefully. In the same way that cigarettes cause nicotine cravings, dieting causes overeating.

By restricting your food intake you trigger feelings of physical, emotional and/or psychological deprivation that simply make you want to eat more. To fix the problem of overeating you decide to diet. The medicine doesn’t cure the problem, it just makes it worse.

The price of freedom is discomfort

Here’s the hard part.  Not many people are brave enough to put up with the discomfort of never dieting again like a smoker or an alcoholic has to with their particular drug. It’s no fun wanting a cigarette or wanting a drink and not having one.

And it’s no fun feeling heavy, soft and fat when you look in the mirror. Not many women can deal with it. Most women instead get back on the wagon, pull themselves into line, start paddling upstream or spout some other annoying bullshit term that means they are regimenting their food and exercise. Dieting is a quick and easy way to feel better … sadly though, it just makes it worse.

Stop with the diet already

Stop dieting and expect to feel shitty for a while. Your brain will tell you you’re fat and lazy, your ‘fitness friends’ will tell you you’ve let yourself go and you’ll doubt for a long time that it will even work.

But sooner than you think, you won’t overeat at all — not ever. Not when you’re stressed, not at a party, not at Easter or Christmas, not even when you give up smoking. You’ll be free.

When you look in the mirror you won’t think you look fat and soft any more, you’ll see how beautiful you are with a few more curves. You might not even notice your food choices are gravitating towards being healthy without conscious thought until your clothes start getting too big. In fact, you won’t think about food much at all.

You’ll be at peace with food just like those naturally thin women who’ve never been on a diet.

You won’t think about smoking just like those people who’ve never lit up a cigarette.

They’re free … we can be too … but the cost of an exit ticket from an addiction is discomfort.

→ Are you up for it??

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

12 thoughts on “Smoking & Dieting – the same flawed approach

  1. You are almost out the other side! I gave up smoking when I was 18 – the reason being that my younger sister started and was nicking my fags. I was hoping she would stop too, but she still smokes. I’d been smoking since I was about 8 or 10 and it wasn’t that easy, however I got through with chocolate :-/ In retrospect, not such a good idea, but at 18 you can get away with it.

    I think it’s good to get angry, but not at yourself, at the big companies that make so much money off enabling an addiction that causes so much misery. You are right, you DON’T want to be that wheezing old lady. You don’t want to be my friend that had half his tongue and part of his throat surgically removed when he got mouth cancer either. Smoking has a dark and nasty underbelly and that is not the fault of smokers.

    *go Katie! You already smell better!*

    1. Thanks Sara for the wonderful support — although how I smell (or my ability to smell) is the least of my worries right now 😀 … maybe if you said I already taste better … mmmm xxx

  2. You can do it-that’s what you need to tell yourself. You have to go through the pain for a few days or a week or a month-but that pain and difficulty will end, it really will. You have got to be confident in yourself that you can live without them. Be tough on yourself-you’ve gotta be because even though those commercials might be offensive-it’s just showing what can/might happen if you don’t quit; and it ain’t pretty. I don’t look at those commercials as being high and mighty-I see them as a scare tactic-they may not work on already smokers but maybe they work on little kids so they won’t every want to try. Wishful thinking I imagine.
    Good luck-don’t give up on yourself!

    1. Thanks Raechelle – I know you’re the queen of sobriety and I’m full of respect for you.

      I still doubt that scare tactics ever stopped anyone doing anything. Studies show that avoidance motivation doesn’t work especially if the punishment is far off in the future.

      I think we should focus on the immediate pleasures of being/staying smoke- free and naming nicotine as a drug as addictive as heroin, coke or crack designed to bleed us dry financially.

      Thanks for the good wishes xx

  3. PS-I smoked for 5 years in my teens and 20’s and quit…so I’ve been through that too..and of course you know my other addiction history. You can get through it-trust me! It’s really not easy for too many people so you are not alone.

  4. Katie I smoked in my late teens [after I left home] and luckily [on this score]married a member of the anti smoking brigade when I was 26.. I love kissing.. he didn’t like kissing ‘ashtrays’ so I didn’t smoke when I was with him.
    I found the physiological cravings easier to deal with than the psychological…

    I was the same way with food. It took me a long time to realise with food that beeing on my for forbidden list was enough to make me crave that Tim Tam or pizza enough to go at 2am… Now that nothing is off limits I rarely crave unhealthy choices. Cucumber craving anybody?

    It was the same with smoking… and I used a similar tactic. I smoked OP’s. Frugality prevented me buying a packet, smoking one and ditching the rest. If I had the temerity to ask and bot one from a friend/associate I did but that became difficult after a while.. Despite buying and gifting packets around my regular donars it offended my moral code.. Once nicotine had lost its hold I found it was easier to move past the psychological yearning. Wondered for years if I was really a ‘non-smoker’ and how I would react under extreme distress. The milkbar wasn’t my immediate destination when my dad died.. I was truly cured! More than 2 decades ago now…

    If the advertising campaigns deter anyone from starting then they are worth it. I would never have started if I had been bombarded by those campaigns instead of those from the tobacco industry. The Marlborough man… sigh!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Amoro.
      Your advertising example almost supports my point — tobacco campaigns promising the immediate pleasure of smoking sucked us in in the past, so I think we should be concentrating on the immediate pleasures of being free – focus on what we’re gaining not what we’re missing (even if it is missing dying in hospital because it’s not much of a deterrent when we’re all going to die anyway).

  5. Hmm.. Good point.. Pleasure.. Gaining vs missing.. For some that may backfire. Focusing on what one is gaining acknowledges, by association, what one is missing. That can be enough to trigger the ‘deny=craving’ response. I think we all need to know which driver is steering our demon and act accordingly.
    Keep up the good work.
    Out of curiosity.. does Duckfish smoke?

  6. Hi Katie, I get where you’re coming from but based on my experiences and observations I disagree with your comment that by giving up dieting you’ll never overeat, ever again. I have a circle of friends (some ex-dieters, some have honestly never needed to diet and havent) with pretty normal eating behaviours and they all admit that they do sometimes overeat. They just dont do it regularly and they still maintain a steady weight.

    I wish I had the luxury of never having to think about food but with a family to care for and meals and shopping to plan for this is not an option. Similarly if I dont want to spend heaps on buying lunch in the city every day, then I need to bring something from home. Again, its thinking about food, planning it etc.

    Hang in there with the ciggies girl, I believe you’ll do it this time.

    xx m

    1. I was hedging my bets a little by using the word overeating when I meant bingeing. Bingeing is such a triggering word (and one I can never decide whether it has an ‘e’ or not) so I purposely glossed over it. Do any of your ‘normal eating’ friends binge???

      Yes we do have to think about food, even me … what I meant was we don’t have obsess about it – calories, good/bad, fat, treat, clean, carbs etc. etc.

      We each have a strategy that works for us. From where I am, I can see that so many woman struggle with controlling their weight. All I am saying in cold, hard words that might offend many people is

      “stop restricting then you’ll stop bingeing and food will no longer be the one thing you think about most during your day.”

      That’s what I think and that’s what works for me 😀 Your mileage may vary.

      Thanks for the encouragement about the smoking. ♥

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