Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why to Quit and How to Quit - 3 Things Determine Your Success

It's the Great American Smoke-Out. Today (and April first) are the most common days for people to quit smoking. (No, not "try" to quit, like on New Year's Day, but actually do it.)

If you're considering it, let me forward some info I've gathered from the American Heart & Lung Association and the ingredient labels from various packs of smokes. It might be ... enlightening.


Consider what all goes into your cigarettes. They aren't just tobacco in paper anymore! When you light up, you're igniting things like:
• formaldehyde (the liquid that embalmers use, the same stuff that the frogs floated in in your biology class)
• ammonia (a harsh ingredient common in toilet and window cleaners; you're supposed to only use it in well-ventilated areas)
• arsenic (naturally occurring, but also used as a poison)
• DDT (insecticide)
• high fructose corn syrup (same stuff as in food, except by burning it, you're processing it yet again, making it even more dangerous)
• sugar (oh yeah, the cigarette diet is so great)
• molasses (plain sugar may not be enough)
• yeast
• flavoring like licorice, chocolate, and vanilla (starting to sound like burned candy)
• cedarwood oil and patchouli (wait, now it's aftershave)
• valerian root extract (a mild tranquilizer)
• cadmium (used in batteries)
• lead (we all know the risks of ingesting lead)
• methoprene (another insecticide)
• napthalene (found in mothballs)

Need more incentive? Consider what you're teaching kids (yours and others) by example. Consider your health and quality of life. What does it mean to your family and friends?

If you stopped smoking right now...

In 20 minutes:
o Your blood pressure decreases
o Your pulse drops to normal
o Circulation improves to hands and feet and their temperatures rise

In 8 hours:
o Oxygen levels in your blood rise to normal
o Carbon Dioxide levels in your blood drop to normal

In 24 hours:
o Your chance of a heart attack goes down

After a few weeks:
o Your circulation and lung function improve

Within 1 to 9 months:
o Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath have decreased

Within a year:
o Your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half

Five to ten years:
o Your risk of stroke is the same as someone who never smoked

Ten years:
o Your risk of ulcer decreases
o Your risk of lung cancer is cut in half
o Your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, bladder, and kidney cancer decreases

Fifteen years:
o Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked
o Your risk of death is almost the same as someone who never smoked


Just giving you more reasons doesn't really help, does it?

Most smokers already have plenty of reasons. But here are three things you have to know before you "quit again."

1. Quitting isn't just a matter of motivation or willpower. If that was the case, you wouldn't have gotten addicted in the first place.

There's a theory that says that we're addicted to things, not because we like them but precisely because they are harmful - toxic - to us. Harmful substances create unpleasant effects in our minds and bodies, but the relief that comes as the substances leave us is so great in comparison that we want to keep experiencing that sensation. The only way to achieve the feeling is to go through the unpleasantness first. So we keep taking the toxin.

The ultimate question you must ask yourself is not why you want to quit. What you must ask is, why did you start? Explore that question deeeeeeply!

Possible answers: you weren't nursed enough as a baby, you have some other weird oral fixation, you need something to do with your hands, you are an impulsive eater and ciggies keep food out of your mouth, it looked cool the first time you did it, your parents smoked, all your friends smoked, etc.

Now, take that answer, and think about this. In your life NOW, is your answer still a valid reason to keep smoking? Until you can honestly say no, and believe it, you'll have a hard time. (It's not impossible, but it'll be a lot more of a challenge.)

2. You can never make or break a habit for someone else - it never works. So don't say you have to quit for the sake of your kids or something. You can only quit for YOU. Once you've figured out how you got yourself into this, you also must consider why you want to.

What's your goal? To be healthier? To live longer? To share more with your family or friends? To be able to do more?

Quitting for the sake of quitting is noble enough, but not usually motivating enough for most of us. Ask mountain climbers why they strive for the peak of Mt. Everest, and a common response is "because it's there." We shrug and nod and we might understand that response, but it's not enough for us. Of course it's there, but how many people do you know lining up to go climb it?

So just because you can make it a goal isn't necessarily going to be enough to get you to do something about it. Be absolutely clear in terms of your purpose for the goal.

3. OK, the mental work is done. Let me leave you this last tidbit of advice: Forget the patches, the lozenges, and the gum. Success rates overall are less than 10%, and those things end up costing hundreds of dollars in very little time. The cold turkey approach has better success stats, if you can handle the withdrawal symptoms.

Instead, bust out $50 and get the electronic cigarette. It delivers nicotine, but the "fumes" are just water vapor. No stink, no second-hand smoke. And even hard-core smokers who have used have reduced their use of it (and totally quit regular smokes) by as much as 50% within just a few months. Many quit completely within 6 months. MUCH better success rate, much lower cost, and much kinder to those around you.

As always, when it comes to your health, you should talk to your doctor. Talk to your family and friends and let them know your new goal - the more social support you have, the easier the process will be!

Quitting smoking is a life-changing goal. It's big, hairy, ugly, and audacious. And it's probably one of the best things you can do for yourself. Just the decision to quit is a pretty big step. If you've made that step, be proud of yourself! That first one is one of the toughest and bravest things you'll ever do.

Now take the next step. I'll walk beside you, if you want.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mark Your Calendars - Big Days in November

There are some big days coming up later this month. If you want to show off your time management skills and participate in any of these, you're gonna need some advance notice to get things scheduled, right?

Here ya go:

Thursday, November 17
Great American Smokeout
Whole 'nother blog post on that one, coming Thursday. In the meantime, though, you can get yourself psyched up if you plan to quit.

Sunday, November 20
World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims
Over a million people die every year due to traffic accidents. My father was one of them, when I was a teenager. He was killed on the freeway when a vehicle coming from the opposite direction crossed the median and hit him head-on, despite my dad following all the rules of safety. The mortician did what he could so we could have an open-casket funeral. Sometimes there are unavoidable but tragic accidents, but so many accidents - and so many fatalities - could be prevented. Just takes awareness. For more info, go to

Saturday, November 26
Small Business Saturday
I LOVE this idea! After the traditional chaos of Black Friday at the big stores, this calls for us to support our local small businesses. If you have a small business and would like to promote it, to pledge to shop small, or to see which small businesses are offering incentives in your area, go to

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Parents as Teachers: A Love-Hate Thing

Officially, National Parents As Teachers Day celebrates organizations that help parents help their children, especially during early childhood, in healthy development and school readiness.

The official agenda is not without criticism:
• At some point, your child may be identified as "at risk". This could happen when the hospital reports the birth, or it could happen after your child starts school.
• A home visitor will drop by to evaluate your home, family, and child. Your situation will be categorized by risk factors (socio-economic, parental ignorance, parental incompetence, etc). Of course you'll have at least one, because there is no category for "normal" or "healthy". (Well, maybe, depending on the specific program, but I have yet to hear of it.)
• To be a home visitor, one need not be a parent or teacher, only attend a 3-day training program. Three days is deemed sufficient for a complete stranger with no background to evaluate how well you're attending to your child's needs based on as little as a 15-minute visit.
• Parents as Teachers support "early intervention and parental involvement" by lobbying for policy changes at the local, state, and national level.

So people, possibly with no background, come into your home, decide what kind of inept parent you obviously are, and then use your information as part of their "evidence-based model" to show the need for more laws pertaining to parenting.

Alarmist? Maybe.


In concept, Parents As Teachers raises awareness that parents are the primary teachers of their children, which is as it should be! If a parent is responsible enough to reproduce, the parent should also be responsible enough to promote their own child's well-being, right?

This process starts at home and it starts very early in life. One of the first social skills a baby learns is trust. Babies learn whether they can trust people or not, based on how quickly and consistently their needs are met. That sense of trust is the basis of love. If a child learns he cannot trust, he fails to learn to love. There is actually a physical difference in the brain between a secure, attached baby and one who has learned not to trust. That physical difference prevents a child from being able to understand morals and values later in life - he literally will not understand why some things are right and others are wrong. (See, there are no bad kids. There are kids who can't know better, and kids who have learned that bad is acceptable. There's hope for the latter.)

The second part of the process extends beyond the actual programs. When parents recognize the impact they have on their child's learning, they tend to be more actively involved in their child's education through childhood and into the teen years. Not just academics, although that's a huge part. But aware parents teach family values, heritage, self-esteem, goals, and how to make better decisions. Those are chunks of knowledge that help a person succeed as an adult, so they are ultimately just as important as recognizing early childhood development milestones.

Whether you agree with the official agenda is your call. But I hope you will approve the intent behind it. Kids need all the support they can get.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Not So Much The Doing As The Thinking

In honor of "Give Up Your Shoulds" Day, I thought it would be appropriate to give you a few practical ways to do that.

Step One:
Pick one or two or five of the following statements that you RIGHT NOW would complete in a way you don't like.

• When under pressure I....
• I often feel guilty about ....
• When _____ happens I stress out and feel like....
• My Achilles’ heel (greatest weakness) is....
• I am always trying to stop ______ from happening.
• When the unexpected happens I....
• I always try to....
• What drives most of my behavior is....
• I am afraid of....
• I seek my ______’s approval (always/mostly/usually/occasionally)
• My most frequent negative/uncomfortable emotion is feeling....
• I need to learn to....

Well done - that wasn't all that easy, was it? But it's okay. If you don't like the truth of these statements, let's now consider them false. That means...

Step Two:
Re-write the statements so that they reflect what you'd LIKE to be true.
For example:
My Achilles' heel is ... lack of motivation
My Achilles' heel is ... chocolate, which is OK because I've exercised and finished my work, and I deserve a small reward.

Now post your new statements where you can see them, and read them every day like affirmations.

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