Quit Smoking to Enhance Your Mediterranean-Diet Lifestyle
If you're on the Mediterranean diet, good for you! But if you're also a smoker, then you might be counteracting benefits you gain from that diet. Only one good thing can be said about cigarette smoking — it's good when you stop! Cigarette smoke harms virtually every vital organ, but it is particularly dangerous to the heart and lungs.
By smoking, you increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and lung disease; it's a leading cause of cancer deaths; it's particularly dangerous for women and African Americans; and exposes nonsmokers to second-hand smoke, which creates a whole host of health-related problems on its own.
When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine causes a number of immediate responses in your body. Your blood pressure and heart rate rise; the arteries supplying your heart narrow; the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry is reduced; and abnormalities occur in the way that your body handles various fats and blood sugar — none for the better.
Incidentally, anyone who thinks they're safe using smokeless tobacco, cigars, or pipes needs to think again. Those aren't any better — and may even be worse — than smoking is.
So you know you need to quit. Fortunately, a variety of sources offer excellent information to help smokers break the habit. Some particularly helpful resources were developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI — your tax dollars at work in a good cause).
Before your quit day, prepare yourself:
Switch brands. Find one that you find distasteful.
Cut down the number of cigarettes that you smoke each day.
Try not to smoke automatically (after meals and phone calls, for example).
Make smoking inconvenient. Go outside to smoke when it's cold or raining, go to malls or movies where smoking is prohibited, and so on.
Clean your clothes to get rid of the smell of cigarettes.
On the day that you quit, use these strategies:
Throw away all your cigarettes, matches, and lighters; if you can't stand to throw away your collection of ashtrays, store them in the most inaccessible corner of your attic.
Keep busy with plenty of activities on the big quit day. Remind your family and friends, so they can be extra supportive.
Think about things that you'd like to buy for yourself. Estimate their cost in terms of packs of cigarettes and put aside the money to buy these presents.
At the end of the day, buy yourself a treat or celebrate.
Immediately after you quit, adopt these techniques:
Develop a clean, fresh nonsmoking environment. Buy flowers now that you can enjoy their scents.
Drink large quantities of water.
If you miss the sensation of having a cigarette in your hand, find something else to keep your hands and fingers occupied.
Look for ways to minimize your temptation and to develop new habits, such as exercise. Exercising decreases yet another risk factor for heart disease.
Don't worry about gaining a small amount of weight, but do make sure that you have a well-balanced diet. As the appetite-depressing effect of nicotine disappears, avoid replacing cigarettes with calorie-dense candy, cookies, and snack foods. Try sugar-free gum or fresh fruits instead. Doing so helps you deal with the common experience of gaining some weight after you stop smoking.
If you slip and start to smoke again, don't be discouraged or give up. Remember, most smokers have to try several times before they finally succeed at quitting. Don't be too hard on yourself, and get back on the nonsmoking track as quickly as possible.