It was exactly one year ago today that I had my last cigarette. That makes it official, I am a quitter. I never thought I would be. I smoked one pack a day for 33 years. I started smoking for the very same reason most kids start, it was cool and I was not, but wanted to be. I was a 13 year old nerd when I first started smoking and it never got me any cool points in Junior High, or High School, but by that time, I was already a smoker.
Over the years I had many people preach to me about the dangers of smoking and I had my little pat lines to deflect the conversation. I used to say things like, “Sure smoking takes years off your life, but it’s the years at the end… and who wants those anyway?” , “I might die early, but I will die happy with a big yellow grin on my face”, “My parents never raised any quitters” or the clever “Piss off and mind your own damned business”.
I was a defiant smoker. It was part of my identity. So how did I quit?
There were two major factors that lead to my decision to quit. The first, it got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore. A carton of cigarettes where I live goes for just over $80, which works out to $360 per month. The second and most important factor was, I was ready. It got to the point where I didn’t like the taste anymore. The smell of cigarettes in my drapes and my clothes became nauseating. It just stopped being satisfying, so I quit on September 6th 2011 and never looked back.
Since quitting I have noticed all of the things that every quitter raves on and on about. Food tastes better, my sense of smell is heightened (which is both good and bad), no more yellow stains on my fingers or my teeth and all of that is great. Unfortunately, the fear that kept me smoking for 33 years came true… the dreaded weight gain. Yes, food tastes better, but that’s not necessarily a good thing if you want to keep your weight in check. I never had much of a sweet tooth before quitting, but after quitting, I couldn’t get enough ice cream and cake.
I figured I would indulge those cravings to “get over the hump” and then deal with losing the weight when I felt like I had successfully quit smoking. About 6 months in, I realized that I had gone from a size 6 to a size 10 (that’s an American size 4 to an American size 8). I had never worn a double digit size in my entire life. I’m 5’7″ and am small boned, so every pound shows. I refuse to buy a scale, so I am not sure exactly how many pounds I gained, but a two size gain is not acceptable. I have never seen rolls on my back before, but they are there now. My upper arms are starting to look like they are full of tapioca pudding. It’s not a pretty picture. At the 8 month mark, I went on the Atkins diet, a diet that has worked well for me in the past and I am walking a lot more. While it is helping, I am not shedding the weight as quickly and easily as I had before. Leave it to me to quit smoking during menopause, a time that goes hand in hand with weight gain.
I guess the point of all of this is a warning to all of you female smokers out there. If you think you may want to quit in the future, but are scared to quit because of the potential weight gain, don’t wait until mother nature slows your metabolism during menopause. because it’s just that much harder. And hot flashes when you are heavier are no joke.