My name is Naomi O’Farrell and I’m the Health Strategy Manager at LloydsPharmacy Ireland. In December 2013, I was still a smoker. And worse still, I was a smoker who was about to launch a Smoking Control service for our customers. The irony continued to be lost on me as I finalised the last aspect of our campaign by reaching out to our smoking colleagues in the pharmacies, asking them to consider quitting and to write a blog for us about their experience.
We talk a lot in LloydsPharmacy about ‘inspiring more positive lives’ and this time last year, I experienced that first hand when faced with the obvious dilemma of heading up an anti-smoking campaign while still addicted to the terrible things. How on earth could I expect my colleagues to help me promote a quit smoking service when I wasn’t prepared to do it myself? And that’s when I decided I would be the one to kick off our new blog; finally, I would start practicing what I preached and give up smoking. On the 13th of January 2014, I became a non-smoker…
When I was asked to write an account of how things are now, a year after quitting, I tried to think about the differences I’ve noticed. To be honest, it just seems normal now. There are times when I would love a cigarette, I won’t lie – mostly when something very stressful happens. You can’t always go out for a run when tensions are high! So I’ve tried to think of other ways to calm down and it’s usually just a few deep breaths. But overall, you actually just get used to it.
That said, being a non-smoker facilitates you being fitter, obviously. Initially, to tackle some weight gain I experienced just after quitting, I started the C25K running programme in May 2014. This was a really big deal for me – I had never run, or exercised much at all for that matter, because smoking makes that difficult. My proudest achievement in 2014 wasn’t actually quitting smoking; it was running two races, 5K in September and 10K in November and finishing both! I am aiming for another 10K in April and have also started swimming. And I’ve become a much healthier cook. I’m currently in the midst of our Change Your Health Direction weight-loss programme, trying to get to optimal BMI. But this all feels like so much less effort than it would have done a few years ago, honestly.
This all sounds too wholesome to be true, right? I promise I’m not making it up! I guess I was consciously trying to keep the momentum going after quitting, keeping my focus positive and healthy, so I carried it through to food and fitness. Smoking was very much a way to keep calm for me, a tool to keep mentally healthy (or so I thought at least). My substitute turned out to be exercise and healthy eating.
It’s no secret that quitting smoking is the single most significant improvement you can make to your health and that once you reach the point where you start to look and feel infinitely healthier, you’ll never look back. However, the most positive aspect of this whole experience for me has been sharing the journey with my fellow blogging quitters. This to me is what it means to inspire more positive lives – sharing your experience, your knowledge and your expertise with others in order to provide the necessary support for them to reach their goals, whatever they are. This is what we do in our pharmacies every single day.
You cannot give up smoking without support. Our bloggers talked about it time and time again; your family and friends must be behind you for you to succeed. Too many slip-ups occurred on a night out when someone offered a cigarette to one of our quitters. Throughout the past 12 months, I have been blessed with consistent encouragement and support from colleagues and friends, without which I would not have succeeded. And what’s more, some of my colleagues and friends have since chosen to follow our lead and also quit smoking. Talk about inspiring positivity! I know my friends and family are very proud of me and I thank them for their support.
‘Naomi has a whole new outlook since quitting smoking last year. She now enjoys big walks with us at weekends. And she seems to only cook healthy food now. She is now healthier than us non-smokers ever were! I need to start living like her rather than in the past when we were lecturing her on healthy living.’
If you are considering taking the plunge and quitting the habit, there is no better time than right now. If the time is right for you, luck and willpower alone won’t do it for you – you need to work hard at staying positive, keep picturing the end game, stay focused on your goals and, I cannot stress this enough, let those around you help, not impede, your progress.
But don’t just take my word for it – check out what my amazing co-quitters went through by checking out our Quitters’ Blog. We hope that it inspires some of you to make the most positive decision you can for your health. I certainly couldn’t have done it without them.
Written by Naomi.