Change Your Health Direction: A year in the life of a non-smoker

Hi everyone!

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.

nsmokI asked my friends to tell me their thoughts and my gorgeous pal Ciara (pictured with me here) said:

‘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.

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Quitters’ Update 25th March 2014

Hi again everyone!  Week 4 of Lent is upon us.  I’m no longer chocolate-free but thankfully I am still smoke-free!  We’re going to learn how one of our past bloggers has been getting on since we saw her in February but first, there are a couple of things to get through first…

#nomakeupselfie – did you do it?!  There’s a boy version and even a dog version.  And what a wonderful example of how a social media craze can help a charity raise much-needed funds, with the Irish Cancer Society currently clocking up over €600,000 in donations.

What struck me first about the resulting Facebook posts was how amazing all my friends look with no make-up on.  Seriously – it’s crazy that they bother with any at all.  I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such natural beauties!  What also struck me was how (relatively) young we still seem to look without the slap on.  Again, very lucky.  My own #nomakeupselfie showed how much healthier my skin is since quitting.  All good news and all very motivating.  It got me thinking though about the effects smoking has on your skin and I came upon a rather scary SmartPhone app (Android and Apple links below the image).

It’s called Smoking Time Machine and it’s by the Cumbria NHS in the UK. If this doesn’t convince you to consider quitting, I really don’t know what else will.  Check me out below.  I am NEVER smoking again!!

n1

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.rancon.smokingtimemachinefeb2013

https://itunes.apple.com/ie/app/smoking-time-machine/id605504270?mt=8

I am going to print out this picture and put on my bathroom mirror.  Motivation enough I think!

Next up:  Social Smokers!  We need to talk.  You are rearing your heads time and time again as I speak to quitters and ex-smokers, and not in a good way, sorry.
n2Almost every single person I know attempting to quit has had slip-ups, of course.  But almost every single one of them has had a slip-up on a night out with a ‘Social Smoker’ pal.  Social Smoking is dangerous (we’ll get to that in a minute) of course, but you guys have the “luxury” of being able to limit your smoking to selected times and return to the life of a non-smoker very easily on Monday morning.  You must remember however that we  full-time smokers can’t.  When we fall off the wagon, it’s much harder for us to get back on and it can be extremely demotivating after all the hard work of quitting. We’ve heard a lot about support throughout the course of this blog and you guys need to help your quitting pals at the weekends.  And quitters, you need to make sure your social circles are aware of your efforts and therefore support you when temptation presents itself.  Don’t let the fact that ‘everyone was smoking’ be a reason you tarnish all your amazing work.  Take control of those situations instead of letting them control you.

I’m not finished with you yet!  Social Smoking is something that I’ve been wondering about a lot.  Is it okay just to smoke at weekends?  No, it is not.  You are tripling, yes TRIPLING, your risk of heart disease even with as little as one cigarette per day.  Check out the article below for more.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/a-20-a-day-smoker-will-rack-up-lifetime-bill-of-200000-260986.html

Okay, I feel like I’m lecturing now.  Let’s check in with one of our previous bloggers and see how she’s been getting on…

Lyndsey, Manager LloydsPharmacy Blanchardstown, Aged 27

 

Quit Date: 15th January

Still Smoke-Free: YES-ish

 

lyn‘Hey everybody!

So I’m writing this with a little bit of a sad face 😦

After me doing so well off the smokes I cracked and had a smoke….  February is my worst month of the year for personal reasons and I was dreading facing it being off the smokes as this would be where I would’ve smoked the most. 

I had a really bad day and I honestly thought “have a smoke it will make u feel better, it will clear your head”. So I did, but it didn’t do anything of the sort it just made me feel light-headed and gutted that I had given in 😦

But I’m back on track now. I know it didn’t help having a smoke so I’ll remember that when I think it will fix things. However on the positive side of things we have booked our 1st family holiday for August from the savings and now I’ve two very excited kiddies.

So it’s back on with the patches and being back to smoke-free Lyndsey :)’

 

Thank you Lyndsey and congratulations on the holiday!!

Lyndsey is doing wonderfully to have only slipped up once.  And indeed that slip-up made her realise that she is doing the right thing.  EVERYONE I speak to who has given up smoking is glad they gave up smoking and is healthier and wealthier as a result.  What on earth are you waiting for?

Remember, you are 4 times more likely to quit with one-to-one coaching so visit your local LloydsPharmacy and ask how we can help you get Smoking under Control, or ask your local pharmacy what support they have available.  Further support is available at www.quit.ie

Chat soon,

Naomi…

 

 

Quitters’ Update Thursday: Week 4

naomiHi again everyone. Naomi here, still smoke-free and still having to concentrate very hard on staying smoke-free. It’s getting easier to deal with the cravings but I tell you what, it’s hard to keep the focus.

We’ve lost a blogger this week – Ciara is still doing really well with her quitting but she’s finding that writing the blog is making her think about smoking! That’s no good, is it?! Thanks Ciara for sharing your story with us so far. This got me thinking though about focus. It makes sense in January to focus on quitting and saving money and getting healthy after over-indulging over Christmas. But once February comes, it’s harder to keep the momentum going. Nights out start to become more frequent and you have some cash in your pocket again. We can’t keep blogging forever so I’m starting to wonder how long more I will last…

I heard an amazing story last week from one of my colleagues in LloydsPharmacy The Mill, Clondalkin. Noeleen is blogging away over on the Weight Loss Blog (have a read of it, it’s really great!). She gave up smoking 14 years ago and she had a very clever way of keeping her focus. Noeleen was saving hundreds of euro each month so she decided to treat herself to her first every new car. The money she was saving from smoking became her loan repayment – this meant she just couldn’t afford to smoke, even if she wanted to. And she had that loan cleared in a year! I thought this was so inspiring.

It’s also important to keep doing whatever it is you’ve been doing to become a successful quitter. For me, it’s ensuring my friends and family don’t let me slip, ensuring I do something with my money, and ensuring I keep using my NRT and keep tracking my progress. 4 weeks in and I feel healthier, cleaner, and far more energetic. I now need to put this energy to good use! Hopefully I’ll have figured out how by the time we finish with this blog…

Time to check in on how our customer David has been getting on since last week…

David, Teacher, Aged 33

Still Smoke-free?  Yes!

Blog 4 – I don’t want trouble!

‘Hi all,

daveSo here I am settling into my weekly blog routine, much the same way as I’ve settled into a routine of not smoking. I’m continuing to use the patches and have found that I never even think about smoking for most of the week. The only time that I get them on my mind, and immediately fold, is during the weekends when socialising.

This weekend though, for the first time since I quit, went very well and was definitely the most successful to date. A social event on one of the nights went fine as I was not drinking and didn’t know any of the smokers so had no reason to sneak outside for one. On top of this I genuinely didn’t feel a desire for one.

On another occasion I was in the pub and having my first pint since December. This used to be an unmanageable temptation when I tried to quit previously. I always had the impression that you have the most craic outside the pub and there was normally a partner in crime to head outside with. This time around though, I didn’t cave in. I was happy to sit in, and chat away to the people with me and never even considered heading for the door.

When I think about how I managed to get through the weekend a few things come to mind. No one else was smoking – they must be a dying breed – so I never even thought about it. For me having a support network of non-smokers is really helpful. All the bad weather makes it miserable to be anywhere close to the wind and rain so this has also encouraged me to stay out of trouble.

Until next week,

David.’

Well done on your first smoke-free weekend David!

Once again in David’s update, we can see how important a support network is in quitting.  For me, I’m almost afraid to let my friends down, never mind my boss! (We can’t have a failed quitter writing this blog!)  What’s going to keep us all going?

Keep the feedback coming.  We’re back on Saturday to check up on Lyndsey’s progress.

Chat soon,

Naomi…