I had no intention of quitting cigarettes at the start of the year. I’d been smoking for so long – almost a decade, in fact – that I felt the damage had already been done. Didn’t see the point.
Despite being aware of the harmful effects of tobacco addiction, smoking had been the single most consistent feature not only as a (bad) habit that stood the test of time in a life where everything else is always fleeting, but also as a thread that weaved seamlessly every memory in my adulthood.
Cigs, as far as I was concerned, got me through varsity.
They were ‘there’ for the good times as much as they were there to pacify anxiety. (I’d later learn that this affectionate language about cigarettes was based on a false internal dialogue that framed tobacco as a ‘friend’)
I’d structured my daily routine around the habit. I’d sooner starve than not have a cigarette somewhere within reach. In short, I was very much addicted. So hooked that the idea of giving up cold turkey never even crossed my mind.
But after eight years of not being able to get through two hours without puffing it up, I had my last cigarette in April this year.
WHY I DECIDED TO QUIT SMOKING
The moment I quit was so sublimely simple and quiet that I can only credit it to God’s grace. It was peaceful; I couldn’t believe such a life-changing decision was a calm moment of clarity.
Here’s what happened on April 23rd, 2018; I stepped outside the office to the smoking area with a friend on a lush Monday afternoon this past Autumn. I then realized I hadn’t brought my cigarettes with me.
“Lord I know I’m playing games with these cigarettes but I rebuke lung cancer in my life.”
Neither had she.
“What now?”, I asked her before signalling to the security guard who’s always good with a stash.
The friend then said something that struck me, and instantly planted the idea that perhaps it was time for me to quit. She said she wanted to be able to just hang out outside and catch some fresh air. That it didn’t always have to be about smoking.
I couldn’t believe how that never occurred to me. For me going outside, taking a break, catching some fresh air, always meant smoking. Somehow that realisation shocked me and I knew I’d be having my last cigarette by that midnight.
6 WAYS MY LIFE HAS CHANGED AFTER I QUIT
My Sense of Smell Is Back
Smoking irritates the nasal passages, which leads to inflammation that can affect a person’s sense of smell, according to Dr Ivan A Hernandez. Years of nicotine inhaling also affects the olfactory nerves that are located at the back of your nose, which dulls your general sense of smell.
I had no idea that smoking had been damaging my sense of smell. It never really crossed my mind for the eight years, which is why my only smoke prayers had centred around just lung cancer. Lord I know I’m playing games with these cigarettes but I rebuke lung cancer in my life.
Turns out there’s so much more than just that.
When I dug around the internet for some tips on quitting the day before I took the plunge, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an improved sense of smell was amongst the many benefits of giving up nicotine. I couldn’t wait to smell the fresh morning breeze with more intensity, which starts happening around week two.
Two weeks after quitting tobacco I could smell food from a superhuman distance, which didn’t help my rapid weight gain.
Here’s a photo someone recently sent me from a couple of years ago that part of me never wants to see again. The difference in my skin tone and texture between then and now is remarkable, and I haven’t introduced any chemicals or treatments to my skin care routine.
I will keep it around though, since it’s a nice addition to the ‘before and after’ collection of snaps showcasing the many ways my skin, eyes and hair have improved along with the cessation of smoking and refined sugar, amongst other lifestyle changes.
The photographer captured me with a cigarette in my hands, puffing away at a team building retreat. I’m shocked now at how dry my skin looked. I could be dramatic, but you can literally see dead cells on my hands. The fingers were stained, skin tone uneven,
There’s More Energy
I added thirty more minutes to my gym sessions within weeks after quitting. It happened very organically. I found myself with more stamina during my workouts, which began about two and half weeks after my last cig. In contrast, cigarettes were quite tiring. That’s quite interesting, because most smokers would report otherwise.
That’s because tobacco can give you a surge in clarity, energy and a sense of calmness. Nicotine, a stimulant found naturally in tobacco products, enters the bloodstream quickly and starts playing games with your brain, which leaves the smoker feeling more energetic and less stressed, according to Vaping Daily.
While that sounds awesome, that energy spike is temporary.
These short-lived effects are soon replaced by negative physical symptoms of agitation and restless as soon as the smoker ‘crashes’ from the high. In fact, energy and mood levels after the smoke tend to reach levels lower than pre-smoking levels. The smoker must have another one to ‘boost’ their energy, which creates an endless, self-defeating loop.
This is one of those things where you only realise how bad things were after leaving the situation. The money you save afterwards is not only a measure of how much the habit actually cost you, but it also serves as motivation for you to continue in your walk towards better health, despite the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
A fun challenge, if you intend to but haven’t quit yet, is to determine how many packs you buy every week, and then withdraw that money and put it aside for a month. Seeing the hard cash is a thrill on its own!
And then, of course, you can use that money to reward yourself for taking active steps towards an improved life.
Taste Buds Are Working Again!
I read about this one the day before I quit, and I instantly looked forward to being able to enjoy my food more! I did… a little too much. I started to taste food much better around day 7, and of course, it led to me eating more, which led to serious weight gain.
For me though, a bit of weight gain was okay because the intention was to kick a habit that’s not easy to escape by any measure. I went two sizes and kept the weight on until I gave up sugar. After that, the cravings stabilised, so the journey to refined abs resumed! Here’s a recent thirst trap snap I shared of my progress.
The weight loss is taking longer than before because I’m doing it the healthy way, but for me it was all worth it in the end.
I haven’t discussed the actual withdrawal symptoms and severity of cravings in this article because that will be addressed elsewhere in greater detail, but I was pleasantly surprised that insomnia was not on that list.
While I found myself dealing with itchy skin, heartburn, indigestion, chest pains, flu, dizziness, lack of energy, edginess, insatiable hunger pangs and so much more, I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep through even the most severe of the withdrawal symptoms.
A weeks later, I found that my sleeping patterns had improved quite significantly!
I will be sharing many more useful insights on this topic moving forward. But I’m also looking forward to hearing from you and your journey. Get in touch with us in the comments section below!
Giving Up Sugar In Your Tea: The Skin Benefits To Expect
There’s no sugarcoating it, the white stuff is bad for you. That’s the tea. Quit and here’s everything your skin will be thanking you for.
The idea of tea with no sugar had always been incredibly weird to me, as much as it is for many.
The reality turned out to be even less appealing, of course, the first morning I attempted ditching refined sugar in all my hot beverages. Switching to a teaspoon of honey and some lemon was especially awful at first.
Having plunged from 5 teaspoons of sugar (I know, right!?) on 10 cups of tea a day to that, the whole mildly sweet and sour taste threw me off. Then there were green teas. Ja, no.
‘Sugar ages your skin “faster than a lifetime of lying in the sun”‘
Like millions of people, I loved nothing more than kicking off my mornings with a creamy cup of super sweet tea. The five teaspoons did the trick, a cigarette and some Wendy Williams ‘Hot Topics’ segment on YouTube to kick off my day with that punch of good shade.
But, to summarise a plot twist that led to a series of positive lifestyle changes; I quit cigarettes, cold turkey.
Two things happened after I quit smoking; my taste buds cleared and everything tasted so much better, and I developed a superhuman smell that helped me to sniff sugar through walls, basically. Although I knew better than giving in to the primordial urges, I also knew better than messing with the most sensitive days of my cigarette detox.
For a while, I gave in and started bingeing as I needed a lot of activity around my mouth to wean me off from the threat of a relapse. Less than a month in, I had gained over 5 kilos, my skin had broken out and I was bloated.
As much as I hated those first sugar-free days, I can only thank myself now for sticking it out! The health benefits start as soon as you stop. Here’s why your skin will thank you
Slow Down Aging
Excluding refined sugar from your hot beverages, cereals, snacks and meals can slow down the ageing process quite significantly.
Many people who give up sugar report an improvement on the texture and tone of their skin, typically with diminished blemishes. I started noticing a glow to my skin just days after ditching the white stuff, and many people would follow with the positive feedback around two weeks later.
RELATED: 5 THINGS TO EXPECT WHEN YOU GO VEGAN
The benefits of doing away with sugar include fewer wrinkles in the long run, and better-looking skin now.
Why? Because sugar ages your skin “faster than a lifetime of lying in the sun”, according to Dr Patricia Farris via DailyMail, where she also describes sugar as “the new nicotine.”
The accelerated ageing occurs when our bodies break down glucose from sugar and refined carbohydrates. On the contrary, quitting sugar renders collagen and elastin more supple and resilient.
Acne and breakouts are directly caused by a hormonal imbalance or surge. Food that is high in sugar causes this hormonal reaction in the body. The body absorbs the sugar rapidly, which leads to the release of insulin for regulation of that sugar.
Insulin will most likely inform the body to store access sugar as fat; this is the reason reducing sugar consumption is essential for torching weight. In general, the activation of insulin gets the body in the mood to store fat.
As far as skin is concerned, though, glycemic foods and sugar activate hormones that stimulate the production of oil, which in turn proliferates skin cells that block and clog pores.
Along with medications, a low glycemic index diet is now recommended by many dermatologists as an effective treatment for acne.
Psoriasis refers to a chronic skin disease that shows up through red, scaly and often itchy blotches of skin, according to www.skinsmatter.com. It can affect the scalp, elbows and knees. In extreme cases, it can affect the whole body. While both non-life threatening and incurable, the condition can be treated with a low sugar or ‘anti-fungal diet’.
Wanna replace that first cup of coffee or tea with sugar with something just as yummy, but with fewer health risks? Take a look at 7 Smoothie Ingredients for Weight Loss
Going Vegan? 5 Things To Expect!
If you are thinking about ditching meat and other animal-based foods and products for a plant-based diet, these are the radical changes you should anticipate
The number of people who are going vegan is growing, and the ease of transitioning to one is scaling along with this trend.
And as far as establishments are concerned, vegan options are being availed more readily. You can grab a raw vegan cheesecake at many cafes and restaurants in major cities now.
Moreover, efforts by brands like Woolies to cater for – and promote – a range of plant-based alternatives is a tell-tale sign of the shifting cultural landscape.
I happen to be acquainted with a few people who’ve now opted to completely exclude animal products from their diets, and a few others are at least toying around with the idea of reducing their consumption significantly.
As former meat eaters, their experiences couldn’t be more fascinating.
There’s the social aspect of it; the persistent social stigma attached to veganism. After the switch, I’ve been told, you soon find that navigating and negotiating your way around social settings that involve dining is not as smooth as before.
If you are considering the switch, you will benefit from the following list of 10 Things To Expect when you Become Vegan.
Before we delve into your new looming realities and the adjustments to be anticipated, let’s first define what veganism actually is.
The Vegan Society describes veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
As you can glean from this definition, veganism is a philosophy that rejects the (ill-) treatment of animals as commodities.
Vegans do not eat any kind of meat, dairy products and eggs. Some vegans do it for ethical reasons, others out of concern for the environment, and still, others are motivated by the health benefits associated with the dietary lifestyle.
Now that we’ve cleared the air, here’s what awaits you on the greener pastures!
A timely glimpse of the existing stigma surrounding veganism found a platform on the Real Housewives of Johannesburg, where Mercy encountered various social humps as she navigated life as an instrumental black vegan. The girls weren’t really being sports about it, to put it mildly.
In one case, she had to get rid of scrummy vegan meals she’d ordered after almost none of the ladies showed up to her vegan themed intimate shindig. The health and wellness advocate, who has shared her journey to weight loss through a plant-based lifestyle, often found herself being a subject of much teasing from the girls.
And while a lot of it was garnished with the typical dose of heightened television drama, attitudes towards vegans are generally negative.
A recent study indicates that those who opt for ‘clean eating’, in general, stand to lose a few points on the likeability scale.
“People get on the defensive the second you tell them you are vegan”, a vegan friend told me as he detailed his own experiences as a black vegan.
After two years leading a plant-based life, he has clocked in the hours as both a proud vegan and as somewhat of an expert on the social awkwardness that greets those who eschew meat.
“People’s reactions are always so interesting. They look at you like, ‘Okay…’, you are judging me. Snob.'”
Expect that your departure from the hegemonic hooks of meat eating will come with a lot of coming out, and explaining, and defending, and being ridiculed, and sometimes, being avoided.
THE WAY YOU COOK WILL CHANGE
Besides foregoing all animal-based foods, products and derivatives in your kitchen, the way you prepare food will have to change. Most new vegans often find that the absence of meat, dairy and eggs means they have to get extra creative with how they prepare food. You’ve got raw veggies, fruits and nuts to keep your meals appetising and vibrant.
As such, steaming all the veggies won’t cut it anymore. They are now the dish. Think about it.
YOU WILL CRAVE CERTAIN THINGS
The first 30 transitional days of going vegan (or going anything, really), will be the most challenging. After that things get easier and easier as your taste buds adjust to your new eating habits and your general lifestyle has transformed to promote consistency.
But, as with all drastic lifestyle changes, you will fantasise and crave certain things from time to time, and it’s okay. Vegan diets are highly restrictive, which makes them challenging to sustain, especially at first.
YOUR SKIN WILL POP
Amongst the many benefits of whole foods is the effect it can have on your skin. Many vegans report remarkably improved skin complexion, tone and texture within days of taking up the diet.
The exclusion of processed foods, dairy and red meats render vegan diets high in fibre and low in saturated fats than the average diet. This, according to Greatist.com, makes way for an enhanced function of insulin and glucagon production, which control your sugar metabolism. The imbalance of insulin can lead to clogged pores, which causes acne.
YOUR ENERGY LEVELS WILL SHOOT UP
There’s word on the vegan streets, amongst vegans, that your levels sky rocket in the beginning. This surge, according to a vegan friend I consulted with for subjective feedback on this, is quite exciting. “You feel like taking on the world”, he said. According to research, however, there isn’t a direct link to sustained levels of energy and veganism.
According to Elite Daily, a vegan diet doesnt automatically make you healthier. Yes, the fruits and vegetables are more nutritious and low in saturated fats, but quantities, combinations and quality still matter.
Avoid These 5 Foods To Achieve Defined Abs!
‘Abs are made in the kitchen’, and these 5 foods aren’t doing your six-pack pursuit any favours.
Your journey to achieving that enviably flat stomach – hopefully with an impressive set of ripped abs – is one that requires adjustments to your eating habits. I wish I had known at the very start of my own gym life that the bi-weekly fried chicken drive-throughs weren’t doing wonders for the abdominals.
Sure, a million crunches and a steady exercise plan will strengthen your abs. But no one – much less yourself – will actually see them if they are hidden very far beneath layers of stubborn fat.
In order to start torching some of that excess fat away, you are gonna have to shake more than the booty at the gym. You’ll also have to shake off a few other bad eating habits; ditch the beers, the pizzas, the kotas and start cleaning up your act in the kitchen.
But before we get into the 5 Foods To Avoid In Order to Achieve Refined Abs, first take a look at 5 simple rules on approaching the kitchen differently.
5 FOOD FACTS FOR DEFINED ABS
- The first rule is clear-cut but not incredibly simple to implement; Reduce your daily caloric intake to create a deficit that will promote fat loss. You are likely to start seeing a difference in your midsection after dropping a few kilos, which is in itself quite motivating.
- According to Men’s Journal; in order to achieve optimal muscle definition to your abs, your body weight must be between 18% – 24% for men, while Oxygen Magazine recommends between 15% – 20% for women.
- For faster results, cut back on refined carbs that lack in nutrients. That list, I’m afraid, includes sodas (which means gin and tonic is off the table, ya’ll), sweets and pastries. The problem with simple sugars, warns Dr. Mehmet Oz, is that they are absorbed quite quickly, which spikes up blood sugar levels for an energy high. The downside to this spike is that it triggers an insulin reaction, which plunges the levels back down, resulting in fatigue.
- In fact, you are likely to experience more hunger after a sugar high. What’s more, your body stores those rapidly absorbed empty calories as fat. Obviously not a good start for your efforts to diminish tummy fat.
- Keep your consumption of saturated fat between 7-10%. Saturated fats lead to fattier bodies, in general. The solution is to opt for ‘monounsaturated fats’, which can be found in oil, avocados and certain kinds of nuts. Healthline.com reports the perks of monounsaturated fats to include the reduction of heart disease risk and inflammation.
7 WORST FOODS FOR ABS
It pains me to echo reports that potato chips – and other variations of the ‘amplified potato’ – have been proven to lead to bigger waistlines. My very own denial came to a halt after being acquainted with a study by Harvard University, which might have proven that out of all foods, potato chips contribute the most weight gain.
Potato chips are blown up with saturated fats, according to zerobelly.com. That fat won’t spare your lower abdominal area. They are full of salt, which, in addition to all the health risks with excessive consumption, also lead to mid-level bloating.
And it’s not just about the calories.
It’s actually more what the potato chips lack that makes them bad for fat loss. Delicious as they are, they lack satiety – which refers to the ability to make you feel full.
Which leads us to one irresistible South African township favourite – the lovely kota. Unfortunately for everyone involved, you are packing the pounds every time you treat yourself to this tasty delicacy. High cholesterol aside, an average kota packs nearly every type of food that spells bad news for your health and weight loss.
The calorie count of an average kota is hard to ascertain as research on this remains a curious scacity, but based on the nutritional information at hand on the foods that feature in a kota, there’s enough for you to know a kota is a flat belly saboteur.
Kotas typically come in standard white bread, which carries excessive empty calories. Then you have the fried potato chips – the world’s most fattening food item. We are just getting started! Most kotas come with a slice of cheese (contains lactose and high in saturated fat), polony (processed) and sausages (processed, red meat). Furthermore, the ability to keep adding these yummy ingredients to build a beast kota is part of the thrill.
However, it’s also part of the reason why you will need to cut back significantly on kotas.
If you are reading this article, chances are you have at least thought about weight loss, which means you’ve also thought of diet soda as an effective alternative to the standard no-no. Here’s the short and simple fact; it’s the furthest thing from being a real catalyst for weight loss.
On the contrary, these carbonated beverages lead to more weight gain than normal studies. Inc.com notes several studies that prove you are likely to gain twice as much weight on diet soda in the long run. One of the reasons for the phenomenon, some researchers have suggested, is that diet soda drinkers often overestimate the amount of calories they are actually ‘saving’. Yikes.
We all have to come to terms with the truth that alcohol is linked to gaining and keeping weight.
Reasons for that range from the fact that alcohol slows down your body’s ability to burn fat to your judgement being compromised with the sips – making a quick drive through the best idea a few drinks down the line. It’s also quite high in kilojoules and can make you feel really hungry.
Side note if you aren’t au fait: excessive consumption of alcohol is asking for all kinds of health troubles in general.
HIDDEN SUGAR BOMBS
Perceptions of high nutritional value in certain foods trick many people into consuming ‘hidden’ sugarbombs every day, which derails health and weight loss pursuits. That’s because, amongst a bevvy of reasons, most people aren’t aware just how much sugar these foods contain. Examples of foods you aren’t aware pack excessive sugars include instant oatmeals, salad dressings, certain smoothies, protein/energy bars and bottled tea.