I am thrilled to introduce you to Andrea Hellenbart. She is one of the newest members to the Meghan Inc. team. I have known her for nearly two years -- we first met in Costa Rica when she joined the 2013 retreat. We have since kept in touch, and when Andrea came to me to ask my thoughts on the best way to transition from a corporate job that was draining her energy and challenging her health, I had the perfect plan: Come on into the kitchen and play with us! She's awesome and I am confident you will find her experience below very inspiring. Enjoy! - Meghan
I smoked for 20 years. I started when everyone starts, ninth grade.
What 14 year old actually thinks they're going to become addicted to something for 20 years?
Over those 20 years, I tried to quit three times. The first two times were with whatever the new, hot quit smoking drug of the moment was being offered by my doctor. Both were very unsuccessful. I only lasted a month or so with these treatments.
This last time, it worked. It was the perfect storm of so many different factors, but it worked!
My perfect quitting storm included three things:
- I realized that there is NO way I wanted my story to include any more years of smoking than I had already accrued. So I made the decision that February 10th 2013 was to be my first day as a non-smoker.
- I needed a plan. My plan was to use the patch and I bought an electronic cigarette (non-nicotine, of course). The reason for the patch was to ensure that I didn’t cheat. It says right on the package, “If you smoke while wearing the patch, you could die.” That was a good enough reason for me. Wearing the patch only lasted two weeks and the electronic cigarette was just odd and gross tasting (like inhaling Windex out of a pen) so I never really took to that.
- I signed up for an AMAZING retreat in Costa Rica. It was a health and wellness retreat run by a well-known nutritionist, Meghan Telpner. (Have you heard of her?)
The retreat gave me time away from my usual routine and the lectures that Meghan and Josh gave were so informative that I knew, 100%, I could never go back to this terrible habit that had plagued me for so many years.
After only a few weeks I started to notice the most amazing changes. My senses came back to me! I smelled more scents than I ever had before, sometimes good and sometimes bad (public transit was far more pungent than I prefer). Taste, oh my gosh, TASTE! Everything was so much more flavorful! It was like I had never truly tasted anything before in my life.
The cravings were definitely something I could deal with, but it was breaking the habit that was the most noticeable and difficult. The trick was to start noticing the things that non smokers never notice… simple things like walking down the street and using both of your hands to drink a tea and hold an umbrella. (You could almost never do this while smoking, although I did attempt quite often and it was pretty hilarious to watch, I’m sure.) I also noticed major positive changes in my mood. No longer was I dreaming about my next cigarette, but I could just enjoy the moment of whatever I was doing or whomever I might be with.
I'm proud to say I've been totally smoke-free since my quit date, and while it hasn't been easy, I'd never go back.
5 Strategies to Stay on Track When Changing A Habit:
- Decide on a date and stick to it. It’s going to be hard no matter what, so pushing your date back doesn’t make it easier.
- Change your routine. It will help with triggers. Take a different route to work, get coffee or tea from a different place.
- Don’t get mad at yourself for having a major case of the “wants.” It’s fine to want something; you just don’t have to give in.
- Have a good support system in place. It helped me immensely that I had my friends as cheerleaders!
- Treat yourself to something nice. You are making a big and positive change and that deserves a reward. A new item of clothing, dinner out with friends, maybe even a vacation.
Quitting smoking was the best decision that I ever made. What health habit are you working on?
Andrea Hellenbart is the Director of Community Outreach and Partnerships with Meghan Telpner Inc. and the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. She is a meal prep queen and has the best jazz hands and shoulder shimmy we've ever seen.