When you decide to quit smoking one of the most difficult aspects is dealing with cravings. Cravings are the main reason people give up and continue to smoke.
To give up smoking successfully it’s important to have a plan, support and either prescription medicine or nicotine replacement therapies. You will need plenty of willpower to beat the cravings, but the end results of improved health, a healthier environment for your family and the financial savings are worth the initial effort.
‘Craving’ refers to the feeling quitters experience when they feel the urge to smoke a cigarette. It happens because the body is missing its usual dose of nicotine. You may also have changed a routine and your mind wants to restore the habit, such as smoking with a cup of coffee.
There are two types of cravings:
- Constantly thinking about smoking. This type is a background desire to smoke.
- Bursts of cravings when you have a sudden desire to smoke. Often this is brought on by a trigger such as drinking alcohol, eating dinner or after a stressful event.
The good news is that cravings minimise over time as your body gets used to living without nicotine. The difficult part is fighting your cravings until that time arrives.
Here are some ways to deal with cravings:
Remind yourself why you are giving up
Think about your health, your family and your finances. Write down your reasons to reaffirm why you have chosen to quit smoking.
The craving will pass, but you need to distract yourself until it does. Go for a walk, read a book, phone someone and keep busy until it passes.
Call for support
Call the stop smoking service for support if you think you will smoke. They will talk to you until the craving passes. Online groups are useful too. Speak to others in the same position and offer your own support. This can lead to a strengthening of resolve.
It’s not forever
Remind yourself that these cravings are temporary and they will pass. Afterwards, you will have a smoke free life without dependency on tobacco. Long haul flights, the cinema and going out for a meal will become pleasant outings without the need for smoke breaks.
If you are in a smoking environment – leave it.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
These provide an amount of nicotine without the chemicals and tar that traditional cigarettes bring. Try using a patch, gum, lozenges or an inhaler (e-cig) to help minimise your cravings until you are ready to go NRT free.
Champix is a prescription medicine that tackles cravings by imitating nicotine and blocking the reward chemicals your brain produces when you smoke. It is very effective but not suited to everyone.
Think about what triggers your cravings and avoid them. Triggers often include alcohol, stress, drinking coffee, chatting to friends and after food. Try to break the association.
The hand to mouth action of smoking is an association that is difficult to break. Try eating healthy snacks slowly, holding them in your hand as if you were smoking. This gives your brain the impression you are smoking and may help to pass the cravings. Carrot sticks, apple slices and bananas are a good hand to mouth action replacement.
Stay strong. Quitting is not easy. Cravings are at the worst near the start of giving up, but they do pass. Don’t have’ just one’ cigarette to help’ you get through as this will lead to another. If you slip up, forgive yourself and start again.
As soon as you stop smoking more oxygen will reach your bloodstream and you will find exercise easier. Exercise releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone. When cravings strike go for a swim, a walk or follow an exercise or yoga program online. Exercise will also keep your weight down and reduce stress.
Try not to eat more
Some people are wary of giving up smoking as they are afraid of putting on weight. If you exercise regularly and manage your diet you will maintain a healthy weight. The important aspect of here is to make sure you don’t replace smoking with snacking.
If you feel the need to eat, choose fruit, low-fat dairy or lean meat. Don’t regularly eat high fat, salt and sugary snacks.
If you know you will have to attend a smoking environment or an event that prompts you to smoke, be prepared with nicotine replacement therapies, prescription medicine or behavioural changes.
Delay for ten minutes
As the most intense cravings are short-lived you can outpace them by delaying. After a few minutes, the urge to smoke will pass and you will be closer to quitting for good.
If you find you cannot manage your cravings, or you have tried and failed to quit previously, consider prescription medicine. Speak to your doctor about your suitability and whether it is the best option for you. Prescription stop smoking medicine is a clinically proven support when cravings are preventing you from going smoke-free.