Kicking the habit

| February 03, 2008

February Health Hero Larry Purdy saved $300 a month when he quit smoking.

Larry Purdy of Unionville, Mo., has been a trucker for 35 years and a two-pack-a-day smoker since he was 14 years old. The owner-operator, leased to Daily Express, had tried to quit over the years but had never been successful. Finally, on April 5, 2007, Larry and his wife Veronica decided this would be their last day as smokers. They figured they’d join forces and quit together. It wasn’t easy, but they were motivated for a variety of reasons. Larry says he was sick of waking up in the morning with a hacking cough, hated the stale smell of smoke in his truck and resented spending the $300 a month to support his habit. In fact, once he quit buying cigarettes, he put that money toward buying a motorcycle. “I finally got the Harley-Davidson I always wanted,” he says. “That was a gift to myself for quitting smoking.”

While he’s tried and failed to quit before, this time his doctor prescribed a new drug, Chantix, which helps reduce cravings. After only a few weeks, Larry says he was able to walk around his truck without coughing and regained his senses of taste and smell.

Like many who quit smoking, Larry gained weight. “I know I started eating more, but I’m working on that now,” he says. He doesn’t want to trade one bad habit for another but feels confident he’s never going back to cigarettes. “It was such a hard thing to do, no way are we ever going to start that again.”

How long have you been driving?

34 years.

What was the biggest challenge in quitting smoking?

Finding other ways to occupy my time.

What did you hate the most about smoking?

Being treated like a criminal. There’s a lot of shame associated with smoking.

What kept you going during the tough times?

My wife and I did it together, so we encouraged each other. Plus, it’s so hard to start over, I think that fear of failure has kept me going.

Has your overall health improved?

Yes! I can breathe better, and my sense of taste and smell has returned. I don’t get out of breath so much. I can’t afford to get sick on the road, and this is something I can do to stay healthy.

What tips would you give someone who wants to do what you did?

Reach deep and just do it. Keep trying, don’t give up. Try toothpicks to have something to put in your mouth. Ask your doctor about drugs that help reduce the nicotine craving. Be careful about gaining weight.

What’s your next goal?

To lose the 20 pounds I’ve put on since quitting smoking.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?

“Quitting isn’t easy!”

What advice would you give a young person?

Don’t start smoking. It’s too hard to quit!

What do you do when you aren’t trucking?

Hunting (deer, bear), fishing and riding my Harley.


Fast Facts About Smoking

  • Worldwide, tobacco use causes nearly 5 million deaths per year.

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • In the United States, cigarette smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths annually, or about 438,000 deaths per year.
  • An estimated 38,000 of these deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure.
  • On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • For every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the length of time that people live with a disability by about two years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control


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Health Question of the Month:
My wife and I are in our late 30s and have decided to quit smoking. We are determined to quit but don’t want to gain weight either. What should we do? – Josh, Atlanta

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.
Good for you and your wife. Quit smoking. It will kill you, and lung cancer is no way to go! Smoking is also linked to Type 2 diabetes, bone loss and high blood pressure.

Every smoker worries about packing on the pounds when they quit puffing, and this is a real concern. Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant by interfering with the body’s release of insulin, and lighting up does keep down food intake. Without cigarettes, you may turn to food to ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Getting clean is hard work. What can you do?

Be patient with yourself. Quitting smoking should be your No. 1 task. Lose the butts … and then work on losing the gut. Here are some ideas:

  1. Keep healthy snacks handy. Feed your oral fixation with crunchy stuff like carrot sticks, celery sticks or cucumber slices. My husband gnawed on plastic soda straws for months after he quit. Some people like to pop hard candies or nibble on sunflower seeds or nuts (peanuts, walnuts or almonds) for an afternoon treat.

  2. Lose high-fat foods (doughnuts, fries, shakes, etc). Why torture yourself with the temptation?
  3. Drink water. It will fill you up and also help your digestion.
  4. Put a cap on the bottle. For many people, drinking and smoking go hand in hand. Booze is also loaded with calories.
  5. Add exercise. Quitting smoking slows your metabolism, and you will have to sweat more to keep from gaining weight.

Ronald Rush, M.D., is a family care physician with Highway Health Care and clinical director of MedXpress Health Care in Texarkana, Texas.
Quitting smoking takes a strong commitment and is like quitting drinking alcohol or gambling. It is a tough and lifelong process. Every day without smoking makes you stronger. Being around smokers puts you at risk. Quitting together was smart – your greatest strength is each other. If one fails, the other will likely fail, too. This same concept applies to solo drivers. Avoid putting yourself in situations where smokers tend to gather. Use the CB or other communication tool to hook up with a buddy who is trying to stop smoking. Don’t let your isolation in the cab give you permission to light up. If needed, ask your doctor to prescribe one of the many drugs known to help.

Once you stop, you should notice an increase in sputum production and hacking cough for the first 30 days. You will be coughing up the smoking by-products that have been trapped in your lungs. You should start to notice an increase in energy level and a decrease in shortness of breath. You will notice fewer head and chest colds and, over time, there is a significantly decreased chance of lung, kidney, gastrointestinal and other cancers. A life-limiting health problem that most smokers get is emphysema. Most smokers have some degree of emphysema, and it only gets worse with time. Although emphysema is generally not reversible, every day without smoking is likely a day added to your life.

Linda Dunn is a fitness expert from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When you have the urge to smoke, go for a five- or 10-minute walk instead. If you can just walk briskly for five minutes at first, you can eventually work up to 10-15 minutes several times a day. Even if it’s just when you stop to fuel or rest, walk instead of smoke! You will be burning calories, and the motion of walking helps ease the anxiety that comes with nicotine withdrawal. Walking creates a chemical change in the brain and can make you feel calmer, but energized.

Breathing exercises can help with the removal of the toxins smoking has deposited in the body. Practice breathing through the nose – inhaling in a six-count breath, holding the breath for two counts, and then exhaling through the nose for six counts – to relieve stress. Sit upright with your spine long, and try to relax as you breathe. When you can, practice these breathing exercises on your back in a comfortable position. Try a yoga class with a registered yoga teacher to learn how to practice alternate-nostril breathing. Yoga has many breathing practices that would help your mind and body focus on relaxation.

Also, you must have a positive intention and tell yourself, “I can do this, and I will feel better and be healthier!”


Nominate Health Heroes
Do you know any truckers who have worked hard to become more healthy? Maybe they’ve quit smoking, started an exercise program, controlled their sleep apnea or changed their eating habits. E-mail cmagner@rrpub.com or send to Truckers News Fit for the Road, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.


The advice and opinions expressed herein are only general suggestions. Before you undertake any course of action, you should consult your doctor to determine what steps are right for you. Randall-Reilly Publishing, Truckers News and the experts consulted for these articles do not endorse, warrant or promote in any way the products of any of our sponsors.

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