I started smoking when I was 18 years old. About ten years ago, my then wife and I quit smoking together. Well, kind of. I quit and hid in the basement, and two weeks later she quit and hid in the second floor. So long as we didn’t come into contact with one another for about two months, all was quiet on the Western Front. Fast-forward about three years, and divorce happened. Wife started smoking again, so, with all the bluster of an angst-ridden teenager, so did I. Not the brightest move on my part, granted, but I do think it saved a life or two. That may sound like a weak excuse of a weak-willed weakling, but believe me when I state if I didn’t light a cigarette on fire it would’ve like been something that put me in jail.

One of the byproducts of quitting smoking was that I dropped a considerable amount of weight. Okay, maybe having a nervous breakdown and being unable to eat for two months might have had something to do with it, I digress, but I lost a lot of weight. Four pants sizes and two shirt sizes-worth of weight.

Now that I have gotten well past the point of divorce stress, the only wise choice is to quit smoking. This presented me with a major problem in which I was keenly aware. When I quit smoking so many years ago, I replaced the oral habit with another — food. I gained weight like a sumo wrestler.

Pudgy Prez Taft

My standing joke was that I was going after the dream William Howard Taft figure. I mean, what a dreamboat, right? I joke, but the guy made obesity look pretty dashing in a lot of his photos. Never underestimate the power of a really good tailor. Or a sense of style. Sadly, I am bereft of both of these things. But I’m drifting off topic.

Around the summer of 2018, my body was letting me know that I needed to lose weight and somehow quit smoking at the same time. Something about sitting on one’s hind parts all the time, smoking at least a pack a day, was creating not only bad lungs, but the excuse that quitting would make me gain weight just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I was already gaining weight.

The breaking point for me was that I was starting to have some pretty bad back pain. So I went to my doctor and she once again reminded me that smoking is bad, exercise is good, and to stop being a lazy excuse-laden asshole about it — and maybe my back wouldn’t feel so bad. Okay, so that’s summarizing things a bit, but that’s what I heard. She actually referred me to physical therapy and made me set some goals to quit smoking. It may sound cliche, but I wound up choosing January 1st. If one is going to choose an arbitrary date for such things, might as well go with the one everyone else chooses, right?

I went to physical therapy and it turned into a four-week commitment. However, the more I went, the more obvious it was to me that I just needed to get off my ass more. The biggest reminder of this is walking into the rehab center and seeing folks who were clearly in much worse shape than I was. I felt guilty for wasting the therapist’s time. So I did some research and eventually made my way to a fitness center.

On January 14th, I signed a contract not only for a membership, but also for a physical trainer. The costs associated with this are such that, one, I won’t mention them by name unless they’re willing to offer me a substantial discount for endorsing them, and two, it was just financial suicide to want to pay for cigarettes and a gym membership with a physical trainer. Coincidentally, the costs of such are roughly the same as a pack-a-day habit of American Spirits.

I’m proud to state that I haven’t had a cigarette since finishing off my last pack in the wee hours of January 15th. Something about needing enough money to pay my mortgage was just the motivation I needed to drop the cancer sticks. Good thing, too — because the opening weeks of working with a physical trainer were an adjustment to say the least.

But wait — there’s more…

Around this time I also started making conscious decisions about what I was putting into my stomach to fuel this Death Star of a body. As you can imagine, living like a human sloth tends to make one overly dependent on food delivery. I say the following with all due respect to the restaurants in my area: If you want to eat healthier food, you don’t get it from the local eatery. I have yet to find a good salad delivery place, but I know at least four places that will deliver you a sandwich that will not only change your waistline, but also your belief in a higher power. For a couple of years now, my morning routine at work was to eat a breakfast sandwich, some hash browns, perhaps some extra bacon…you know, way too heavy for someone who sits at a desk all day. I replaced this with Greek yogurt, cut fruit, and granola. On top of the health necessities, I needed to find a good oral fixation replacement for coffin nails. (Don’t get cheeky with that statement. You know goddamn well what I meant. Besides, I’m not dating anyone, male or female.) It couldn’t be chocolates or chips. So I found a few things that would give me variety and not a ton of extra calories that I’d have to burn off with my physical trainer. My addiction of choice has been pistachios.

So that’s the castle I have now constructed around myself. I have made a lot of changes, sure, but I think I’ve done them in such a way as to keep them sustainable and to keep myself generally honest. I figure if I’m ever to hide something I’m snacking on from anyone around me, the only person I’m trying to fool is myself, and it’s not like I’m not gonna notice putting an entire Milky Way Dark into my food hole. So hey, have some personal respect, but at the same time keep expectations realistic. All in all it’s been working well for me. I’m not sure what my weight was when I started this project, but I do know that I’ve lost something like 8-10 pounds (or 3.63 to 4.54 kg to my friends who live in the rest of the world) over the past two weeks.

One of the funnier side effects has been the strange and wonderful things a change in one’s diet can do to their digestive system. To be more specific, every day at work, around 10 am or so, I’d start to get bloated and gassy. Around 1 pm, that becomes a mad dash to the bathroom so that I can do my best involuntary impression of a Royal Proclamation fanfare. Then it was the encore around 2. You know, because I can’t get enough of praying to a god I don’t believe in that people will not recognize the shoes and dropped trousers in the bathroom stall where the horn section of the Minnesota Orchestra is clearly warming up as belonging to me.

It got me to wondering if the Greek yogurt I was eating could be causing the gas. Being the IT guy that I am, I Googled a bit and stumbled across this gem: Healthy Foods That Cause Bloating. Would you look at that? One, two, and three were consumed for breakfast. Number four was part of the previous night’s dinner. Numbers six and eight are basic staples of my diet. Number 7 is my answer to stop putting tobacco smoke into my lungs.

That is simply not fair. I will forever hold a grudge against the writer of that article.

I cut out the yogurt, but there’s no way I can avoid the rest. I’m still sticking to my guns, as it were. At least I’ve stopped producing methane like a landfill while still managing to eat healthy.