Name: Misty Mann
Original Goal(s): To quit smoking.
Today’s Goal(s): To be healthy--mentally and physically; To eat healthier, exercise and discover herself.
Advice: “You only get one shot at this life. So be you; do you. Be happy with your choices and don’t worry about impressing others or conforming. Oh, and manners go a long way.”
Story: Misty started smoking cigarettes when she was a freshman in high school. 15 years old and wanting to hang out with a particular group of kids who just so happened to smoke, she thought, ‘why not?’
“The first time I smoked is super fresh in my mind. My cousin, Dawn, and I stole a pack of kent III cigarettes from my dad and walked a block away from my house. It had just started to snow; everything was dusted in white. Dawn lit hers first and smoked away. She had been doing it longer. I was next. I tried to light it and couldn't so she did it for me. I held it between my fingers like you see in the movies. I thought I was so cool. I inhaled and blew the smoke out. I wasn't inhaling all the way, but it was cold out and the smoke mixed with the cold air so it looked more like smoke. Dawn laughed at me and told me I was doing it wrong and said to pretend my mom was going to catch me. A few moments later I inhaled and she hollered, “Oh crap! Your mom!” She turned and pointed. I had already forgotten she said to pretend and I thought my mom was really there. I accidentally inhaled. Dawn told me I did good and I felt super excited. It seems stupid now that I look back on it, but at 15 I felt in charge of something. I liked the attention I got from it.”
A pack of cigarettes were just 80 cents from the local vending machine--meaning she didn’t have to flash her ID. When thinking about that time in her life versus now Misty says unsatisfied, “I’m sure the cigarettes had a warning on the pack that smoking was dangerous, but it was not as prevalent as it is today.”
The battle to quit smoking was a 25 year process for Misty--perhaps if that label had been just a little bit bigger things would be different, but it wasn’t. It was actually quite unnoticable if it was there at all. The first time she tried to quit she was 19 years old; It was 1991 and she had just found out she was pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. The doctor suggested she cut back, not quit. At this point in her life, quitting wasn’t top of mind. As per the doctor’s request, she went from a pack of cigarettes a day to about a half pack (about 10 smokes per day). Of course since there was no self-ingrained urge to quit Misty went back to smoking full packs a day after her daughter was born. Then came along another beautiful baby girl in 2002; once again she tried to quit, but went back to her old habits shortly thereafter.
Misty’s third attempt to quit smoking was in her 30's back in 2006. Around this time, anti-smoking campaigns were going strong. The government and other organizations began the education process on exactly how bad smoking cigarettes can be for the body. Misty recounts that everyone, especially her loved ones, began pressuring her to quit. Although she tried to quit at the time, she remembers being angry and reticent. She started her third journey to imposed improvement by using the nicotine patch. With the nicotine patch it took her several tries over a few months to actually start a streak, but once she had a few days without smokes under her belt she ended up sticking to it for five months. At this point, something went askew--perhaps it was the fact that she didn’t do it for herself in the first place, perhaps it was the tragedy she witnessed while waiting at a red light in Myrtle Beach...a man and a woman riding a motorcycle getting hit by a truck. Either way, she that day she immediately went back to the hotel, bought a pack of cigarettes and headed for the beach...alone. Once again, she began smoking a pack a day again.
The rest of Misty’s 30's quitting was on her mind constantly. She would go to bed every single night and say to herself, “This is it. Tomorrow morning you are done!” but each morning she would find herself grabbing for that cigarette and lighting it. Each morning there would be a new excuse as to why she shouldn’t be quitting that particular day. She enjoyed smoking. It was her escape from meetings, family functions, etc. She could excuse herself from almost any situation with “I need to go smoke.” It was society's acceptable social crutch and she used it, but overtime she began getting upset with herself thinking, ‘Why can’t I just quit?!’ She began to hate the way it smelled, how it made her family and surrounding environment smell; her clothes, car and even presents she gave to people smelled of cigarettes. What’s worse, she noticed she was having trouble breathing; she couldn’t even carry a load of laundry up the steps without sitting on the top step to catch her breath. Towards the end of her 30's she was up to two packs a day. As if the breathing difficulties weren’t enough, the cost of one pack of cigarettes were now over six dollars. Misty talked about how much cigarettes drained her wallet. She used to say that when they hit four dollars she would quit, then five dollars, then six and she still hadn’t quit.”
Misty had her turning point at 39, she took her oldest daughter to see a psychic for her October birthday, something both she and her daughter thought would be an exciting adventure for an exciting day. It went smoothly, until the end; Misty, still a little shaken up by what the psychic told her, recounted that when her and her daughter were heading for the door the psychic approached her telling her, “If you dont quit smoking when you are 40, you will be on an oxygen mask by the time you hit 43.” Now, whether the psychic was right or not did not matter. The thought that, at 43 years young, she would be on oxygen terrified her. A few months after this encounter, in February 2012 Misty turned 40 years old and by May 2012, Misty began having even more difficulty breathing. All she could think was, ‘What if the psychic is right?’ Misty needed to quit and so she did; slowly but surely she cut back one cigarette per day, then a few a week. It was difficult to say the least, but by September 2012 she was ready to completely cut smokes from her life. The first day without a cigarette was horrible. She was sweating and crying; you would have thought Misty was on serious drugs. She called her doctor and her doctor said that some people have severe withdrawal from cigarettes, comparable to heroin withdrawal. She ended up smoking the first day and recounts that she was so disappointed in herself. Three days later she went and bought the nicotine patch and on september 25th she marked a important day in her personal story. She put the patch on and made up her mind--September 25, 2012 would be the first day of the rest of her life, without cigarettes. She knew that she could quit this time and kept reminding herself that an oxygen tank would absolutely not be in her future--she was and still is better than that.
The first week was awful; Misty was beyond cranky, but everyday it got easier and three months in she noticed a huge difference in her life and health. She was breathing better, not to mention smelling better. She eventually stopped craving cigarettes every day and stopped wearing the patch--she no longer needed it.
Now Misty is 43 years old and healthier than ever before. It’s been over three years and three months since she touched a cigarette. Today, she’s basking in her own success and even has a few more tricks up her sleeve she’s using to achieve her next goal--to become mentally and physically fit.
C=Carlee Myers, Founder of APOP
M=Misty Mann, Member of APOP since 2015
C: Can you elaborate further on how peer pressure to quit smoking made you feel over the years?
M: Peer pressure to quit over the years? Hahaha. It honestly pissed me off. The more my sister or mom said something the more I smoked. I was being stubborn, but it’s like asking to someone overweight when they are going to drop a few pounds. It’s not nice and certainly isn’t good for that person’s mental health. I found it rude and annoying that people would point out my flaw and comment on something that I struggled with everyday.
C: Can you talk about the pressure you felt from others to smoke?
M: I actually never felt pressured to smoke by anyone. It was something I wanted to try just because I thought I could hang out with the ‘bad ass kids,’ but they never forced it.
C: Can you elaborate further on the day that you went to the psychic with your daughter?
M: The day I went to the psychic was actually pretty boring. I sat in the waiting room and went out on her porch to smoke once or twice while I waited, which I’m sure is one of the reasons she originally told me to quit...but she was so specific about me quitting at the age of 40. She didn't know how old I was, which made me think that maybe she was right. Either way it was the push I had been waiting for; I wanted to quit, but I didn't want to give the satisfaction to my sister or mom that what they said made me quit. I guess I used the psychic as my reason.
C: I often hear from people who are trying to quit smoking that drinking triggers the urge to smoke again. Did you experience anything like this?
M: Drinking was never a trigger for me.
C: Do you have any advice for avoiding cigarette cravings?
M: Drink lots of water. I also used mint gum, which I’m now addicted to. Haha, but I guess it’s better than smoking.
C: Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to quit?
M: The urge to pick up that cigarette always passes. That horrible feeling does get easier. Just ride it out. It’s worth it.
C: Why do you think that you succeeded this time, but fell back into the habit in the past?
M: I think I succeeded this time because I was ready. I did it the other times because I was told to quit...because it was unhealthy...blah blah blah. This time it was for me, not them.
C: Do you think giving up cigarettes one-by-one is one of the reasons you were successful? Perhaps small goals leading up to a larger goal was important to your success?
M: I think slowly giving up day by day was just an excuse to keep smoking longer. I knew I had to quit at some point so I justified in my mind that slowly doing it was ok, so I didn't have to give it up all at once.
C: How else has giving up cigarettes positively influenced your life?
M: Giving up cigarettes has completely changed my life. First off, I feel so much better. I’m able to do things without being winded. I smell better. On the down side, I have no excuse for bad behavior. I can’t blame being cranky on nicotine withdrawal any longer, but I’m working on my mental health so I hope that won’t be struggle much longer.
C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did you change your day to day life? Have you integrated different things into your daily life to set yourself up for success?
M: Well I gained a ton of weight when I quit smoking...about 50 pounds. Apparently, I ate instead of smoking but didn't realize it until recently. So my day to day for the last three years has been just getting by, not really changing anything. Honestly, this lack of further change has led to issues with depression, but that’s a whole other story. Haha.
C: What are your goals for self-improvement today?
M: My goals have drastically changed in the last few months. I want to be healthy, and not just from quitting smoking. I'm trying to eat healthier and exercise. I've lost 10 pounds so far. I'm trying to "discover me" and am combining my physical health with my mental and spiritual health. I’m reading more on adventures for the soul, to become more positive and truly happy...with my relationships, finding a new career, etc. My newest journey might actually be more ‘traumatic’ than cutting cigarettes out of my life. Haha.
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Subject: Weight Loss & Mental Well-being
Original Goal(s): Spend the entire month of April living a healthy lifestyle.
Today’s Goal(s): Lose 20 pounds, in addition to the 50 that I’ve already lost; to reach my goal weight of 200lbs.
Advice: Embrace who you are! It took me a year into college to remember that I need to embrace who I am, a quirky and random human being, and I couldn’t be happier with that. Sure some people think you suck, but comparatively you will bump into and find some incredibly awesome like-minded people along the way. Trust me.
Story: It all started at Barnes and Noble back in March 2015. Will was talking with his best friend about the number of energy drinks and coffee he drank per day—roughly 4+ cups a day (about 8-10 servings). Lent was coming up and his best friend suggested a challenge that he had no idea would develop into a what, now, is his journey to self-betterment—Will’s friend suggested that he give up energy drinks for lent. For the month of April, he decided to put his unhealthy habits to the test. Will was just crazy enough to give up energy drinks, coffee, junk food, and fast food. After the first week of success, Will decided that cutting all those unhealthy choices out of his life wasn’t quite enough and even added the challenge of going to the gym on a regular basis. Will recounts that going to the gym “was rough and it really sucked.” After successfully completing an entire month of practicing a healthier lifestyle, Will felt great, so he kept at it. For the first few months he hit the gym with his friends, but as his friends lost momentum one by one, he was still working hard-- going on sporadic adventures to the gym and continuing those healthy eating happens.
Over time, Will revamped many of his unhealthy habits. He no longer ordered take out--a huge success as he had ordered from the local pizza place so many times that he could walk in and the staff would simply hand his order over without saying a word. He stopped going to Rite Aid to buy junk food--another huge hurdle overcome as his previous diet consisted of different combinations of junk food such as candy, chips or cookies. Now, Will eats more fruits, vegetables and high-protein foods such as chicken instead and has even limited his alcohol intake on the weekends and replaced those extra sugary drinks with, you guessed it, water. When asked more about the changes he has noticed, Will says, “Beforehand I could cook enough food for a family four and eat it all myself, but now I sometimes struggle to get through a plate of food and, very rarely these days, do I go for seconds.”
As of November, Will lost a whopping total of 50lbs (now weighing in at 227lb) and celebrated in the most humorous of ways by googling what fifty pounds of fat actually looks like. He recounts humorously that “it is a huge mountain of yellow mess”, but continues on a more serious and prideful note when he says, “The benefits from all of this [hardwork] is the fact that I have dropped two to three shirt sizes, I get out of breath way less, and, now, I have some mild confidence.” Today, Will is still going strong, but he does say that “being able to look at my reflection and think ‘I finally look good’ is the best feeling after spending so long over weight and that feeling continues to amplify with the more weight I lose.”
C: People tend to feel more motivated when they accomplish smaller goals leading up to accomplishing their larger goals. Do you think the idea that only temporarily giving up energy drinks and coffee helped you succeed?
W: Yeah, the idea of being able to give up energy drinks and coffee cold turkey was definitely a step that helped me succeed in this weird half year adventure. Mentally this step was basically summed up in my head like this, “If I can give up these things and endure for the entire month then I can definitely succeed at living a healthier lifestyle.”
C: Do you have any advice on how to get through a week of caffeine withdrawal without giving back into the “addition”?
W: Going cold turkey from caffeine was basically a week long hangover where you sweat constantly and have the worst headache of your life. My advice would be to try to pretend to be happy during the withdrawal period—this span of time, for me, was the grumpiest of my life. The more you act happy, the more you end up feeling happy. I’m really glad I cut caffeine out of my diet as my heart rate has been able to return to a normal level and I can just feel how much happier my body is on a daily basis.
C: What does your typical workout look like at the gym? What did your first workout look like versus your workouts today?
W: My typical workout has me running to the college gym, which is a mile away. Once I arrive, I go to the weight room and do a rotation of the machines --every time I go there I do them in the same order. I start with chest, shoulders, arms, abs and then leg machines. Then I end my workout standing on the scale. My first workout was a mess. I was extremely out of breath; I sounded like I got sucked into the vacuum of space where I was trying to suck up any and all oxygen in existence. The rest of my first workout was filled with confusion. I remember thinking, “What is that strange thing?…and why can I pull or push it?” Now I can breath and work out with a general sense of what I’m doing. I also workout alone now, but I had started working out with three friends.
C: Becoming healthier usually requires a complete lifestyle change, how did becoming healthier change your life? How did it affect your life on a daily basis?
W: I am going to break my success into three sections which are appearance, mental well-being and physical well-being.
Since I began my new lifestyle, there has been a shift in my appearance. Before I was wearing plain old t-shirts and a pair of jeans, but now I generally like to dress better--my newest favorite item is the button down shirt. Being able to dress mildly fancy in my daily life makes me feel like I look good. I’d like to think people notice my new appearance--this is a great segway into how my lifestyle change effected my mental well-being.
I can now look at myself and think “I look great!” I stopped making self-deprecating jokes because with the more weight I lost the less relevant these jokes became. Now, I have some mild self confidence--which is nice.
Lastly, my physical well-being. I feel like perhaps the largest impact these changes have had on my life can be summed up in one word, “transportation.” What I mean by this is that at the age of twenty-three, I finally learned to ride a bike, simply because it would help me lose weight. One of the biggest successes I’ve had to date is that I ride my bike to and from work part of the time and I walk more places; if I know I can either bike or walk to a destination, I will.
C: Most people who try to improve their lives for the better fail a few times or make a few mistakes along the way. Can you talk about a time that you made a “mistake” during your journey to self-improvement? Did you find a way to turn this failure/mistake into a success?
W: I have slipped back into drinking some caffeine and eating some junk food every now and then. I don’t feel guilty, but it does serve as a motivating factor for my next visit to the gym. I also went three weeks without going to the gym and, quite honestly, I am still working on turning that into a full fledge success story. I try to go to the gym at least three times a week. As of now, I am currently going to the gym two to three time a week at the moment; as my college classes ramp up for finals, the amount of time I spend at the gym has been reduced.
C: Can you elaborate on your comment about mild self-confidence?
W: Mild self-confidence is a new thing for me. I now see myself as looking awesome and being a great person. I also see some women glance at me every now and then, which is weird, yet oddly exciting. About a month or so ago, I came across a thought that went something along the lines of “I feel like this women is looking at me, weird. Wait a minute, no it’s not, I’m fucking awesome. Why wouldn’t a woman be looking at me?” It’s mainly just me coming to the realization that I’m a pretty great person. The part I need to work on now is being confident enough to go up to someone and say, “Hey! I like you. We should go get coffee or a drink sometime.”
Subject: Weight Loss
Mel's Story: "Growing up I always knew I was overweight. Looking at the number on the dreaded scale, I would constantly push the thought to the back of my mind. I said to myself, "Oh well when I hit 190 I'll do something, or I'll never let myself get over 200." I absolutely HATED to exercise--it just wasn't my thing. I continued procrastinating and leading an unhealthy lifestyle until one distinct moment. You know, everyone has that moment at some point in their lives-- well mine was when I visited the doctor in September 2014. I had hit 210 pounds. I was absolutely mortified.
About three months before my moment, my mom joined Weight Watchers. She had found great success and had already lost 30 pounds. My mom was finding such great success--she was looking happier and healthier than ever. What she was doing was working and I wanted to be a part of it. After that mortifying doctors visit, I joined weight watchers. Thus I begin the start of what I now know was a life changing journey. I began running with the "Couch to 5K" app--and this time I stuck with it! That had been my 3rd time trying, but I knew that this time was the time I was going to stick with it. This time I wanted to improve my life for the better and I didn't care how hard I was going to have to fight for it--and believe me I FOUGHT FOR IT. The scale started dropping immediately. I was getting the confidence boost I needed to stay on track. During the last nine months, I have run three 5ks and I have a 10K planned for November 2015.
Just to give you some perspective--in under one year I lost 60 pounds! My current weight is 148 and I feel AMAZING in a bathing suit. I rock it because I earned it and I worked hard for it. I still have about 10 pounds to lose but I am so proud of how far I have come. Not to mention, I love seeing the face that people make when they haven’t seen me in a few months--they don’t even recognize me!"
Do you have an inspiring health or fitness story? Comment below or share on social media using the hashtag #APOPFNF (APOP Fitness Nerd Family) with a reason you should be featured in our next #APOPFNF profile! I will be adding a new profile every other Sunday so get your entries in now :)
Sometimes life gives us a major wake-up call that changes everything.
That happened to Michele Cohen in April, 2014. Michele had not been on a scale in years because she was afraid to see the number. She knew she had gained weight, but without seeing the number, it wasn’t “real.” Finally, at a visit to her primary care doctor, she was forced to face the truth. The doctor made her get on the scale after blood tests showed her cholesterol was astronomically high, her blood pressure was through the roof and she was pre-diabetic.
The number: 226 pounds.
The doctor said if she didn’t make changes – big changes – she would probably have a stroke by her 40s. That scared Michele into action. She joined Weight Watchers that weekend.
In a little over a year on the plan, Michele has lost over 65 pounds and discovered a love for outdoor running and “boot camp-style workouts” that push her to the limit. She recently ran her first 5K race. Her labs have returned to normal numbers and she is no longer pre-diabetic. Her doctor is thrilled with her progress and continues to push her to succeed.
Weight Watchers is a commitment, but attending weekly meetings and tracking what she eats has kept Michele motivated. That, and the fact that she is finally back in her “skinny” clothes again. There is no better feeling than being able to wear what you want!
Michele also credits her success to her co-workers, Christy Dishman and Carlee Myers, for exercising with her during lunch breaks and pushing her to stay the course.
Michele has about 25 pounds to go to get to her “goal weight,” and even though the progress has slowed, she is committed to going the distance.
As they like to say in Weight Watchers, it’s not just a “diet,” it’s a “lifestyle change.”
Do you have an inspiring health or fitness story? Comment below or share on social media using the hashtag #APOPFNF (APOP Fitness Nerd Family) with a reason you should be featured in our next #APOPFNF profile! Starting Today I will be adding a new profile every other Sunday so get your entries in now :)