Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A New Explanation for Weight Gain While Quitting Smoking

Nearly a year after I launched an effort to regain my long-lost trombone technique, I'm happy to report that I'm nearly there. Old colleagues say I'm back - though I'm aware of a few missing pieces. A couple of months more touch-up work should do it.

This, alas, wasn't my only regaining. I've also regained twelve of the pounds I
lost last year. I can't say I'm thrilled by this, but neither am I shocked. Starting from scratch to rebuild my musical juju was an all-consuming task. Staying on a diet is another all-consuming task (as I wrote in that last link, most of us drastically underestimate the effort and focus required). I never expected to keep both balls rolling.

It's possible to hack away at one's
habits and routines to gradually bring about dramatic change. Last year, my life decisions favored eating less (and better) and exercising more. I lost 35 pounds. No one or ten of those decisions made much difference, but the aggregate led to profound change. This year, my decisions favored playing more - even when that meant skipping the gym or catching unhealthy bites on the run. Our ability to affect profound change in ourselves is minimal to begin with. Divide focus and the magical power is lost.

But this made me reconsider the well-known fact that when people quit smoking they tend to gain weight. The explanation is that they've lost nicotine's appetite suppression, plus there's a lingering persistent oral neediness. But I don't think that's it. It's that quitting smoking is a drastic, magical change requiring single-minded focus and patience. You can't maintain a diet during such a process. You can't be single-minded about two things.

As a side note, I made a new friend last week, a precocious four year old (I always hit it off with folks under 11 and over 80: it's the touchy middle range I often have trouble with). As she sat happily next to me, discussing this and that, she poked me in the gut, saying, with a grin, "Your stomach sticks out!". She noticed, but she didn't judge it. It didn't affect her opinion of me in the least. It was plain that the size of my belly had nothing to do with who she thought I am. And no high-minded thinking was applied; it was utterly natural.

Read a clarification on why this has nothing at all to do with OCD here.

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