How to Kick Those Bad Health Habits…For Good

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • Two of the biggest health resolutions, for good reason, are quitting smoking and losing weight.

    Quitting smoking

    Smoking is a major risk factor in overall health. Tobacco use not only increases your risk for a number of cancers - including head/neck, oral, lung, breast, bladder, cervical - it also ups your risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disease, among other issues. Your smoking status could also translate into radically different health insurance costs. Need more reasons to quit? Studies show that life is better for quitters!

    Research also tells us that most people are going to need more than one shot at quitting to be successful. Not that you shouldn't try to succeed the very first time, but know that if you don't, you aren't alone. And you shouldn't use this as a reason not to try again.

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    Some other smoking-specific tips:

    • Set a definite quit date. Having a set date helps you put the rest of your plan into action.
    • Clear it out. Start getting rid of all your "smoking paraphernalia" well ahead of that date. It's much harder to grab a cigarette when there are none available, or no lighter close at hand.
    • And clean it up. Take your clothes to the dry cleaner, clean out your car, etc. Once you've spent money, time, and effort to be successful, you've just increased your incentive to be successful.
    • Consider Rx. Talk to your doctor about prescription help available to you

    Losing Weight

    Many of us say we'd like to lose a few pounds. Maybe there's a class reunion coming up, or our favorite pants just don't fit as well as they used to. But getting to - and keeping - a healthy weight is critical for much more important reasons than how we look. It is a key part of the overall formula that can keep you healthier and spending less money on health and health care related issues.

    Not only do excess pounds set us up for a whole host of largely preventive health issues (including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and arthritis), people with higher BMIs typically pay more for individually-purchased health insurance. Even more unfair? Obesity has also been linked to lower paychecks.

    Some tips for successful weight loss:

    • Know your numbers. Know what a healthy BMI is for you. The National Institutes of Health has a good BMI calculator here:
    • Be realistic. Set a realistic weight loss goal and aim to lose no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week.
    • Your doctor might help here, too. Talk to your doctor about all the help available to you. You may also benefit from a dietician consult, or a visit to a physical therapist for any physical limitations keeping you from exercise.

    And some more general tips on kicking your bad habits for good:

    • Recruit support. Studies have shown us that having people around you who share and support your goals increases your chances at success.
    • Up the stakes. What will happen if you don't achieve your goals? Nothing? Consider having to pay someone $100/each month you continue to smoke, etc. This can also increase your chances of success.

  • • Speak up. Be vocal about your goals: Tweet it/Facebook it/blog it...tell people what you are doing, spread the word far and wide, and be accountable to a larger audience. This can also make you less likely to fall off the wagon.

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    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.

Published On: January 24, 2012