How I Quit Smoking, Lost 20 Pounds, and Kicked Bipolar Disorder's Ass

by mhoppal

Because simply doing it wasn't enough. Now I have to write about it.

What Did I Do, Exactly?

I quit smoking (1 Month, 1 Week, 6 Days at this writing). I lost 20 pounds (and counting). And I did this despite being in a depressive state of my bipolar disorder. I also wrote quote a bit (somewhere around 40 articles), edited even more (26,000 words), and made the biggest positive step toward my passion-driven career that I've made this year (or lifetime, even). And I did it all inside of a month (There was a delay between my accomplishment period and the writing of this article).

In other words, I kicked ass.

Here's how.

Manic Tomorrow

As mentioned, I'm bipolar. I try my hardest to combat the side effects - especially crippling depression - but it simply overcomes me all too frequently at this stage of my life. I suck down Abilify and Prozac (along with fish oil) and will until my medical insurance runs out in a few years. I do yoga as often as I can (though not nearly often enough). I get good exercise (dance is my profession, so I better do it!). Eventually, these will work, or I will learn to work through depression, but for now, I do something else: I abuse it to my advantage.

You read that correctly.

I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who once said, as his biggest piece of advice, "Write drunk; edit sober." I take that to new extremes.

Bipolar disorder comes in phases (thank goodness). At times, I become lethargic, unenergetic, seeing of futility and fatalism. Other times, I become energetic, annoyed, and downright peeved with the prospect of sitting around. And for a brief period in between, I am neither: I am functioning, as a normal, non-pathologically mooded person might.

Those times are beautiful. But I was the former - depressed - for this particular month. The mystery is yet unraveled.

Think outside the... book?

I have a fetish for self-improvement.

Between my obsession with blogs like those written by Leo Babauta and my unhealthy tendency to blow hundreds of dollars on office supplies and the personal finance section of Barnes and Noble, I can get into a lot of trouble. It's a problem. I'm working on it.

In the mean time, I use my addiction for, well, self-improvement.

One of the self-help books I picked up this month was Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking (see the Amazon box if you want to give me affiliate revenues. Google it if not).

It is a short read of de-brainwashing and mind-twisting and melding. I picked up the audiobook and thus ended up listening to two British men discussing my plight. That was gentler than forcing myself through it. But, as many others have experienced, I was on my way to well-being halfway through, and 'fixed' before it even told me to smoke my last cigarette (I still refuse to smoke it).

In other words, it was amazing. Mystery unraveled for my first achievement. What else?


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How to Fix Your Problems in One Fell Swoop

At least, if you're me

Allen Carr's book teaches one major idea: quitting smoking isn't actually that hard.

You can literally destroy the habit by laying in bed, sitting around watching television, or stuffing your face with delicious cake.

It's the easiest thing I've ever done. It required no effort. I set out to bend my mind in other new directions in the hopes I would accomplish something else fantastic without much effort.

Indeed, it was easy.

Losing weight the easyweigh

Allen Carr has a book on losing weight, too, so I figured I would give that one a shot. I didn't read the book, but instead decided to try to adapt the theories set forth in the first book toward this new habit.

I decided to de-brainwash myself first. The problem with my diet isn't that I am naturally inclined to enjoy sweets, nor that I eat them. The problem isn't even that I hate vegetables with a passion. It's that I only ate foods I enjoyed, and I only enjoyed sweets. Problem solved? Swap out the need to eat only what I enjoy with the need to enjoy my body more than my food.

Of course, dieting isn't the only way you change your body, so I also went with my existing regimen of exercise (belly dance and yoga) with a short walk every day. 

Not exactly earth-shattering.

I started to think of my body as an instrument, rather than an ornament, per Alanis Morissette's reflections on running a marathon. Brilliant as she is, she inspired a revolution within me.

What it can do, not what you do to it

The beauty of your body is not in how it appears, nor is it in what you force upon it. The beautiful thing about dieting isn't avoiding white carbs. It's the fact that your body will shed pounds of flab when you do it. Your body is a machine. Keep it healthy. Keep it functioning. Food is fuel. Your body is an instrument to accomplish what you want to do.

What did I want to do? I wanted to write.

The Final Piece

And other solutions

The final accomplishment in my month was writing a ton of articles and editing, similarly.

For the record, editing was more of a manic activity than anything else. It was fueled largely, I think, by the contest I was entered into. As such, I won't count it in here.

Writing, however, was my own plan. I was determined to get my belly dance website ranking higher in Google and to get some AdSense revenue going. That didn't happen yet (these things have a delay). But I did make a lot of progress toward it. 

Depression is a killer of motivation, so this was important: I stayed motivated by focusing on what I could do.

This might not make sense immediately. Think of it as weight loss. My body is capable of doing all these amazing things - running a mile in four minutes, swimming for hours, dancing in these graceful movements powered by minute muscular contractions - surely it can do other things. My mind is capable of writing. It is capable of writing massive amounts. It's beautiful. I focused on what I was able to do, rather than what I should do or did do. Motivation was no longer a problem: it was just a matter of letting my mind do what it was capable of doing.

Updated: 11/01/2011, mhoppal
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