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Kick it, quit it, beat it: top tips from three people who nailed Stoptober

Monday 3 October 2016

It’s official: October is the month of giving up – whether it’s cigarettes for Stoptober, alcohol for Go Sober for October or something else they overindulge in, people are taking a 31-day break from their habits and discovering the benefits. We spoke to three quitters who managed to avoid temptation during October.

  • How to break your smoking habit.
  • How to discover your sober self.
  • How to maintain a fast from fast food.
A man snapping a cigarette in half

How many New Year resolutions have you managed to keep for the whole of January, let alone for the whole of the year? You’re not alone: only 14% of Brits manage to keep theirs for the whole 12 months! [1]

A month is a more realistic period of time to set yourself a challenge – and what better month than October, when the NHS is running its Stoptober campaign and Macmillan Cancer Support is recommending that we Go Sober for October.

We talk to three people who managed to set themselves a goal to stop something during October… and kept to it!

How Richard took a beach break from cigarettes

Giving up smoking is a no-brainer, really. The health benefits of stopping are so obvious, and it’s good for the finances, too – plus food tastes better and my other half doesn’t have to put up with kissing an ashtray!

Of course, I know all this because I’ve given up before, more than once. The best I did was when I went off cigarettes for just over three years, but I took them up again when stress was getting the better of me and I thought they’d help… they didn’t.

A friend of mine signed up for Stoptober last year – that’s how I heard about it. It struck me as a good idea at the time, and this year it’s worked out perfectly: it just so happens that I’m heading off for a holiday in Spain on 1 October, and last October I used a holiday as a way of stopping – because I was in a different environment, following a different routine, a lot of the usual triggers to smoke are removed.

A man relaxing on a sandy beach

So I’ll be stubbing out my last cig for who knows how long – hopefully for good – on 30 September, and I’ll be enjoying those flavours of paella and sangria properly again!

Richard’s tips to nail your Stoptober goals

Set yourself a date to quit in advance and, if possible, break up your normal routine and take yourself away from an environment were you usually smoke – especially if it’s a stressful environment.

How Will discovered his sober party self

Once giving up alcohol for Go Sober for October occurred to me, it instantly made perfect sense. I think I must have been dimly conscious of drinking too much, and having an organised way to drink less was appealing. Raising money for charity was a bonus. But the main appeal was to satisfy my curiosity: what on earth would happen to me if I didn’t drink alcohol for 31 days?

Of course, I knew that nothing very awful would happen, but socialising without a metaphorical crutch made of booze was daunting.

I could see plenty of potential advantages too: saving money was a big one, being able to remember, and my health: surely after a month without alcohol I would be radiating with energy and wellness?

A party reception with couples dancing

I lost a bit of weight over the month, slept well and saved a bit of money, but dry activities like theatre trips took up the slack. I did make it through a wedding and found that I enjoyed dancing sober (and got points for driving my friends home).

Afterwards, it took me a while to start drinking again too – there was obviously something I was enjoying about it.

And now? I do drink alcohol, but not quite as much as before I did Stoptober. I know I could do it again if I needed to and the idea doesn’t fill me with dread.

Will’s tips to nail your Stoptober goals

Any exercise of self-control is a useful learning experience. Even if it isn’t something that you know you couldn’t do without, you will feel better for it – even if it’s just about discovering yourself.

How Charlie switched fast food for a faster way home

I decided to give up fast food after realising that not only was it bad for my bank balance, it was also bad for my health! On my commute into London I would pop into McDonald’s and get something at least once a week to eat on the train back home. Normally, I would still eat dinner when I got home, so eating fast food was just a way to pass the time.

I tried to give fast food up in 2014 as a New Year resolution, but I only lasted a matter of hours before I went to McDonald’s on the way home on New Year’s Day. I ended up getting about four McDonald’s in that first week!

During October that same year, a few friends decided to give up smoking for Stoptober. I didn’t smoke, but I thought I’d try and make a positive change in my own life as well and quit fast food.

The lower torso of a man riding a bike

Cycling to work has made me fitter and it’s helped me stop overeating – now I stick to just three meals a day! I prepare my lunches at home, allowing me to choose healthy options and save money. Since quitting, I’ve been persuaded to go to McDonald’s twice, and both times came away wondering why I used to waste my money there!

Charlie’s tips to nail your Stoptober goals

Moving to London and changing my routine were key factors in keeping to my pledge. I chose a route home that didn’t pass fast food outlets and cycled rather than walked. As a result I faced a lot less temptation!

If you manage to quit any of the habits above thanks to your October pledge, the health benefits could be significant. Both smoking and alcohol, for example, have been linked to cancer, [2][3] which is why smoking is something that is assessed by insurers.

Why not break the routine this Stoptober and give up something that you maybe do a little too much, whether that’s smoking, drinking, eating unhealthily or even watching TV. Whatever you take a break from, you’ll be surprised at the changes in your life.


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