Food for thought

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life63 Comments


How many of you out there are presently smokers or are ex-smokers? A show of hands, please.

As a card carrying ex-smoker, I think I know a thing or two about cravings. Smoking on and off—but mostly on—from around the age of 12 until the age of 40, many years of my life were ruled by cravings.

For those of you who've never had the unfortunate experience of being addicted to nicotine, I'll tell you how it goes: you smoke a cigarette, then you put it out and the nicotine levels in your blood begin to plummet. The happy, contented feeling you had while ingesting the nicotine leaves all too quickly, putting you into a state of withdrawal from the minute your smoke break ends. So begins the cycle of addiction.

Back when I was a smoker, every November the Great American Smokeout would roll around. Ask any smoker out there and I'm sure they can relate to what I'm about to say: when you are knee deep in the hoopla of your addiction, the very last thing on Earth you'll tolerate is some one or some group telling you what you already know: Hey stupid, you should quit!

If anything, on the Great American Smokeout day, I'd just smoke more. I'll be damned if you're going to tell me when and how to kick my own habit. Imagine plugging your ears and going, "La, la, la, la, la, la, la" and that's the attitude I always brought to the table.

I've thought a lot about when I quit smoking during the past two weeks. I brought it up in a discussion with my therapist recently, who seemed impressed with both the depth of my love for my former habit, as well as my white knuckle, cold turkey, non-negotiable approach to quitting back in March of 2006. She was also amazed at the level of self-destruction it brought to my life on a daily basis, but we'll explore that tangent on some other day.

(Did you know I cried every single day for a week that March? I remember calling my dear friend Tara and sobbing, just sobbing into the phone because I seriously had no idea how I was going to get through it.)

But here's the thing: any time you do something you didn't think was even remotely possible, you gain a slightly new perspective on everything in your life.

Take for instance me and running. Here's a girl whose idea of excercise was simply to inhale and exhale on a Benson & Hedges Deluxe Ultra Light Menthol, and then take a nap. And now I run 3 to 4 miles, three days a week? Get out. No, I'm serious. That wasn't never part of my skill set.

After I quit smoking and started to gain weight, it still never dawned on me that I could figure out a way to work exercise into my life. Much like those annoying people who would dare to suggest I should quit smoking, I felt the same reaction towards their ideas of me moving my body.

Last night, I watched one of Oprah's "Life Class" epsiodes on demand, specifically, Episode 17, in which she talks about what would you do if you stepped out of your personal box of limitations. Now you know me and Oprah, if she says, "Jump," not only do I say, "How high?" but I also say, "Wow, I never looked at jumping like that," and "Who knew that jumping could have so many ramifcations?" and "My God, I LOVE YOU, OPRAH!"

She was talking about the idea of trying something different. That if you you want change, you can't keep doing the same thing and expect it to happen. You have to take a risk. You have to step out of your comfort zone.

I think back in January 2010, when I decided I'd had enough of inertia and chub and embarked on the whole Move More, Eat Well thing, I did it because I really had reached an understanding: ain't nothing gonna change unless I step up and do something. But in making that choice, especially doing it publicly, I was taking a risk of it not working.

With smoking, it was the same thing. No one is going to do this for me. I felt like I was playing a sort of Russian Roulette with my health; that it was just a matter of time before some smoking-related illness crept in and took a hold of my life.

The idea of cravings is on my mind right now in a big way. As I am preparing to embark on my 2012 workshop, my own familar ghosts of personal limitation are swirling around my brain, messing with me and trying to get me to just say when.

I know that there are many of you reading today who seek to feel better and stronger.  I also know that even though you might really want those things, the path to getting there can seem overwhelming. I know there are some of you out there who've resigned yourselves to a place in the box that you can't get out of, and I want to tell you that change is possible.

People are actually quite extraordinary in their ability to change and adapt. It's really just a shift in attitude and self-belief and the willingness to start.

What would you do if you had no fear of failure? And more importantly, do you believe that trying and failing and trying again has a value? Take it from this ex-smoker (who actually quit 5 times prior to 2006) and this chub fighter (who has lost and regained 20 pounds time and again): every time I fail at something, I have slowly but surely started to gain a sense of understanding and purpose from it.

What used to happen is I'd throw my hands up in the hair and say, "Screw it! I'm done."

Now, I keep my hands at my side and say, "Alright, how can I change my approach or focus to do what it is that I want and need to do?"

I know the end of the year is a time when we start to imagine the changes we want to make as of January 1st. It's that clean slate time; a chance to start fresh.

I just want anyone out there who wants change but isn't sure if they can make it to know, trying is the first step. Failing is the second. And trying again is both the third step, and a new way to re-frame your thinking towards making changes in your life that you can live with.

And you know what? Failure is an option. Just take it from me. It teaches me every single day.



Join me in 2012 for my workshop, Move More, Eat Well 2012. In this class, we'll navigate the space in which women try to make positive changes in their lives for better health and nutrition. There's no whip being cracked during the class; just common sense ideas and the desire to make healthy changes in your life. We'll meet monthly to ask and answer questions related to the process of taking care of you and hopefully, find some things along the way that really do stick.

Cathy ZielskeFood for thought

63 Comments on “Food for thought”

  1. #3

    You were my original inspiration, Cathy, when I started my weight loss journey in January 2010. And you continue to inspire me each and every day…thanks for the post. I needed it today!

  2. #4

    You are right. Failure is always an option. It’s the quitting and giving up that isn’t an option. You are the one who inspired me to start running last November. I am now 5 weeks into training for my first Half Marathon. Thank you for your honesty and openness on this journey.

  3. #5
    tara pollard pakosta

    I just may have to take this class. I have 25lbs to lose and NEED to get it off for good. I have gained & lost the same 20lbs over and over again, so I KNOW how you feel!!
    Food is an addiction and I hate that because it’s something we have to do….
    So happy you kicked the nicotine habit!
    I have heard that’s a very hard one! I am proud to say I have never even TRIED one in my life. I saw my parents addiction to them and it really bothered me! out of us 7 children, there is only ONE smoker and she’s now 42 years old and STILL smoking! I want her to quit so badly!
    okay keep on moving girl, you do look GREAT!

  4. #6

    How inspirational! Everyone has something in their lives that this applies to. The “failure” bit makes me think of J.K. Rowling who gave a speech to Harvard grads about the importance of failure as a first step to success. We can do it!

  5. #7

    ok, I think I”m losing it but your post almost made me cry myself. thank you for your inspiration bit in my life today 🙂

  6. #9

    Aw, didnt mean to do that. But I think right now Im really trying to embrace failure as a way to understand and then adjust my approaches to everything in my life. Not just food and fitness! : )

  7. #11
    Theresa S.

    ” . . .what would you do if you stepped out of your personal box of limitations.” Love it. That is why my One Little Word for 2012 is “limitless”–I’m trying to move beyond the limitations that have restricted me for so long. Looking forward to the workshop.

  8. #13

    I finally pushed the go button on your workshop today – I was so sure that I would sign up and then not follow through but I took that first step and I am very much looking forward to a bit of stumbling and trying and falling down and getting back up with you this year.
    And btw – you are rockin’ the 50 mile challenge this month!

  9. #14

    Waving hand in air….ex-smoker, always trying to lose 20 plus lbs. I started back at Weight Watchers in October, lost 11 lbs, and now have jumped so far off the wagon, I don’t know what to do.

    I am such an emotional eater. My mom died in September, my husband had a cancer scare two weeks ago, and I just give myself carte blanche when I think about what I’ve gone through. You deserve to eat those cookies, ice cream, cake, etc. You lost your mom-who was your best friend-and if some junk food makes you feel better, eat it. However, as we all know, it doesn’t make you feel better in the long run.

    I read your blog religiously and used to love to scrapbook, but I am just so depressed about things, that I haven’t done any scrapbooking for months. I do see a dr and have meds for my depression, but making healthy choices is just so hard for me.

    Thanks for listening and know that you are definitely not alone out there. I appreciate your posts and may take your move more eat well class. I need something to jump start my life!

  10. #15
    katie squires

    “Failure is an option” I feel like an elephant was just lifted off my shoulders…I have a big goal for 2012 and it has me frozen in fear…but a change of attitude…mmm…that might just be the trick…thank-you.

  11. #17
    Sarah H.

    Just signed up. I am so tired of trying to lose 20 lbs. Just 20! This is the year. Thanks for the great post. I am so looking forward to having a support system on this journey!

  12. #18
    Mary J

    Wow! Just exactly what I needed to hear today! I quit smoking January 15, 1997 and I smoked the exact same cigarettes! Everytime I fear failure now, I will remember how many times I attempted to quit smoking before I was successful. I signed up for the class the second it opened up and I cannot wait to get started. I know I will have challenges. I am having major surgery on 2/14. The difference this time is that I know (with my surgeon’s permission) that I need to get moving again as soon as I’m able, slowly of course. But not to use that as an excuse to lay around for another year. I’m on and off the activity wagon over and over again. Not this time. I can fall off the wagon. I just have to get back on it again. As someone else said, how freeing!! Thank you!

  13. #22

    Paula, Im so sorry to hear of your loss. Thats first and foremost. I cant imagine the grief youre processing. Just remember, time can be a healing thing. It can. And Im glad youre seeking treatment for depression. As a person whos married to a man who has had depression his entire adult life, I totally understand what it can be in someones life. You will make healthy choices when you are able to. Right now, just breathe. You know? Maybe youll join in the class, just to find a space to think about the challenges you do have. Ill tell you, its not just emotions that make us eat. Those sweet or junky carbs do things in our brains, literally, to make us feel temporarily better. Its like fighting an uphill battle for a lot of us. I wish you peace for the remainder of this holiday season. : )

  14. #23

    Katie, failure to me used to be the Great Derailer. Miss Black and White would throw in the towel at the first sign of failure. Not any more. Now, I simply try to understand it and learn from it, and Ill be damned if its not getting more automatic for me to do that!

  15. #26

    Good for you on the quitting smoking. Yes, those menthols… oh baby, such memories indeed. But you did it. You quit! Think of how hard that was. I mean, for REAL. Hardest thing out there to quit, at least one of them. : ) See you in class!

  16. #27

    wow…thanks for summing up the smoking thing, i feel like i just read my story! – almost that is… i made it in 1997 after smoking filterless, self-rolled.. really did i?? i made myself (and after previous failure that is), told myself, if you really love that man and you wanna live with him in the usa, you will do this now. i did, august 17, cried a lot. there are still days when cigarette smoke smells good… but it would never be an option any more.
    thanks for sharing your story, cathy, and have a very happy christmas with your family!

  17. #28
    Karen M.

    I was never a smoker. And although I am overweight, I am not really a huge eater. I just eat the wrong things – things I want instead of the fuel my body needs. I know better. I have lost more weight – and gained it back than I want to remember. I am afraid of failing – again. But you give me hope – I am all signed up. Let’s go.

  18. #30

    I’ll be signing up for this class next week, Cathy. I, too, am such a black/white person that a single eating screw-up or scale mishap sends me off my program and into another downward (or should I say “upward”?) spiral. I look forward to somehow incorporating this journey into Project Life.

    Paula, I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my own mother less than a week ago.

  19. #31

    You’re amazing. And honest. I love honesty – it’s the only thing that’ll getcha from the bad to good. All you can ever do is be honest and just keep walking, that’s what I reckon.

  20. #33
    Nancy LeB

    so interesting – the blog post in my google reader right before yours also mentioned inertia and Newton’s law of motion (which I can’t begin to explain or completely understand) which says that inertia is overcome by force – sometimes we just have to force ourselves to move more and eat less! thanks so much

  21. #34

    I so love you Cathy Zielske. I really do. Thank you for sharing your journey and your life. You inspire me to MOVE – not necessarily more – but just to MOVE in other aspects not just in the physical movement.

  22. #38
    Beth H

    OK, Cathy, you got me. I’ve been looking at the Move More Eat Well class and decided- no, not for me. I’ve never been one to embrace support groups. I’m a former smoker too and I quit that by myself, so why not the weight loss thing? Your post today changed my mind. I too have lost and regained weight. Obviously, I need to change my approach. So, yes, I’m in! Signed up and anxious to start!

  23. #39
    jacquie d

    Funny how your words hit home with so many readers. Your really are an inspiration, Cathy!
    Nobody ever thought that I could quit smoking…I was a die hard and I loved it! I have been smoke free now for over 9 years, but definitely not chub free. I too have that 20 pound monkey on my back that I want to set free. I plan to sign up for your class, but like many others, failure looms. Someone once said to me, ‘Never quit quitting’ and I guess there is no time like the present to take the plunge. See you in class.

  24. #40

    Good for you Beth! I really hope this year to just bring some good inspiration and encouragement in this class. I am learning more and more all the time how to make it work for me. Sometimes its easier that others, that is for sure. But it is ALWAYS a conscious thing. The minute I start to live unconsciously, well, all hell breaks loose! See you in class!

  25. #42

    “Screw it! I’m done.” Would I let my child or my math students say it? No way! So I guess I need to banish it from my vocabulary, too. Try, fail, learn! Try, fail, learn! Try, fail, learn! Eventually we’ll succeed!! Can’t wait to join your journey this coming year!

  26. #43
    Alana in Canada

    Hi Cathy!
    Well, I’ve done it. I’ve gone and signed up for the class. (I’m so thrilled you are doing this. Utterly Thrilled.) I was thinking about doing something like this anyway (though maybe not the documenting portion quite so much–but what they hey.) I’ve forked over my money and read the pre-class handouts. Speaking of which–page numbers, Cathy, page numbers. Please?

    (Yes, I am wagging my finger at you.)

    Anyway, not that important, couldn’t resist my inner editor, you know I’m still thrilled. I sincerely wish you and your wonderful family have a very merry Christmas.

    Alana aka scraplolly.

  27. #44
    Alana in Canada

    Oh blast. I just noticed the e-mail address on the last page. Please delete my previous comment if you want. I’m so embarrassed–I really should have sent you an e-mail instead of posting my comment here. I was trying to make light of it, too, which should have been my first clue to stop typing. Please accept my heartfelt apology for wagging my finger in public.

  28. #45

    Dang! I actually put page numbers on the new Type class handouts, but not on these so far. Okay, starting in February (January stuff had to be turned in on Dec. 1st) Youll have numbers! But Ill tell you, most handouts are no more than 4! : ) See you there, Lolly!

  29. #47
    Bec Kilgore

    Signed up for your BPC class. I have managed to stay a non-smoker. Lost a lot of weight and I mean a LOT. Have gained back. Not happy. Now I also need to figure out all this digital stuff. Think i would like to do this class digitally.

    I am determined to make 2012 a different kind of year. 2011 was horrible. I will spare y’all the details.

  30. #48

    Hey Bec, have you ever thought of taking a class at, Up and Running with Photoshop? Both her and offer excellent digital classes! : ) Heres to a better 2012.

  31. #49

    Thank you for such a great post. I am peparing to give up my sugar addiction this coming year and I am scared to death!

    Just curious…when you gave up smoking did you have a plan to replace it with something healthy? If so, what was it? I think when we give up something that helps us cope we have to have something ready to replace it with – something healthy, or we will just gain another bad habit.

    Having an addiciton is really a sucky thing.

    Looking forward to your class!

  32. #50

    Donna, I chewed a TON of sugar free gum. Like it was going out of style. Cinnamon flavored sugar free gum.

    Im working on getting sugar out of my system right now, and so far, its going really well for the past 7 days. Probably a silly thing to do at Christmas, but I just needed to get a handle on junk food and white bread and all the stuff that turns to sugar in the bloodstream.

    Sugar can be kicked, but you have to be completely vigilant. I think for some people, dabbling in sugar is no problem. For me, its takes everything ive got to get back on track. Trying to understand all of this. Looking forward to exploring it in class!

  33. #51

    I quit smoking January 7, 2003 after smoking since I was a teen, and then my brother died that same September! I knew he was inspired by me and remain smoke free still today. I too also gained the weight and had to lose it (and continue to lose it), and I also began running. I’ve logged over 1000 miles in 2011 and have a goal of 1200 for 2012. I still need lessons on the move more, eat well, and yet still can’t believe how far I’ve come from those smoking days!

  34. #53
    Alana in Canada

    Thank you. Your graciousness is a gift. I used to be a smoker, too, by the way. I’ve been quit now for three years. My family is just beginning to heal from the hell I put them through that first year. My body still has the weight, though.

  35. #54

    Its a rough haul, quitting smoking. It took me about three years before I finally reached the point where I truly felt I wouldnt smoke again. And only in the past year do I find myself just loathing the smell when Im out and about and someone is smoking. You can do anything if you can quit smoking. You really can.

  36. #55
    Margot Perry

    I was just thinking how cool it would be if you could create a screensaver for my ipad or iphone or even a printable I could hang on the fridge of “MOVE MORE EAT WELL 2012”. I know I could use a happy daily reminder to do this every day!!! 😉

  37. #57

    Thank you for your message today. I have way more than 20 to lose and I needed your message today. Signing up for your class will be my gift to myself.

  38. #58

    Well said, Cathy. I try in my class to teach my 4th graders this very idea: we learn more from failing than from doing everything right. It’s ingrained in our society. Yet, in some Asian classrooms, they spend their class time celebrating and learning from errors (particularly in math). My kids leave fourth grade with the idea that I was the “nutty teacher that got way too excited about mistakes.” I am not as good at practicing what I preach, but I can tell you how much therapy and tears perfectionism and workaholism have gotten me…countless.

  39. #59

    Have you read any books by Kathleen DesMaisons? She has a recovery program for sugar addiction that gets great reviews. It is going to be my method.

  40. #61
    Yvonne Stehle

    I am so happy you are offering this opportunity and I already signed in (if late). I’ve been following you for a long time although I have to admit I am not a frequent comment-poster!(Note to self: another thing for 2012 to change!)
    Thanks for lifting me up!

  41. #62
    Shala Ohms

    Quitting smoking is all about having the right kind of mindset. Some have been able to quit through ways such as using e-cigarettes and keeping busy. Your story is so inspirational. You can be considered as a good model. 🙂

  42. #63
    Drug treatment centers

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