“I quit smoking and dropped 35 pounds!”

Acupuncture and exercise helped one woman lose weight and kick some bad habits

Source: Web exclusive: May 2008

For years Tracy St. Denis described herself as an overweight smoker. And that didn’t really bother the senior advisor to the deputy minister of industry, tourism and investment, Northwest Territories, in Yellowknife’not much, anyway. ‘I’ve always been very comfortable in my own skin,’ she says. The 100 pounds she had gained since her late teens hadn’t really registered. What did prey on her mind was the smoking. ‘My husband doesn’t smoke,’ she explains. ‘And I’d been doing it for almost 20 years. I knew I would have to quit eventually, if not sooner.’

The breaking point

Last summer, St. Denis realized she had reached 275 pounds. ‘The weight I was carrying just felt extremely uncomfortable,’ she says. (See her Before picture.) ‘I remember walking to an appointment and being very winded, and not ever really experiencing that before. That, to me, was a very scary sign that I needed to do something.’

The challenge

To accomplish the double-whammy goal of quitting smoking and shaping up while juggling a very hectic job. To stay motivated, she adopted a good friend’s mantra: ‘Forty is the new 30.’ She decided to look and feel better by 40 than she had when she reached three decades.

The plan

To join Herbal Magic, take Pilates classes twice a week and quit smoking. After researching smoking-cessation aids, St. Denis settled on acupuncture and booked appointments in advance. ‘I needed to psych myself up,’ she says. ‘The only other time I tried to quit was a last-minute New Year’s thing, and it only lasted two months.’

The biggest obstacle

Remembering to eat more frequently throughout her busy days. ‘Even now I still have to make an effort to stop for a morning snack, and to eat lunch. Making meals in advance is the key. I have a protein shake for breakfast. I make big batches of healthy food like soups on the weekend and freeze them for lunches. And I make sure I have fruit around.’

The results: St. Denis credits her butt-out success to both acupuncture and also to the two laser therapy sessions she heard about and signed up for while on a business trip in Toronto. ‘I went for my first treatment on Dec. 10, and that’s the last day I had a cigarette,’ she says. ‘I experience cravings still, but they aren’t physical. Acupuncture really helped take the edge off.’ As a result of her new healthier lifestyle, she shed 35 pounds (see her After picture here), and when she runs into people who haven’t seen her in a while, they comment on how bright her eyes are and how nice her skin looks. ‘I just feel better. And when you feel better, you’re happier.’

The road ahead

St. Denis is progressing with Pilates. ‘This week I was finally able to do the plank!’ But she’s also working with a personal trainer’whose fee she justifies now that she doesn’t need cigarette money’to keep her exercise routine varied.

The tips

  • ‘ Fill the voids. Food can be a tempting substitute for smoking, but St. Denis turns to exercise instead. She also changed her routine to avoid places and events that trigger cravings. ‘I used to come in at the back of my building where I’d have a smoke. For the first month, I totally avoided that area.’

  • ‘ Use your own (motivating) lingo
    . ‘Rather than weight loss, I prefer to call it weight management. I’m not trying to be a size 4. For me, I’d like to be in a size 10 or 12. If that’s 175 pounds, great.’ Plus, she celebrates reaching mini goals along the way. When she got below 250 pounds, for instance, she treated herself to a manicure and pedicure.
  • Break all ties. A close pal suggested that St. Denis treat smoking as though it was a friend who has died. ‘Other people may have friends [their smokes]. But mine isn’t around anymore. It sounds really morbid, but it works.’