Never quit quitting; why kicking a habit should be more than a new year’s resolution

As millions of people will already have broken their 2021 new year’s resolutions, pharmacist and founder of online pharmacy , Mohammed Yasir, explains why the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle should be a year-round pursuit.

Every year, January 1st represents a symbolic opportunity to turn over a new leaf. New year’s resolutions usually fall in one of two camps: starting something or stopping something, and during the first quarter of 2020 we saw website sales of products to aid in stopping smoking increase by 150% compared to the rest of the year.

The same trend can already be seen throughout January 2021 and it is a similar situation with products including dieting aids, vitamin supplements which have seen increases between 100-200%. Just one look at the record 500,000 people who signed up for Veganuary in 2021 shows how the start of a new year captures the public’s imagination when it comes to attempts to be healthier.

At face value, this is fantastic news, and the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle should only ever be celebrated. As we inevitably see sales of nicotine patches decline throughout the year, we hope this is because those quitting smoking have successfully transitioned to become non-smokers.

Unfortunately, the reality is that January is not only the month a resolution starts – but also when it ends.

Short lived success

A 2019 study from the jam and jelly brand Hartley’s found that an estimated 26 million people will start trying to lose weight at the start of a new year but 87% will have gone back on their healthy eating habits by as early as January 12th.

When it comes to smoking, the RSPH reported in 2016 that “Of those who resolved to stub out the cigarettes this time last year, 3 in 5 had started smoking again by 31 January and as few as 13% were still smoke-free one year later”.

This is coupled with a wider decline in our dietary habits. While the first lockdown in March 2020 was used as an opportunity by many to focus on health and fitness, it has been widely reported that the same cannot be said for Lockdown 3.0. It would appear the UK’s resolve (perhaps somewhat understandably) has waned, with many saying they are eating worse and drinking more.

Everything in moderation

Indeed, it is not just January that provides a launchpad for change. Many initiatives throughout the year from Dry January through to Stoptober are designed to encourage people to make positive lifestyle changes.

Taking part in these types of campaigns is only ever going to be a good thing. Firstly, because it never does you any harm to cut back or eliminate habits and behaviours which are scientifically proven to be detrimental to one’s health. What’s more, particularly in the case of smoking, research has shown if you can quit for 28 days, you are 5 times more likely to quit for good. Make it through the month and make a permanent change.

However, when considering relationships with food and alcohol, depriving oneself entirely is rarely the long-term answer. Much more successful are lifestyle changes which are manageable and sustainable for the long-run. Don’t deny yourself entirely some of your guilty pleasures, but instead enjoy them in moderation as part of an overall healthy lifestyle made up of those two fundamental pillars: exercise and a good diet.

Some things you should quit for good

Of course, when it comes to stopping smoking, there is overwhelming medical advice outlining why this is a habit which you should quit forever, and as soon as possible. There is also plenty of support: your GP, support groups, online pharmacies such as – all of these places are packed with information and resources to help you kick the habit, for good.

Make it count

A change for the better is always a good thing and should be encouraged. If you’re looking to make some changes towards a healthier lifestyle, my advice would be:

  1. Don’t try and do it all at once. Instead, make several smaller changes over a longer period of time which become integrated as part of your everyday lifestyle.
  2. Be specific about what you are going to cut back on or what you are going to increase. ‘Dieting’ or ‘eating healthier’ is far too vague and therefore harder to accomplish. Instead, think about: are you going to only have a dessert on Sundays, are you going to take a vitamin each day, are you going to stick to a certain number of alcoholic units each week.
  3. When it comes to stopping smoking – seek support. There is a wealth of advice, guidance and products out there to help you kick the habit for good.

And finally, don’t wait for January – there is no time like the present to start becoming healthier.

Mohammed Yasir MPharmS Independent Prescriber has been a Pharmacist for 18 years, running a high-street pharmacy in Lancashire since 2010. In 2018 Mohammed founded, a customer focussed online pharmacy committed to the well-being of their patients.

Main graphic: Mohammed Yasir

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