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This Quitter Did Win

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We've all heard people make New Year's resolutions (or make them ourselves) and question how likely it will be to succeed. The statistics might seem compelling, especially if your resolution is to quit smoking -- which I know from personal experience is quite a challenge.

I'm here to tell you: You can do this, and you don't have to do it by yourself. That's why I'm sharing my story with you.

As a restaurateur, my palate is one of my most important tools. However, like many hospitality industry workers, I was a smoker. A lot of people outside the industry find it surprising that a group of people who rely on their taste buds have one of the highest smoking populations in the U.S.

Maybe it's the hours? Maybe it's the high-stress environment? Maybe it's being surrounded by food and wine all the time? I don't know, but I understand the struggles and challenges food industry workers face when quitting smoking.

I smoked for 18 years. At one point, I was up to 2.5 packs of cigarettes per day and buying a third pack on my way home from Babbo each night. Think of how many cigarettes that is per waking hour! I tried to quit at least a dozen times, but the cravings always became stronger than my will to succeed. That's when I realized "will to succeed" is not enough. I needed a plan, and I needed support.

I credit my wife for laying down the law, so to speak, when she gave birth to my first child. I knew I had to set a positive example for my family, and I had to quit for sake of my career. This wasn't just a job to me. Food and wine are my passion. It was time to make a change.

It might have been one of the most difficult challenges of my life, but I am so proud to say I succeeded. I did it... I quit smoking. Every opportunity to take a cigarette break was a temptation. Every action I used to associate with having a cigarette in my hand required a new way of thinking. It was an adjustment, but I didn't do it alone.

I learned the necessity of a strong support system, and that's why I'm partnering with Blueprint to Quit -- a comprehensive quit smoking program available at Walmart -- to help others get started on the right foot. Blueprint to Quit can help with physical cravings associated with smoking and provides behavioral support online when you need it.

When making your resolution to quit smoking, make this year different. Start with a detailed action plan, not just a broad statement that you're going to quit. Figure out what your triggers are. Become more conscious of your behaviors, so you can learn to change them. Replace each cigarette with a different activity. Celebrate each time you skip that opportunity to smoke. Each time is a win. Make your family and friends hold you accountable by sharing your plan with them.

It's been 15 years since I stopped smoking, and it's still a source of pride for me. I'm healthier now than I was in my 20s and looking forward to competing in my second Ironman in Kona, Hawaii -- if I'm lucky to get a spot! I've also gained so much personally by seeing what I can accomplish. I've spent some of the best years of my life already as a non-smoker, and I'm confident some of the best are still to come.

May you have a wonderful New Year filled with health and happiness!

For more on smoking, click here.

For more by Joe Bastianich, click here.

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