Following my post in June last year, wondering why I always seemed to be dieting, I decided that the post Christmas 2017 diet was going to be the one. The diet to end all diets. The diet that led to the promised land of the Lifestyle Change. As such I needed an edge. Something to make sure. And I thought, Vaping! Vaping for weight loss; that’s the way to go.
Now, I’m sure some might think that this is an obviously poor idea, just like, for example, everyone I mentioned it to beforehand. Particularly considering that I’d never smoked…
Well, I say ‘never smoked’. There was this one time at a work Christmas party, many years ago; back when it was still okay to smoke inside. There had been a couple of drinks and there were those long, thin balloons that you inflate with a straw and then let go and the balloon flies around the room, making a high pitched screech, before dropping into someone’s soup… actually, why are these a thing?!
Anyway, I mentioned to the smokers, that one of them should fill the balloon with smoke and let it go so it left a smoke trail across the ceiling. This was universally agreed to be a great idea but there was a problem; none of the smokers had the lung strength to inflate the balloon. So I said I’d do it. Balloon in one hand, cigarette in the other, I took a long drag… burned the back of my throat and spent the next 10 minutes coughing my lungs up.
This always reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by the great Bill Waterson:
I should point out that the concept of vaping for weight loss didn’t just occur to me out of the blue. In 2016, Horizon ran an episode called, ‘E-Cigarettes: Miracle or Menace?‘ In this program, Michael Mosley, also a non-smoker, tried vaping to see how it affected him. He reported that it had no effect on his responsiveness or intellectual skills. Which, while interesting, is not that relevant, because he wasn’t trying vaping for weight loss.
What was relevant was that he didn’t expect it to be hard for him to kick the habit of vaping after he finished recording. On that basis, vaping as a non smoker seemed tried and tested enough for me to have a bash.
This still doesn’t explain why I thought vaping might lead to losing weight. I thought that because reports have been cropping up for many years, like this one from a BBC report in 2003, Girls ‘smoke to stay thin’. As my daughters are in their mid teens, and there’s a lot of smoking at their school, this has been something that I’ve been increasingly conscious about. Indeed, this worry has led me to drag both of them into vaping shops, over the last couple of years, and explained that, while I hope they never start smoking, if they do head down that route, vaping is a much better option.
Indeed, one of the main reasons I nearly didn’t try vaping for weight loss, was that it might encourage the girls to start vaping themselves. As I’ll explain later, this proved not to be a problem. In the end, before I started, I talked to both of them and explained my concerns, and they both said that they had no intention of vaping. I know it might seem stupid to trust the word of teenagers but I kinda do. Somehow they’ve turned out to be good kids; probably Julie’s influence.
So, with a planned start date for the diet of 27th December, in the run up to Christmas, Julie and I went off to visit a local vape shop to ask them some questions. I won’t mention which one because when I asked the question, “Do you think taking up vaping for weight loss is a good idea”, they both looked at me like I was an idiot and told me no. Which might well not be the response the shop owner was looking for. So I don’t want to get them in trouble.
So we discussed it and I pointed out that nicotine is an appetite suppressant, as evidenced by articles like this. I also pointed out that nicotine increases the metabolism, which I got from reading articles like this. The problem is that virtually all of these articles come from the position of controlling weight gain after you quit smoking. The guys in the vape shop were used to dealing with people wanting to vape as an aid to quitting smoking. I was very much swimming against the tide.
In the end, though, I managed to explain my thoughts as to why vaping for weight loss, as a non smoker, might actually work and they sold me the kit. But they’d only let me have the very lowest strength fluid they had in stock, which was 6mg. I really liked those guys, they were my favorite aspect of the whole experiment.
Actually, choosing the flavours of liquid to vape was quite fun too. Because I was such a noob, they suggested a good spread of options: Something sweet, to help with cravings; something minty, because it tastes fresh, and; something neutral.
And, sure, the packaging seems to think that nicotine is addictive. But would it prove to be as addictive, to me, as sugar was?
Actually Trying the Vaping for Weight Loss Approach
On Wednesday 27th December 2017, I began vaping for weight loss.
This was an important one to me because it was the first time, in a long time, that I felt real motivation to diet. I had tried a couple of diets since the June post.
- The first, to drop weight to do a 600 mile cycle tour with dad, through France, in September. Completely failed! I just left all the Lycra at home and cycled the route at 20 stone, wearing tee-shirts.
- The second, to drop weight during the hockey season, such that between a few of the players, we’d collectively lose the weight of one of the other players, called Ned. The Shed a Ned campaign. Completely failed. I just played the season at 20 stone. My knees still aren’t speaking to me.
But, this time, I was feeling it. I realised that I’d gone the whole of 2017 without any new cancer issues. More than a year without bad news. I felt that, finally, I could start planning for a future that didn’t involve chemotherapy and surgery. And that’s worth dieting for!
To be fair, vaping wasn’t all that I did. I cut down my food intake to represent what I would normally consume if I was doing Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers is my default diet and I’ve done it so often, I don’t actually need to count my points any more. So, I wasn’t actually signed up with Weight Watchers, I was just eating within their limits. I was also walking three miles a day. Which was taking me an hour.
This left me with a lowered calorie intake and an increased calorie expenditure, naturally resulting in a calorie deficit, and the weight loss that goes with it. Well, at least for the start of a diet. This tends to get more tricky as a diet draws on, and the body starts playing its little games… but I’ll look at that another day.
The problem with a good, solid calorie deficit is the hunger that comes too. Worse still, in the first couple of days, is the headaches and stroppiness that come from, what is effectively, sugar withdrawal. Hangry is a thing, in the Lewis household.
But vaping would introduce nicotine into my system. Vaping would take away the hunger and the hangry. And vaping would smooth over the feeling of withdrawal by introducing another chemical into my system. Vaping for weight loss was the answer. At least in theory.
In practice, it turns out that knowing how to smoke is somewhat essential to the whole vaping experience. Seriously! I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing. I tried to look it up but there is remarkably little, in the whole of the internet, that teaches you how to smoke. Of course, I accept that this is a good thing. But still, it didn’t help me.
The Wikipedia page on nicotine, under Psychoactive Effects, said that to achieve a stimulating effect, users take, ‘short, quick puffs’. Elsewhere I read that, by taking longer drags, nicotine became a relaxant.
But what did that mean? What constitutes a short, quick puff? What is a long drag? It was all so frustrating!
It was a break in the hockey season, so I wasn’t seeing any of the smokers I know. You know, to casually bring up in conversation that I wanted them to show me how to smoke. And there was no way I could bring myself to arrange a specific meeting to ask how to smoke. That might have led to ridicule!
So I made it up. I was only vaping about four times a day, anyway. And each time I vaped, I took between 1 drag and 4 puffs. That was all I needed to keep the hunger at bay. And it really did work, I didn’t feel hungry at all while I was vaping.
Even better, when I was out walking, any time I started to feel a bit tired, I would take a drag/puff. Almost immediately I felt a bit energised. I also felt a bit warmer, which was nice, as these walks were happening after dark in December and January. The other thing was a slight lift in my mood. My general sense of well being.
Had that been it, I would say that vaping for weight loss was an unqualified success. But that wasn’t it. One slight problem was that is affected my voice. Made it a bit deeper. It wasn’t significant but I didn’t like it.
Though, what ruined it for me was the coughing. When I was in the vape shop, I mentioned that I’d burned my throat taking that drag on the cigarette and asked whether this would be an issue for me. They assured me not, as the liquid is vaporised by a coil and comes out at a much lower temperature than smoke. Reassured, I went home happy; not thinking through the meaning of the word, vaporise. In essence, it means turn liquid to steam. Steam, however, is, famously, quite hot.
My throat certainly thought so. Every single time. The girls thought this was hilarious and, if they heard me sneaking off into the back garden, would follow me. And watch me. And laugh hysterically. Also, every single time. This is why I now have no concerns about the girls taking up vaping or smoking.
And, sadly, that ended my experiment of vaping for weight loss. I say ‘sadly’ because I think it has merits. At least for me, in my situation. I struggle with hunger, when I’m dieting, and vaping took that away, meaning I would have been able to diet longer.
For the record, I had absolutely no cravings for nicotine when I stopped vaping. I’d only been doing it a couple of weeks but there was absolutely nothing tempting me back.
As it was, I continued dieting, until we got back from skiing, towards the end of February. It was at this point that I got told that I had a new tumour in my liver and a tumour in my lung. That pretty well ended all thoughts of serious diet, while I waited the 5 weeks to hear what my treatment options were.
Good, as it turns out. Surgery in a few weeks. So now I’m dieting for that. No vaping this time, though. 95% safer than smoking, or not, I still have a tumour in my lung. It’s not actually a lung cancer tumour, it’s a colon cancer tumour. But it’s still in my lung. Which is an explanation for another time. For now: no more vaping for me.
And for other people thinking of vaping for weight loss. I’d say; it’s probably best left to those that are, or have been, a smoker or vaper.
Although, for non-smokers, it boils down to this: are you in more danger from remaining obese, than you are from taking up vaping but losing weight as a result?
I think that every individual would have to make their own assessment. But what’s increasingly all over the news is that being overweight is becoming more dangerous, to the population as a whole, than smoking. But then, vaping is thought to be 95% safer than smoking.
So, is it worth reducing the risks of obesity by introducing the risks of vaping?
It might just be.
If you can find someone to show you how to vape…