Actor and fitness enthusiast Milind Soman on quitting smoking, losing bad habits and how fitness is a choice.

Milind Soman, the 53-year-old man behind Pinkathon-India’s biggest women-only marathon, never shies away from spreading awareness about health and fitness. Two years ago, he had successfully completed the Ultrathon in Florida, which is a 10 km swim, 424 km cycle and 84 km run. When asked about his inspiration he said, “the guy who finished before me was 67 years old with only one leg, so, inspiration is everywhere.”

 

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In his latest web series, ‘Maximise your day’, Soman says that more than good habits, it was the absence of bad habits that helped shape his life. An avid sportsman, who has completed the most gruelling Ironman Triathlon challenge, Soman spoke to Hindustan Times and revealed how he quit smoking and drinking and disciplined himself to never go down that road again.

It took him nearly two years to “kick the butt”.

“I used to wake up early, had no TV or video games. I hadn’t even tasted an aerated drink until the age of 20. Through my growing years, there was no exposure to bad habits. It’s only later when I took up modelling and acting that I developed a few,” says Soman.

 

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Soman started drinking in his 20s, but it was easy to give up “since I didn’t go out partying and hanging out at people houses”, he says. This helped limit the access to alcohol and prevented him from getting sucked into it. By the time he turned 28, he had completely given it up.

But, giving up the craving of having just a puff was very difficult, he says.
“People don’t offer cigarettes anymore. As opposed to Rs 16 now, when I used to smoke, a cigarette would cost Re 1, and everyone would be offering them to each other. People don’t realise but it is like any other addictive drug and unlike cocaine or marijuana, it was never frowned upon. So the accessibility and acceptability made it difficult to stay away from it.”

In a first, Soman took advantage of what they say is a mental weakness. He used procrastination, the “talent” of putting off things for later, to help him get over smoking.

“The urge to smoke comes in waves, it builds up with the craving in your head and disseminates, and then disappears. So when it really becomes very strong, tell yourself to smoke after 10 or 15 minutes and then get busy with something else and repeat,” he says.

 

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From 30, he was able to reduce it to 4-5 cigarettes a day, but the last four cigarettes were the most difficult to give up. It took him two years to bring it down to zero from four.

“After it comes down to one, it is not a physical craving anymore, it is only psychological. Nicotine stays in your blood for about three days, so after that when you still feel that craving, it’s a mental thing which is what one has to fight.”

As his short-form content series ‘Maximise your day’, co-created with Hotstar Branded Content team, explains, it is the mind that has to be disciplined, because once directed, the body is capable of doing amazing things.

 

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The body at any age can adapt, he says. “Mann Kaur, from the Pinkathon, for example, is 103 years old and had started running when she was 93. Now, she is the world champion in her age group.”

His advice to youngsters? He says that his telling them won’t make a difference; they have to realise it on their own. “There’s a picture of rotting lungs on the cigarette packet, there’s a warning by the government that the product is going to kill you. It’s not a lie.”