Cold Turkey is an idiom most commonly used when quitting something that is very difficult, like smoking or drugs all at once instead of gradually. Can you also start something "Cold Turkey" or is there another idiom that would be better? Replace the term in the following sentence.

The obese man began running 10 miles a day [cold turkey].

  • Related, not duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/q/295693/13804
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 13:15
  • 1
    I'm not clear how you want to use your phrase. Could you give an example of how you use cold turkey, and then another phrase with the word you want missing?
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 13:55
  • 1
    @Dan After the nicotine patch failed, he decided to quit smoking cold turkey
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 14:18
  • 2
    I've actually used cold turkey before to refer to the precipitous start of an activity, but I suppose technically that's not its normal usage. So at least I think its meaning is understandable in your sentence. Language is how people use it.
    – GoDucks
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 14:53
  • "Cold turkey" refers to withdrawal symptoms which does only apply when ending not when starting. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 17:39

24 Answers 24


Following the model answer given in comments above (After the nicotine patch failed, he decided to quit smoking cold turkey)

After putting on weight over Christmas, he threw himself/jumped in/dived in at the deep end and started doing 2-hour marathon training sessions every morning before breakfast.

Throw oneself/Jump in at the deep end means to ​start doing something new and ​difficult without ​help or ​preparation (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/jump-in-at-the-deep-end)

  • 9
    "Jumped in with both feet" is a similar, related, but slightly different phrase too. "Threw in at the deep end" suggests starting at a difficult level, which is subtly different. "Jumping in with both feet", on the other hand, suggests an immediate start with no reference to difficulty (eg you aren't testing the water with one foot and deciding whether to jump in, you're just going straight in).
    – Jon Story
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 17:44
  • 10
    Also "dived right in"
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 18:02
  • Hi @Dan this is an excellent answer of course but, uh, my one is better in this case :-) It's, further, a fascinating observation that conversely one can use "jumped in" indeed precisely as one uses 'cold turkey' in the case of quitting drugs..
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 15:34
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    "Jump in at the deep end" is best, i think, because it conveys the idea that the approach is potentially dangerous, unlike "jumping in with both feet", which, in my opinion sounds like the person in question is being enthusiastic rather than possibly a bit reckless. Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 11:31

The subject took to the new activity whole hog.

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    Nice, this sounds like much more of a direct analog of "cold turkey" than many of the other answers. +1
    – Danu
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:50
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    This doesn't suggest the unpleasant sudden shock of 'cold turkey'.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 23:21


jump in with both feet/jump in feet first

jump in with both feet also jump with both feet into something to become involved in something quickly and completely When she decides to get involved, she jumps in with both feet. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms

The obese man jumped feet first/with both feet into running 10 miles a day.

take the plunge

Idiom To enter with sudden decision upon an unfamiliar course of action, as after hesitation or deliberation. Random House

The obese man took the plunge and began running 10 miles a day.

take the bit between one's teeth/in one's teeth/mouth

To do what you have decided to do in a forceful and energetic way CDO

The obese man took the bit in his teeth and began running 10 miles a day.

grit one's teeth

To decide to deal with an unpleasant or difficult situation. Etymology: based on the literal meaning of grit your teeth (to press your teeth tightly together)

To deal with something in a determined way; When a test came along, I just gritted my teeth and studied harder because I knew I had to improve my grades. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms

The obese man gritted his teeth and began running 10 miles a day.

swallow the bitter pill

bitter pill: a distressing experience or result that is hard to accept (often in the expression a bitter pill to swallow) Random House

The obese man swallowed the bitter pill and began running 10 miles a day.


To express the unpleasantness of "cold turkey", I would suggest "biting the bullet". To bite the bullet means:

to ​force yourself to do something ​unpleasant or ​difficult, or to be ​brave in a ​difficult ​situation

[Cambridge Dictionaries Online]

Your example sentence:

The obese man bit the bullet and began running 10 miles a day.

  • 1
    Hi, LHP. I edited your answer to include a link that can support your answer. Please take a look.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 10:50
  • I like bite the bullet! @LHP
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 12:01
  • Doesn't this phrase carry with it, usually, the idea that you will do the unpleasant thing once only ? Cold turkey is not only a sudden unpleasant experience it also lasts for some time. The 'bullet', once bitten, is no longer a problem.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:54
  • @Dan I'd say yes, since it's popularly cited as coming from biting down on the (relatively) soft lead of a bullet during unanesthetised surgery, which would be a one time thing. But since you only start something once, it's fine to "Bite the bullet and start etc."
    – StuperUser
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 14:35
  • He found it difficult to give up cold turkey until he wound up biting the bullet. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 19:36

You could say:

The obese man plunged into (the habit of) running ten miles a day.

This implies he did it with enthusiasm. From the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, plunge into something:

2. to start doing something in an enthusiastic way, especially without thinking carefully about what you are doing

  • 2
    This is closer to what I'm getting at. Also "jumped right in" might work, but I'm hoping for something that can be used int he same way as cold turkey.
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 14:22

I would personally say he went at it full tilt.

From Google's web search definition:

(at) full tilt phrase of tilt 1. with maximum energy or force; at top speed. synonyms: (at) full speed, at top speed, full bore, as fast as one's legs can carry one, at a gallop, helter-skelter, headlong, pell-mell, at breakneck speed, with great force, with full force;

  • 1
    This is a good thought, but your answer would be improved by explaining why you suggest this term, for example, by providing a dictionary definition or examples in the wild. I encourage you take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 2:03
  • JSONders - I added the Google web-search definition as an external addition. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 17:15
  • Aside from that, colloquially I often use and hear (in the Mid-Western United States) the term full tilt as JSONders intends - that not only can it mean at maximum energy, but often also implies immediacy to an action. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 17:17

My suggestion: "hit the ground running". Although in the case of taking up running, this expression could come across as a pun.

  • 1
    I feel like this also gives the connotation that the subject was successful with whatever they started doing, instead of just saying that they started.
    – Pyritie
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 12:17
  • +1 - That was my thought. It's as close it gets in my opinion. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 23:28

One idiom that might suit this situation is "out of the blue," as in

Out of the blue, the obese man began running 10 miles a day.

Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997) lists "out of the blue," along with "out of a clear blue sky" and "out of nowhere," as idioms meaning "Without warning, suddenly," and says of the first two idioms that "These metaphoric terms allude to something dropping unexpectedly from the sky." In the runner's case, what drops unexpectedly from the sky is his decision to begin running long distances without any gradual buildup to the activity.

I suppose you could also flip the description around and say that the runner "gave up his sedentary lifestyle cold turkey"—but normally the "cold turkey" phase involves a withdrawal from some activity, not a withdrawal from inactivity.

  • "Out of the blue" refers to the fact that it's unexpected / random. Don't let the "suddenly" in the dictionary definition fool you. You could describe a decision for any person to start running, even a healthy person starting gradually, as "out of the blue". As you say, it fits because the decision is sudden, not the activity. It's nowhere near an analog for "cold turkey". Someone could decide, out of the blue, to quit cold turkey. IMO, this would be better as a comment that "out of the blue" is phrase for something different, and doesn't fit. Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 6:26
  • This is good. I was also thinking "from scratch" and "from nothing" and "out of nowhere". Although these don't really convey consistency. Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 11:05

Taking the bull by the horns, the obese man began running 10 miles a day.

Definition: to confront a problem head-on and deal with it openly; to forcefully attack a difficult situation;

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  • 1
    I think took the bull by the horns is about control, more than the sudden and drastic change inspired by "cold turkey".
    – user39425
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 21:47
  • @fredsbend - I must admit that this idiom don't fully convey the abruptness of the decision.
    – Graffito
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 1:55

All of the answers (jumped in and so on) are excellent,

However, I'd use the expression

"Hot turkey".

I think that would be quite clever and nice. The meaning is absolutely obvious. You are instantly implying the same set of emotions and considerations as when you use the phrase "cold turkey". So, it's just like the guy going cold turkey in French Connection ... we're jumping in that aggressively, harmfully, with no thought of gently-easing ourselves through a new process..."

"We jumped in to the project hot turkey."

Very nice!

note CJDennis (perhaps jokingly) suggests Hot Turkey in a deep field comment above; CJ gets the eternal credit for this.

But wait ...

Here's another take. I think it would be very sensible to use the phrase

"Cold turkey."

Here's the thing: the original use of "cold turkey" was by no means in relation to ending or quitting something. It appears to be used to mean aggressively-direct in any usage.


"Now tell me on the square – can I get by with this for the wedding – don't string me – tell me cold turkey."

Once you realise that "quitting cold turkey" is merely one popular use of "cold turkey," we can see that "starting a business cold turkey" or "hitting the school term cold turkey" or indeed "giving the facts cold turkey" are all very sensible and obvious.

Here's an analogy: consider the slang term "cool". One (of many) popular combos of "cool" is, say, "cool dude". Say perhaps in 100 years on a list, someone was asking "With cool dude, what would you say for _ _ _ girl?" Of course, the answer is "cool girl" - indeed cool had much broader use than that particular popular use.

Once again, particularly looking at the excellent MW early example, "cold turkey" is just another "cold" emphasis phrase, much like say "stone cold". (Note that, indeed, you could certainly say "he quit heroin stone cold".) With that viewpoint, it's completely natural to say "we undertook the enterprise from a cold turkey start", exactly meaning we jumped in with no preparation, helpful pharmaceuticals, etc.

Fascinating question!

  • Love this @JoeBlow
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 15:31
  • I love you, @Drai!
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 15:32
  • @Drai, I wonder whether you forgot to upvote this? It's still at zero at the moment of writing.
    – Jacinto
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 20:56
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    @JoeBlow there are really two answers here. I don't want to accept "hot turkey" but I like your argument for just going with "cold turkey". Can u consider an edit?
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 21:49
  • @Mari-LouA in my experience on StackExchange it's quite common. As it is I don't want accept it.
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 22:29

There are a number of expressions and idioms that people say when someone takes up a new hobby, for instance running, over-enthusiastically

  1. go overboard
    The obese man went completely overboard, and began running 10 miles a day

to do something too much, or to be too ​excited or ​eager about something e.g. Ever wondered if your obsession with running has gone a little overboard, making you a runaholic?

  1. bite off more than you can chew
    The obese man bit off more than he could chew by running 10 miles a day

to ​try to do something that is too ​difficult for you: e.g. I ​think he's ​bitten off more than he can ​chew taking all those ​classes.

  1. full out
    The obese man began running full out.

As much or as far as possible; with maximum effort or power

  1. throw yourself into something
    The obese man threw himself into working out, and began running 10 miles a day

to do something ​actively and ​enthusiastically:e.g. She's ​thrown herself into this new ​job


You need a phrase that implies there is a drastic change in mood or behavior and it occurred rather suddenly.

The obese man began running 10 miles a day just like that.


The man quit smoking just like that.

The phrase "just like that" is typically an adage to imply that something occurred suddenly or without warning. You might say something like:

Then he hit him in the face just like that.

Or other times it is used as a chastisement of a request:

You expect me to drop everything and help you, after everything you did, just like that!

These examples indicate that what is happening is not a long-term change, so are outside of your needs, but in similar scenarios you might say:

He'll start a fight just like that.


He expects people to help him just like that.

Also, when spoken, people often will snap their fingers while saying it, with the snap landing on "that". My impression of this usage lends the mind to another idiom with a close meaning:

The obese man just snapped and began running 10 miles a day.


In a snap, the man quit smoking.

And to follow the pattern of the other examples:

He'll start a fight in a snap.

He expect people to just snap and help him.

You could still use "cold turkey" in your example, but you need to change the subject and tone of the message.

The obese man abandoned his sedentary lifestyle cold turkey.

It kind of works, but I'd rather use "just like that".

This is from an American English speaker. I've had very little exposure to other forms so it may not be understood where those are spoken.


You could also try, "off the couch." This is typically employed in the context of athletics. One should note that is often (though not always) used in the case that one had done the activity regularly in the past, then quit, and is now starting abruptly, without a gradual reentry.

  • 1
    Your answer would be improved if you added a citation. This term might be common knowledge in athletics, but it is new to me, and I am not a couch potato; I would appreciate a citation.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 20:10

The word is suddenly.

It's okay to laugh.

Now that everyone has finally stopped laughing, let me explain:

It may come off as a bit archaic. But it's definitely the word here. Consider this brief passage from a Mark Twain story:

The Southern heart is too impulsive; Southern hospitality is too lavish with the stranger. The paragraphs which I have written to-day, and into whose cold sentences your masterly hand has infused the fervent spirit of Tennesseean journalism, will wake up another nest of hornets. All that mob of editors will come--and they will come hungry, too, and want somebody for breakfast. I shall have to bid you adieu. I decline to be present at these festivities. I came South for my health, I will go back on the same errand, and suddenly. Tennesseean journalism is too stirring for me."

  • Suddenly, a wild obese man appeared on the jogging lane! :P
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 13:36
  • @BiscuitBoy: ... cream puff in hand and looking content.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 13:54
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    Thanks @Ricky, but not quite right. I'm really looking for a phrase more like an idiom than an adverb. Though I could sure go for a cream puff right now.
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 14:16
  • I think Twain was saying that he would likely have to leave on short notice without much choice in the matter...at the point of a pitchfork or under threat of lynching, perhaps.
    – The Photon
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 17:47

A possibility is "from a standing start"

they built the world’s largest advertising agency from a standing start nineteen years ago


This is probably not suitable for the specific example given though, since the sentence is already to do with running so it's likely to be taken literally.


The obese man began running 10 miles a day, [like a boss].

The obese man began running 10 miles a day, [hardcore].

As I'm not much for idioms, maybe these?

The obese man [abruptly] began running 10 miles a day.

The obese man [painfully] began running 10 miles a day.

The obese man [diligently] began running 10 miles a day.

The obese man [honestly] began running 10 miles a day.


The term you are looking for is "from scratch".

The obese man began running 10 miles a day from scratch.

from the very beginning, especially without utilizing or relying on any previous work for assistance.

  • I don't think this is quite what the question is going for
    – Lee
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 15:34

Consider take to something like a duck to water

(idiom) to learn how to do something very quickly and to enjoy doing it

[The Free Dictionary]

In your case, a slightly modified phrase would be -

The obese man took to running like a duck to water, clocking 10 miles a day.

This implies that the person started running and started enjoying it immensely from the word go.

  • 6
    Close, but I want to convey that the action is done despite other easier ways to do it. Duck to water makes me think it comes easy. Cold turkey is not easy.
    – Drai
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 14:21

These might be closer to what you're asking (although they're not idioms)

Against the advice of his doctor/trainer, the obese man began running 10 miles a day.

Against all reason and common sense, the obese man began running 10 miles a day (and suffered an immediate heart attack).

Against all the laws of nature, the obese man began running 10 miles a day. He too, had been born on the planet of Krypton.


Hit the ground running. This would be like starting something without easing into it, just like going cold-turkey is quitting something without easing out of it. That's as close as I was able to get.

Jogging 10 miles a day, the Obese man hit the ground running.

  • This answer was already given by user155290
    – user116295
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 19:06

I would use "go at [it] cold", as in "cold start".

As in, 'instead of warming up first, he went at it cold' if you want it in terms of exercise.

Or from the days before catalytic converters, you'd leave the car engine running a bit first, to warm it up, rather than turn it on and immediately drive away, with the engine still cold?


The "dove into the deep end" answer is very good.

Another term for a sudden, vigorous start to something (thus, in a sense, the opposite of a cold turkey abrupt end) is a jackrabbit start.

The obese man made pulled a jackrabbit start in trying to get fit, going from nothing to running ten miles a day.

This is usually used fairly literally, and not as a metaphor. It is more applicable to starting an actual run at a fast running pace, than to starting a fitness program at a high load: "When the gun went off, Joe made the mistake of a jackrabbit start, which he didn't recognize and correct. By the third lap, he was last in the pack, and didn't even come close to his best mile time."


I've heard the saying "in it for a penny in it for a pound", which means going all the way in, and giving it 100%. I suppose if you mean stopping something altogether to 0%, you could use the saying I mentioned as an opposite to going cold turkey.


Full throttle from the get-go. Pedal to the metal - use car-race analogies

  • Please explain your answer fully. Why do these suit the question? Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 12:43

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