If you're a smoker, the healthiest resolution you can make is to kick the habit. But kicking butts often goes hand in hand with weight gain. Is it possible to be both slimmer and smoke-free in the New Year?
It can be done, experts say -- if you go about it the right way.
Smoking in America is down -- but not out. Today, 20% of U.S. adults are smokers, compared to 45% in 1965, when smoking was at its peak. But even at the current level of tobacco use, an estimated 440,000 Americans per year lose their lives to lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, or other smoking-related illnesses. On average, smokers die 14 years before nonsmokers, and half of all smokers who don't quit are killed by their habit.
People start smoking for many reasons. Many continue to puff...
First, consider this: Although you are likely to gain a little weight when you stop smoking, it probably won't be as much as you fear.
"Cigarettes activate your metabolism," says Cynthia Purcell, MS, a nutritionist and smoking cessation therapist in the smoking cessation program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "You burn about 250 calories if you smoke a pack a day. So when you quit and your metabolism slows down, your body has these extra calories it has to deal with, and many people gain weight."
Most people gain about two pounds during the first couple of weeks after quitting, Purcell says.
"People who quit tend to think, 'It's only been two weeks and I've gained two pounds. What's it going to be like in two months?' And they go back to smoking to avoid the weight gain," Purcell tells WebMD.
"If they'd just stick with it, they'd realize it's not going to be a pound or two every week, and their metabolism will even out. On average, most people only gain between 5-7 pounds in total after quitting."
And when you consider the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle -- both inside and out -- those few extra pounds may not mean as much.
"The lungs, heart, and the arteries will start repairing themselves almost immediately after the last puff," says Purcell.
Not only that, but your skin clears up and starts to look smoother, your fingernails stop looking yellow, your breath improves, and your teeth can be bright again. All these less-obvious benefits of smoking will have you looking great, even if you put on a few, says Purcell.
So you're ready to quit, and you want to minimize the weight gain. Is it cold-turkey time, or is it time to strategize and plan?