Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight
How to kick the habit without packing on the pounds
The Right Approach
"There are people who quit by making up their mind and throwing away
their cigarettes, but research says a systematic approach is more
effective," says Edwin Fisher, PhD, co-author of the American Lung
Association's How to Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight (to be
published in 2004).
First, plan ahead, says Fisher. Set a quit date, whether it's the first of
the year or a couple of weeks later. Prepare for it by setting aside some extra
time to start a regular physical activity, like walking. And do your best to
bypass the buffets and start eating healthier.
"When you are preparing to quit, improving the healthiness of your diet
will help you minimize weight gain," says Fisher, who is also a professor
of psychology, medicine, and pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Keep in mind it's not so much calorie restriction, but more so a healthy
Next, start to pinpoint what situations will bring on an urge to smoke,
explains Fisher, so you'll be prepared to deal with them.
"The urge for a cigarette tends to be the most pronounced the first few
days after quitting for most people," says Fisher. "After the fifth
day, the number of urges starts to decrease."
While it varies from person to person, the urges will typically continue --
although less frequently -- for several weeks or even months, says Fisher. But
they are still as annoying as when you first quit, Fisher says, so be prepared
to tackle them head-on.
When it comes time to quit, here are a few tips to minimize cigarette
cravings and weight gain:
- Drink more water. Shoot for eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day, says
Purcell. This will keep you hydrated, help you feel full, and give you
something to do with your hands.
- Make smart choices when snacking. "Quitting smoking will increase your
snacking," says Purcell. While you should avoid substituting food for
cigarettes, you should plan healthy snacks, like cut-up veggies, fruit, or
almonds or pistachios (in limited amounts.) Try to avoid sugar and unhealthy
starches. If you feel you must have sweets, go for sugarless and fat-free ones,
suggests Purcell. But keep in mind that fat-free snacks often have just as many
calories due to the added sugar.
- When a craving for a cigarette strikes, be prepared. "If you want
certain snacks around, make sure they're handy and healthy," says Purcell.
"Have water around. Take a walk, have a soda. Think these things through so
when an urge hits, you are prepared. It's all about careful planning."
- Keep up the physical activity and the healthy eating. This will help you
quit smoking as well as trim your waistline, explains Purcell.
- Use the tried-and-true method of successful quitters. "Statistics show
the best success is a combination of group or support therapy, and using some
sort of nicotine replacement, like the gum or the patch," says Purcell.
"And almost every type of insurance will cover at least part of the
- Be ready for challenges. "You have to have the right mindset and be
prepared for challenging times," says Purcell. "If you can get through
the first two weeks, chances are you'll make it."
- Most importantly, even if the needle on the scale starts to creep upward,
don't reach for that cigarette! "Just stick it out and let your metabolism
even off," says Purcell. "It's only temporary, and you can address the
weight later after you've quit."