Smoking: Drop the Habit Without Picking Up Weight
Proven strategies for quitting smoking -- including diet and exercise -- can keep you smoke-free and prevent weight gain.
Women at Greater Risk
Studies have shown that women are more likely to return to smoking as a way
to avoid weight gain after quitting. The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I.,
is conducting a female-specific research study that focuses on innovative ways
to quit smoking, including exercise.
Launched in 2007, "Commit to Quit" is a 12-week, NIH-funded group program
and smoking cessation research study led by researchers at the hospital's
Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at Brown University. Designed by
women for women, it provides information on how to prepare to stop smoking;
ways to handle nicotine withdrawal; the skills needed to quit; and the tools to
stay smoke-free. Each participant receives a free, three-month membership to
one of three local YMCA branches. (Researchers hope to roll out the program to
YMCA communities nationwide).
The women are divided into two groups: an exercise group and a health and
wellness group. Participants meet with staff on a weekly basis at the YMCA.
Those in the exercise group are given a regimented exercise program to follow, and
those in the health and wellness group are taught about lifestyle changes, healthy eating strategies and
stress management. Both
strategies have proven to be effective in helping with smoking cessation.
Bess Marcus, PhD, director of the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive
Medicine, has been running smoking cessation programs for 20 years. She says
most people have to go through several attempts to successfully kick nicotine
and most will gain some weight as a result. She counsels program participants
to "think of quitting smoking as a lifestyle change. Women often set themselves
up negatively. A slip doesn't have to become a relapse and a relapse doesn't
have to become a collapse. [Women need to] give themselves permission while
working at the process to reframe it as a learning experience instead of being
so hard on themselves."
Administrative worker Liz Sandberg of Providence smoked a pack a day for
three decades. A graduate of Commit to Quit, she celebrated her one-year
smoke-free anniversary July 19.
Her motivation for quitting was financial. "I was spending $3,000 a year on
cigarettes. I thought, 'This is crazy.'" A nagging cough was a secondary
concern, though she told herself, "It wasn't a smoker's cough."