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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.

Clearing the Smoke continued...

Pick a date. Don't stop today; pick a day a couple of weeks away so you can mentally prepare. "I just woke up one day and said I am not addicted; I just like to smoke, and I can quit this," says ex-smoker Dawn Marie.

Address eating issues first. If you are anorexic or bulimic, seek professional guidance for those issues before you attempt to stop smoking.

Start -- or keep -- exercising. Daily exercise -- 30 minutes, five days a week -- can rev your metabolism and help combat weight gain. Exercising distracts you from cravings and restless energy. "Every time I felt an anxious situation arise, I would walk a few minutes when I normally clutched a cigarette for comfort and release," Fichera says.

Substitute benefits. Susan Gayle, founder of the New Behavior Institute and author of the CD Quit Smoking With No Weight Gain, says it's important to recognize the benefits you get from smoking -- such as relaxation -- and substitute new activities that help you achieve the same benefits.

Watch alcohol intake. You've heard it before, "I only smoke when I drink." For many, drinking is a trigger for smoking -- plus alcohol is high in "empty calories." Limit or eliminate alcohol to reduce the chance of a nicotine relapse.

Trick your mouth and hands. Miss that feel of cigarettes in your mouth? Try flossing with mint-flavored floss, chew on a toothpick or gum, or suck a hard candy. Take up knitting or cards to keep hands busy.

Clear it out. Throw away all tobacco, ashtrays, and lighters so you won't be tempted. Have your home cleaned to rid it of the smell of smoke.

Notice the social stigma. "One day, I looked around and saw beautiful women and handsome men with cigarettes dangling from their mouths and saw how it detracted from their beauty. I really convinced myself that it was a repulsive social habit," Fichera says.

Snack smart. Limiting the amounts of fats is one way to control weight. When cravings hit, it helps to have your refrigerator and pantry stocked with easy-to-grab, low-fat foods like pretzels, carrots, frozen grapes, or popcorn; or high-protein options like sliced turkey, yogurt, and string cheese. Avoid salty, sweet, and processed foods. If you reduce or avoid high-calorie sweet food, weight gain is less likely.

Drink more water. Water or herbal teas -- not soda -- will keep you hydrated, provide a sense of satiety, and flush toxins from your newly clean system. Public relations practitioner Robin Nolan, for example, drank a liter and half of water every morning before she even brushed her teeth.

Enlist support. Tell family and friends you are quitting and ask them to support your decision.

Focus your energy. Quitting smoking is hard enough. This is not the ideal time to remodel the bathroom or start a new job. Conversely, if you want to be smoke-free by your 40th birthday, the event can be a great motivator, says Marcus.

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