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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.

    Women at Greater Risk continued...

    She says the accountability of the group is key to ensuring that participants stick with the program. As for the all-female dynamic? "It removes the distraction; the focus is on quitting. I can't prove it, but I think men and women smoke for different reasons."

    Friends, family, and colleagues are thrilled with Sandberg's success. Her cough is gone, she's been able to quit a part-time job freeing up her weekends, and she's earmarked some of her financial savings to continue her YMCA membership. "I'm training for a triathlon. I went from not being able to do anything for six minutes to exercising 45 minutes to an hour every day."

    Clearing the Smoke

    Quitting smoking requires tremendous resolve, which can falter in the face of a nicotine craving. When you quit smoking your body goes into shock initially; that's why weigh gain is greatest in the first six months of smoking. However, of those who gain weight, most lose weight over time with no special action.

    By combining diet and lifestyle changes with a smoking cessation program, you arm yourself with the best one-two punch for beating post-smoking bulge. As Marcus says, "Every time you put out a cigarette is a time to become a nonsmoker."

    These are tested techniques and proven strategies that can help you ditch tobacco without gaining weight:

    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.

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