TK Baltimore (pronounced "Teak"), 34, a Web developer who lives in
New York City, smoked for nearly 20 years. She's lost track of how many times
she tried to quit. Here, she shares how she quit smoking without weight gain,
and how you can do it too.
Like a lot of people who smoke, I didn't have the most healthy lifestyle.
A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with extremely high cholesterol. My
doctor told me that he could put me on medication, or I could try seeing if it
was lifestyle-related by eating healthier and getting exercise. Considering
high cholesterol didn't run in my family and I knew what my lifestyle was like,
I decided to try making some healthy changes, and that included quitting
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our November-December 2011 issue, we asked James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert, for tips on quitting smoking.
Q: I'm finally ready to quit smoking. Do you have any tips for making it easier?
A: We all know that being tobacco-free is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the most recent report from the Surgeon General details how any exposure to tobacco smoke...
I got advice from a nutritionist about cleaning up my diet without
wanting to die. For example, I added a lot of whole grains to my diet -- brown
rice, whole-wheat pasta. And I started sharing the yolks of my eggs with my dog
when I made an omelet in the morning. But the biggest part was exercise. I had
been completely sedentary -- the only exercise I got was a ski trip once a year
and walking around Manhattan. So I started going to the gym three or four days
a week, doing weight training and cardio.
Another thing that was important: When I quit smoking, I avoided the
bars, and I wasn't getting all those calories from alcohol! I actually managed
to lose about 20 pounds while quitting smoking, and I've kept most of it off. I
have to be honest, though. … I've definitely backslid with stopping smoking.
It's hard, because my husband smokes too. We quit together, and when he started
again, it was hard for me not to. It's really an ongoing process.
Why It's Hard to Quit Smoking Without Weight Gain
On average, people who quit smoking gain about 10 pounds, according to Trina
Ita, Quitline counseling supervisor for the American Cancer Society.
Weight gain while quitting smoking can be traced to two factors.
First, you eat more. If you're not smoking, you want to put something else
in your mouth. Since you now can smell and taste food better, things like
sugary and sweet foods become very attractive.
The second reason is metabolic. "Nicotine increases the metabolic rate.
When you stop smoking, your metabolic rate decreases," explains Lirio
Covey, PhD, director of the smoking cessation program at Columbia University in
Top Tip for Stopping Smoking Without Weight Gain: Exercise More!
One of the best ways to avoid weight gain while quitting smoking is just
what Baltimore did: amp up the exercise. "When you stop smoking, you can
breathe better, walk better, run better," says Covey. "Take advantage
Exercise also has the additional benefit of helping you burn off the nervous
energy many smokers struggle with when they quit. Studies show that people who
exercise while quitting smoking gain much less weight, and are twice as likely
to kick the habit as those who don't.