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...
It's time to lay your quit-smoking fears to rest once and for all. Here's what experts want you to know about why some of those fears aren't what they're cracked up to be, and why none of them should keep you from quitting.
Fear: I’ll Gain Too Much Weight
Many people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. But not everybody who quits gains weight.
“There are some physiological effects that cause people to crave carbohydrates when they quit smoking,” says Michael Steinberg, MD, MPH, director of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s Tobacco Dependence Program. “Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so when people do stop smoking, they tend to have an increased appetite.”
But if you do pack on pounds, the average gain is between six to nine pounds-not the 50 or 100 that people fear.
Plus, you’d need to gain more than 100 pounds after quitting before you even start to diminish the benefits quitting provides for your health, Steinberg says.
Weight gain typically happens early on, in the days and weeks when you’re withdrawing from nicotine.
If you use a nicotine replacement therapy like the patch or the gum, you tend not to even see much of a weight gain during those early weeks, Steinberg says. And by the time you’ve withdrawn from the drug, you’re better able to tackle watching your weight a little more carefully.
If you’re still concerned, take steps to thwart weight gain by keeping your exercise routine up or launching a walking program. Stash only healthy snacks and replace empty-calorie carbs for healthier noshes like peanut butter on an apple or one ounce of cheddar with crackers.
Fear: My Social Life Will Tank
If you glance at personal ads or online dating profiles, people almost exclusively prefer nonsmokers. You’ll rarely spot “Looking for a smoker” among the listed entries. In fact, quitting may actually improve your social life because your hair, skin, clothes, and car will smell better.