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Want to quit smoking but worried about weight gain?

Consider these five tips to help you quit without packing on the pounds

quit-smokingQuitting smoking takes commitment and motivation. With the upcoming new year, it is a great time to start your smoke-free lifestyle. Many people have good intentions, but they soon find stumbling blocks that can get in the way of a healthier routine.

Unfortunately, some smokers trying to quit struggle with extra weight gain. Don’t let this get you down. Weight gain is a stumbling block that you can steer clear of, if you plan carefully and stay committed to your goal.

According to Smokefree.gov, four out of every five people who stop smoking gain some weight. They explain, “While the health benefits of quitting far exceed the problems of gaining weight, many people do not like it if they put on a few extra pounds.”

It’s true. An extra five to ten pounds can be a large stumbling block for many on their way to becoming smoke-free. Quitting smoking is an emotional, physical and behavioral change. However, the good news is if you get through the first couple of weeks, your weight will typically balance out and you will regain your overall health.

If you have found yourself worried about packing on a few extra pounds, consider these five tips from Alex Hainzinger, a wellness specialist at Scott & White Healthcare.

  1. Have a plan
  2. Cut down on calories and portion size
  3. Limit sugars and fats
  4. Drink water
  5. Increase physical activity

Tip 1: Have a Plan

To help combat the gain, Hainzinger recommends having a healthy eating and fitness plan in place before you decide to quit.

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“Not everyone gains weight necessarily,” Hainzinger explains. “Research shows that females gain a few more pounds than males. The best way to combat the extra weight gain is have a fitness and nutrition program planned out to help you.

If you plan ahead, you will know what to do when the cravings or urges are triggered. Your plan will give you the tools you need to stay committed.

Tip 2: Cut down on Calories and Portion Size

As part of your healthy plan, you can commit to cut down on calories and portion size.

“Those who smoke cigarettes tend to gain weight for a few reasons,” said Hainzinger. “Research shows that Nicotine’s effects include both increased metabolic rate and decreased appetite.

Therefore, stopping smoking is associated with an increase in appetite and caloric intake.”

If you are aware of your change in metabolism, you can alter your calories and portion size accordingly. It is not healthy to go hungry but rather, to eat healthy foods more often and in smaller portions.

Tip 3: Limit Sugars and Fats

“Nicotine can satisfy a craving for sweets,” Hainzinger said. “People who no longer smoke may crave sweets more regularly. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms is sometimes eased by eating sugar. Limit excess sugar and fat intake out of your diet is always a great way to maintain or lose weight.”

Smoking-cessation.org explains that if you take in more sugar than the body needs, the excess sugar is converted into body fat. Sugar is an obvious ingredient in cookies, cakes, candy, and also hides in many canned and frozen convenience foods. They also recommend cutting down on fat, as Hainzinger explained. Instead of high-fat foods, they suggest eating low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

It’s important to remember to focus on the foods you can eat rather than on what you should not eat. Your diet can include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meats.

Tip 4: Drink Water

Another healthy part of your plan is to drink lots of water. Water is an important part of any healthy diet and the same holds true for anyone trying to quit smoking.

“Drink lots of water,” Hainzinger said. “Nicotine is water soluble, so drinking water will not only rehydrate the body but it will also flush out any lingering traces of nicotine from the system.”

Water can also be a healthy substitute to have on hand instead of a cigarette. Taking sips of water throughout the day can help ease your increased appetite and also help to feel full. Sucking on ice cubes can also help with “oral gratification,” or missing the feeling of having something routinely in your mouth.

Tip 5: Increase Physical Activity

“When you quit a bad habit, you should replace it with a new or good habit,” Hainzinger said. “Physical activity helps to improve one’s mood. When people quit using tobacco, they can experience recovery symptoms such as depression, anger and anxiety. Participating in some type of physical activity will help to combat these symptoms, and in turn, improve one’s mood.”

Exercise can also burn calories, decrease your appetite, and help you cope with stress. According to Quitsmoking.com, “You should begin a regular exercise program several months before your planned quitting date.” They suggest getting a head start on your fitness plan because “it’s difficult to try to quit smoking and try to make other major life changes.”

We Can Help

If you have tried quitting before but became discouraged, don’t give up. This new year could be just the push you need to get over your stumbling blocks.

If you are trying to quit smoking, you know it is a process that takes commitment and planning.  On your journey, remember that the Scott & White community is dedicated to help you.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Want to quit smoking but worried about weight gain?