Many people (especially women) fear weight gain is an unavoidable side effect of quitting smoking. There is nothing to fear! If you do not replace cigarettes with food, you will not overeat. And if you do not overeat, you most likely won't gain weight. Does that sound too easy? Well, it can be! Just plan new activities to cope with your personal smoking triggers that do not involve food, and choose low calorie, healthy foods when you do eat.
You can replace your old smoking triggers with these new activities, emotional coping tools and behaviors that support a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle:
- Stressed? Learn to deal with stress effectively with new relaxation tools and exercise and activities you enjoy.
- Bored? Engage in enjoyable activities that inspire or entertain you. Reach out for support from friends and family. Stay busy!
- Restless? Do Something! Take charge! Choose to live your life. Get busy and involved with doing things that interest and motivate you.
- Craving? Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels steady and reduce cravings. Exercise to reduce binging. A brief walk is all it takes to keep your quit and your waistline. Cravings for cigarettes can feel like food cravings, so know this going in and prevent weight gain by stocking up on 'ready to go' healthy snack choices.
- Have you replaced cigarettes with food in the past? That is common for many quitters. As a result, they fear quitting again due to weight gained from previous quit attempts. If this applies to you, remember that it is a result of the change in your eating habits -- not the act of stopping smoking -- that leads to weight gain. You may have an increased appetite at first, so plan ahead for this and you will do fine!
If you were at your ideal weight before you quit, then you already eat in a manner that maintains a healthy weight. Just keep doing what you are doing and be aware in those moments when you contemplate exchanging your old smoking triggers with overeating!
If you were not at your ideal weight before you quit, then smoking is not controlling your weight and chances are your eating habits and metabolism are already set towards weight gain. You can get your metabolic rate kicked up a notch by changing your lifestyle choices to include good eating habits and exercise as you successfully keep your quit!
Your current weight is not a result of you smoking now or due to you quitting smoking in the past. Weight gain is brought on by changes in food quantity, quality and overall daily caloric intake. Did you know that gaining weight actually slows down your metabolism? If you are carrying any extra weight now, that is why it may seem harder for you to lose weight today than it was for you in the past. This is also why it is easier to gain weight today than it was for you in the past.
The good news is, by making healthier food choices and moving more, you can pick up your metabolism and you will lose weight. It helps to focus on the healthy foods you can eat, not the junk foods you cannot eat and of course, to limit your portion size. Put half what you normally would on your plate, and see what a difference that makes over a 2 week period of time! Be sure to exercise to reduce stress, boredom, cravings and overeating. Patience is the key. You must keep going long enough for your metabolism to shift from fat storage mode to fat burning mode.
Here are some pitfalls that plague most people who try to lose weight:
1. Expecting the weight to leave overnight and looking for a quick fix instead of permanent long term changes brought on by healthy, long term behaviors.
2. Not adhering to good eating habits and exercise for even a month in a row, much less the 3 months it takes to create a foundation for lasting results. How do you make it a full month? If you do falter during the first 30 days, pick yourself right back up and keep going! It is the accumulation of many successful days that bring success, not the occasional slip up.
3. Not 'doing the work' long enough to kick up their metabolic rate and as a result, weight loss does not have a chance to occur. This sets up the 'on the diet' quick loss, 'off the diet' fast gain followed by an even slower metabolism than before.
4. Not planning ahead or following the plan, which leads to feelings of hopelessness, disappointment and failure followed by more overeating as the cycle continues.
You can do this! You can quit smoking and maintain your current weight or even lose weight, if that is what you would like to work towards doing. Once that first month of consistent, healthy eating and exercising is behind you, weight loss comes fairly quickly. By sticking with it, you'll make permanent lifestyle changes and alter your metabolic rate for long term success. You can get fit and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist