By Erin DeMito, R.D., L.D.N.
It is no secret that smoking cigarettes leads to an increased risk for a number of health issues, including numerous cancers, heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema and stroke. According to the American Cancer Society, it is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States and is the most preventable cause of death in our society. With this in mind, it may seem obvious that smokers would want to quit, however research out of the Penn State College of Medicine reveals this may not be true.
The preventing cause may be a fear of weight gain. The study, published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, found that 53 percent of study participants gained weight during previous quitting attempts. Among these smokers, those who were highly concerned about weight gain were less likely to seek treatment to help with quitting.
So if you’re a smoker looking to quit, what can you do to relieve your fears of potential weight gain? Try these five simple tricks to keep the pounds off.
1. Get Active
The nicotine in cigarettes slightly increases the metabolic rate, so quitting will return it to normal. To prevent potential weight gain, promote calorie burning with physical activity, including both aerobic activity and some form of strength training. If you’re new to exercise, always check with your physician before starting a new fitness regimen.
2. Stay Busy
Another way to curb the hand-to-mouth temptation is to find hobbies that don’t involve eating to keep both their hands and mind busy. These activities, which can be especially effective during times when you are used to having a cigarette, can act as a distraction until the urge passes. The following activities are not only a good
distraction to keep from lighting up, but they don’t involve any added calories:
- Doing chores
- Reading a book
- Calling a friend or family member
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Watching a movie
3. Choose Snacks Wisely
After quitting, many smokers struggle with the urge to satisfy the hand-to-mouth action done with smoking cigarettes. In turn, this is often replaced with food, which can ultimately lead to weight gain. Therefore, be diligent in choosing low- or no-calorie foods instead of those that are energy-dense. These include:
- Crunchy vegetables – carrots or celery sticks, sliced peppers or cucumbers
- Fresh fruit – grapes, blueberries and apple slices
- Sugar-free gum
- Sugar-free hard candies
4. Get Hydrated
A great way to satisfy the oral craving after quitting is by keeping a water bottle with you at all times. This not only keeps your hands occupied, but also allows you to sip all day without any added calories. You can even flavor your water naturally by adding slices of citrus fruits, cucumber and fresh berries.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Drinking alcohol and smoking often go hand-in-hand, so avoiding it also helps you to avoid a potential trigger. In addition, drinking alcohol outside of moderation – 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men – provides nothing but empty calories, which can lead to weight gain.
Looking for more information or guidance on improving your diet? Crozer-Keystone offers nutrition counseling to help you navigate your specific nutritional needs. To request an appointment, please call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).