Congratulations on stopping smoking. Even if you’re just thinking about it, you are moving in the right direction. Like many quitters and quitters-to-be, you probably are worried about weight gain once you stop smoking. Even if you do gain weight, those extra pounds are much less dangerous to your health than the consequences of continued smoking.
Smoking-cessation instructors often advise smokers to concentrate first on quitting, putting all their energy into the task at hand. Trying to both quit smoking and diet may very well compound your stress. However, some tactics to make it easier to get through the early days of not smoking may also help prevent some weight gain.
First, find something healthy to do with your hands. Smoking has kept your hands busy with rituals — getting cigarettes, lighting them, and moving the cigarette back and forth to your mouth. Now your hands are lost without a cigarette. Sometimes the replacement activity is eating during the initial period after you’ve quit.
Food also provides you with an oral substitute. Avoid the mistake too many new nonsmokers make: They reach for candy, cookies and other snacks. Knowing that danger, you can plan. Stock the refrigerator with your favorite vegetables (already cut up, which is a cinch these days with pre-cut produce). Get yourself an air popper and make bowls of popcorn that you can keep handy — at work, at home and on the road.
Certainly, you won’t want to substitute food for smoking over the long haul. That would be disastrous. Know that this “munchy” period will gradually decrease in intensity the further you move out from smoking. So, think early about finding a permanent solution for filling the time and physical action you used to spend in smoking.
Another great strategy is exercise. Now that you are not smoking, you can enjoy a brisk walk or a game of tennis without becoming winded. Instead of starting your day with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, begin with a brisk walk, jog or bike ride. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes daily.
If you still need to occupy your hands, identify additional activities that are “hand-intensive.” Gardening, puzzles, knitting, woodworking and even cooking (provided you cook healthy meals!) are just some possibilities.
Finally, once you have tackled the smoking issue successfully, treat yourself to a consultation with a registered dietitian. Your health plan or local hospital may help you find one. You might try the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Learn about good nutrition from an expert and then put your knowledge to good use daily. The dietitian can help you design a diet that suits your lifestyle and tastes.
If you have gained weight after smoking (and you would be unusual if you didn’t), a dietitian can also help you find ways to drop the weight slowly and successfully. Alternatively, you can join a weight-loss support group and, again, your local hospital may help you find one. Whatever you do, don’t resume smoking to drop the weight. As we said earlier, that’s far more dangerous than carrying around extra weight.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.