Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight

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If you’re a smoker, the healthiest resolution you can make is to kick the habit. But kicking butts often goes hand in hand with weight gain. Is it possible to be both slimmer and smoke-free in the New Year?

It can be done, experts say — if you go about it the right way.

First, consider this: Although you are likely to gain a little weight when you lungs, healthy snacks, like cut-up veggies, fruit, or almonds or pistachios (in limited amounts.) Try to avoid sugar and unhealthy starches. If you feel you must have sweets, go for sugarless and fat-free ones, suggests Purcell. But keep in mind that fat-free snacks often have just as many calories due to the added sugar.

  • When a craving for a cigarette strikes, be prepared. “If you want certain snacks around, make sure they’re handy and healthy,” says Purcell. “Have water around. Take a walk, have a soda. Think these things through so when an urge hits, you are prepared. It’s all about careful planning.”
  • Keep up the physical activity and the healthy eating. This will help you quit smoking as well as trim your waistline, explains Purcell.
  • Use the tried-and-true method of successful quitters. “Statistics show the best success is a combination of group or support therapy, and using some sort of nicotine replacement, like the gum or the patch,” says Purcell. “And almost every type of insurance will cover at least part of the cost.”
  • Be ready for challenges. “You have to have the right mindset and be prepared for challenging times,” says Purcell. “If you can get through the first two weeks, chances are you’ll make it.”
  • Most importantly, even if the needle on the scale starts to creep upward, don’t reach for that cigarette! “Just stick it out and let your metabolism even off,” says Purcell. “It’s only temporary, and you can address the weight later after you’ve quit.”
  • Beyond just not trying to gain weight, how likely are you to succeed at losing weight at the same time you quit smoking? It’s all about knowing your own limitations, the experts say.

    “I think that people are their own best judges,” says Fisher. “To do both at once is taking on a double challenge, and I encourage people to recognize the importance of success. If you can quit smoking in January and lose weight in April or May when you can get outside and exercise, I think that’s fine. But if you want to do both at once, and you feel juiced about doing that, then go for it, but don’t be heroic and end up with failure.”

    Motivation and a good support system are key.

    “It’s about sticking with it, not giving into that first cigarette urge, using your support system — whether it’s talking to co-workers or friends or family or a support group, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy, being active, and planning ahead so you can handle cravings,” says Purcell. “Just stick with it and ride it out.”

    Originally published Jan. 2, 2004
    Medically updated Dec. 21, 2006.