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Everyday Fitness

with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

This blog has been retired. We appreciate the wisdom and encouragement that Dr. Peeke has offered the WebMD Community.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Word about Smoking and Your Weight

Time and time again, I hear women tell me how much they fear packing on the pounds if they stop smoking. “I’ll get fat if I stop!” is the usual hue and cry when I plead with people to give it up.

Now there’s new research showing that it’s not just folks who have quit who are at risk for weight gain, but active smokers are gaining weight as well. Here’s the clincher in the study. Over the course of the four years of study, those who never smoked at all gained the least weight. Oh well, so much for the myth that smoking will keep you slimmer. Over 7,500 men and women were studied for 50 months and their lifestyle habits were closely monitored as well as any fluctuations in weight.

Here are some interesting findings. The weight gain experienced by smokers who quit was higher the more cigarettes they smoked per day when the study began. Those people who never quit and continued to smoke gained more weight than the non-smokers in the study.

Why is that so? You could surmise that if you’re lighting up all day, you’re probably less concerned about hopping out of bed in the morning and taking a nice walk in the fresh air. Running a 5K hacking the entire way is probably not a pretty sight either. Knowing that smoking is associated with a serious increase in heart and lung disease as well as cancer and yet still doing it is a real exercise in dissociation. So, what’s the point of good nutrition when you’re blowing it all away with each cigarette? Smoking is just plain not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Hey everyone, put that cigarette out and give it up once and for all. Your waistline will appreciate it. And smoking is so last year.

Past research studies have actually shown that if you take two groups of active smokers and get one group more physically active on a regular basis, when they both quit you’ll see some interesting results. The non-exercising group often experiences some weight gain, often ranging from 5-15 pounds. However, the group that was exercising demonstrated the least increase in weight, with some participants not gaining at all.

There’s power in the ability of physical activity to optimize your calorie burning potential.

Check out the Centers for Disease Control’s excellent website to help you quit smoking. They provide a listing of other websites customized to answer your questions about everything from medications that may help you quit, to strategies for managing nicotine cravings. There’s a secondhand smoke quiz as well as a comprehensive listing of smoking cessation programs in every city.

Here are 5 smoking cessation tips:

1. You have to stop completely. Playing around by smoking fewer cigarettes usually leads to relapse in no time. And don’t be fooled by the low tar and nicotine options. A cigarette is a cigarette.

2. Be clear about why you want to quit. Write it down and print out multiple copies and plaster your living and work spaces with this reminder. You’re human and one day you’ll get tired and vulnerable and then lose focus, and you’ll fall off the wagon. Know your motivation and stick with it. Keep a visual in your mind of when you finally hit rock bottom and you swore you’d never smoke again.

3. Know that quitting is work. Nicotine is an addictive substance. You’ll be working with your psychology as well as your biology. Give yourself a month to get over the feelings of nicotine withdrawal. Be powered up by the fact that you are doing the right thing. Take one day at a time to overcome this addiction.

4. Be a winner. Half of all adult smokers have quit and you could be one of them. That’s great and hopeful news. Millions of people have learned that there’s joy and health after quitting. Share the happiness!

5. Get help if you need it. Some people need more help quitting. That’s no problem. Just log onto the great website I have provided and you’ll see that you have many options to access professionals who can help guide you.

Finally, get going right now with your healthy lifestyle. Move more. Pay attention to your nutrition. Get help with stress management if that’s a major issue. Don’t waste any time. Start today to really appreciate that morning breath of fresh air as you walk to the store and stock up on whole foods. Toss your cigarette lighter, and instead, count on your own inner enlightenment.

Have you successfully quit smoking? Share your tips on the Diet Exchange.

Posted by: Pamela Peeke, MD at 1:44 pm

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