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Keep Weight Off When You Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is one of those New Year’s resolutions that frequently ends in failure and weight gain often has something to do with this. If you resolved that 2013 is the year you give up cigarettes, understanding why weight gain may happen will help you keep the extra pounds minimal and temporary. You will also have a better chance of breaking your tobacco habit.

Quitting smoking can be a struggle because of the physical and psychological dependence that often develops from exposure to the nicotine in tobacco.

When quitting smoking, a five- to ten-pound weight gain is common and can derail a New Year’s resolution to give up cigarettes. Nicotine revs up metabolism and increases heart rate. These residual effects cause smokers to burn more daily calories. It also suppresses appetite so smokers may eat less than they otherwise might. All of this changes when they quit. Without a fix of nicotine, metabolism and appetite return to normal. Just as they start to burn fewer calories, one-time smokers begin receiving messages from their bodies that they need to eat more.

The issue of weight gain is further fueled by food being used as a substitute for cigarettes. Early into quitting, what had once been a smoke break is now a visit to the vending machine. If this becomes a habit, pounds follow.

Healthy snacks and exercise will keep weight gain from being significant or permanent.

Healthy Snacks

  • Celery or carrot sticks
  • Fat-free popcorn
  • Sunflower seeds in the shell (unsalted)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Water
  • Herbal teas


Incorporate at least a half hour of exercise into your daily routine. Brisk walks during lunch breaks and around your neighborhood will help you keep your mind off food and keep off weight.

Maintain Perspective

If you have recently put out your last cigarette and your clothes are getting snug, keep in mind that quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Many former smokers also attest that it is one of the most difficult things to do. Once you have made healthy changes in your lifestyle – increasing exercise by walking more and snacking on fresh fruits and vegetable sticks instead of candy and cookies, for example – your clothes will once again fit, you will feel better and, next year, you will be ready to tackle a new New Year’s resolution.

Commit to Quit

Avoid temptation: Stay away from situations that make you want a cigarette.

Change habits: Choose foods that don’t make you want to smoke. If you are used to having a cigarette along with your cup of coffee, switch to tea. Take a different route to work.

Choose other things for your mouth: Try sugarless gum or raw vegetables. Chew on coffee stirrers or straws.

Keep busy: Try new hobbies such as needlework or woodworking. Go for a walk, read, take a bath.

Breathe deeply: When you smoked, you breathed deeply when you inhaled. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air.

Delay: Want to smoke? Wait ten minutes. This will help you get past the urge.

Reward yourself: Put the money you would have spent on tobacco in a jar every day and buy yourself a weekly treat such as a book or go to the movies.

The LHSFNA’s Laborers’ Guide to Tobacco and Quit Smoking Survival Kits offer suggestions and tips for breaking the tobacco habit. The Fund’s Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers training manual and Build a Better Body brochure help Laborers improve their dietary and exercise habits. Order these by clicking on Publications.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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