Control Your Weight

How to control your weight when you quit smoking

In a culture obsessed with scrawny starlets, many smokers put off quitting because they fear they'll get fat. But most people gain only 4 to 10 pounds after quitting cigarettes, federal health agencies point out. Health experts emphasize that even if you do add a few pounds, you're still far, far better off than you were as a smoker. Some of the same strategies that help you quit smoking also help you control your weight:

  • Exercise. Physical activity will reduce stress and anxiety, burn calories, improve your mood and promote a feeling of vitality. Think of exercise not as a chore but as a way to feel better. Not into calisthenics or weights? Everyone can find some enjoyable activity, such as walking, bicycling, dancing, gardening, tennis, skating, yoga, aerobic kickboxing, Pilates, tai chi, swimming or playing more with the kids or pets.
  • Eat green (and yellow and orange and red). The American Heart Association suggests eating at least eight to 10 servings daily of vegetables and fruits when you're quitting cigarettes. Here's an added bonus: With your newly smoke-free mouth, you may enjoy the taste of foods more!
  • Snack right. Yes, it's good to put something in your mouth other than a cigarette, but pay attention to calories, sugar, fat and salt. Try sugarless gum or candy, carrot sticks, air-popped popcorn.
  • Drink right. That means lots of water, but not too much caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, including inhibitions against overeating—or smoking.
  • Space your meals. Include several small, nutritious meals throughout the day rather than two or three heavy meals.
  • Reward yourself without calories. Give yourself nonfood treats, such as concert tickets or a massage, to reward yourself for quitting smoking.
  • Get support. Your quit-smoking plan likely involves your doctor, counseling, a support group or a help line. Seek advice there, and from ex-smokers you know. You may find, for example, that relaxation and stress management techniques such as meditation or deep breathing are helpful at resisting the temptation not just of smoking but of overeating. And others' success stories can reassure and inspire you.

Reviewed by: Timothy Yarboro, MD 

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