Quit smoking: The health benefits will trump the weight gain, research says
New research shows the health benefits associated with quitting smoking outweigh (pardon the pun) the modest weight gain that usually happens when people give up cigarettes.
The study funded by the National Institutes of Health found former smokers (who don’t have diabetes) had about half as much risk of developing heart disease when compared to those who were still smoking. The risk level didn’t budge even when those who quit smoking packed on a some extra pounds. Heart disease can cause of host of problems, like heart attacks or strokes.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was the first-ever effort to directly address the health impact of the weight gain that so many people notice once they stop smoking.
“Our findings suggest that a modest weight gain, around 5-10 pounds, has a negligible effect on the net benefit of quitting smoking,” said study co-author Caroline Fox, senior investigator in the Laboratory for Metabolic and Population Health at the NIH.
Fox, in a news release about the research, said being able to quantify the relationship between the benefits and side effects of smoking cessation might help in counseling those who have quit smoking — or are considering it.
How to avoid weight gain after smoking cessation:
So why do you gain weight after you make the healthy choice to quit smoking?
Nicotine in cigarettes boosts the body’s metabolic rate. When you divorce your smoking habit, your metabolic rate returns to normal. If you don’t make changes to your diet, you may end up gaining weight. Also, for some, nicotine also serves as an appetite suppressant.
- Newbie quitters notice that they don’t just miss the nicotine. They miss the oral gratification, which leads them to snack more. If you’re looking to smoke, keep a stash of healthy, low-calories snacks like crunchy veggies. Try a bag of mixed veggies with snap peas, jicama, carrots and celery. Perhaps keep a stash of sugar-free gum. (Buy boxes of gum in bulk and save at Staples).
- When you crave a cigarette, consider brewing some herbal tea. The tea can help relieve some stress.
- Work-out more. Go for a 30-minute walk at lunch or after dinner.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s got empty calories and may tempt you to smoke.
- Limit spicy or sugary foods. They are known to trigger your desire to smoke.
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