Friday, June 10, 2011

Another reason why quitters gain weight when becoming smoke-free

 I've been saying for 20 years that once you quit, you may feel hungrier than when you smoke and there is a study that proves it. Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain that tell you when to stop eating.
There are other reasons why quitters will gain weight but a comprehensive quitting plan will include weight management for those concerned. Here is the chapter about avoiding weight gain from my new book: Crushing your Butts, An Effective Five Step Process to Stop Smoking and Stay Quit Forever:

Avoiding weight gain
For over 60 years smoking has been promoted as a way to stay thin and slim and many smokers are concerned about gaining weight after quitting. But not all smokers gain weight after quitting, some lose weight and others want to gain weight because they are too thin and underweight and haven’t been able to maintain a normal weight.
So whether you want to gain weight or avoid gaining, weight management should be a part of your comprehensive plan. Even if you are not concerned before quitting, any gain in weight can highlight it and bring weight to your attention.
For quitters that have gained more weight than wanted, it becomes a cause of relapse by saying, “I’ll lose the weight and then try quitting again.” But often the weight stays, and they are back to smoking. A better way is to have weight control integrated into your quit plan.
Both men and women can use smoking as way to control weight and both can worry about gaining after quitting. However, it seems in our society that women are more conscious about gaining weight than men. For some women, the fear of gaining weight is so strong, they will not even attempt to quit. These women are more likely to view their body negatively as to either their size or shape and view themselves as being heavier or less attractive when compared to non-smoking women.
Yet when quitting, women seem to control weight gain easier than men. It may be that if there is a concern, women have planned how to deal with it while making their quit plan, whereas men are often unprepared for their waist size to increase. It also could be that the actual weight gain is less than what the person perceives it is going to be. Women, who quit, often find they gain less weight than anticipated and are able to adjust. Men are more likely to relapse from gaining weight after quitting, probably because they are not prepared.
Usually the most weight is gained in the first six months after quitting and stabilizes within a year. Cessation medications can help reduce the amount of weight gained when quitting. It may be necessary for those with weight concerns to stay on medications for a longer period of time. The average weight gain is about 10 to 12 pounds but you need to gain 50 to 100 pounds of fat to do as much damage to your body as one pack of cigarettes.

 Reasons Why Quitters Gain Weight
1. A change in metabolism may account for a few pounds probably about 3-6 pounds. Simply increasing your exercise by, walking an extra 20 minutes per day than you normally do, will offset any change in your metabolism. It easy to blame gaining weight on this slight change in metabolism but most weight gain is because of eating more food. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise activities.
2. Smoking can inhibit hunger. After quitting a smoker may feel hungrier than when they were smoking. Nicotine affects a receptor in your brain that tells you when to stop eating. Discuss using cessation medications with your doctor. Nicotine Replacement Products can act as an appetite suppressant and ZybanTM has shown to limit weight gain.
3. Withdrawing from nicotine can cause changes in your blood sugar which leads to sugar cravings. It’s tempting to reach for something fattening like pastries, doughnuts, or candy. Be aware of what you are putting into your mouth, whether it is a high sugar, high fat item or not. Keep plenty of fruit around for your sugar fix and substitute raw fruit and/or vegetables for the pastries, candy bars and junk food.
4. Ingesting more food as a habit of hand to mouth motion for oral gratification. Use various items to mimic the hand to mouth motion of smoking such as repeatedly sipping from a water bottle or cut a straw the size of a cigarette to give you something to hold in your hand. Stock up on low fat crunchy foods, keep healthy snacks available and increase intake of vegetables. Talk to your doctor about the prescription nicotine inhaler.
Joann kept a jar of candy on her desk at work for her clients. She didn't realize how often her hand went into that jar after she quit. Smokers have a habit of putting something in their mouth and after quitting, the oral fixation continues but food is the new substitute for a cigarette. It should be no surprise that smokers are oral people. If you smoke a pack a day, each cigarette is about 10 puffs, which is 200 puffs per day or 73,000 puffs per year. Be prepared and find something low-fat, low calorie and crunchy to munch on. Any kind of vegetable is great.
5. Using food as a reward for not smoking. It’ is easy to feel deprived when quitting and substitute food as a way of filling up that deprivation. Find other rewards than food .Stay conscious about the amount of food you are eating. Keep a food diary, writing down before you eat, what you plan to eat, where you are, what you are doing and how you are feeling, similar to your Tobacco Use Record.
You've quit for a week, isn't it time to reward yourself? Yes, but choose a reward other than another slice of apple pie. Stay conscious about the amount of food you are eating.
Bonnie had the opposite problem. She was very under weight and as part of her quitting plan, she used food as a reward hoping to gain weight. But unless you need to gain weight, find some other reward than food. Only eat when you are hungry. Stop eating once you are full.
6. A cigarette at the end of a meal is like a period at the end of a sentence and without that period you just continue to eat. It’s easy to eat more at meals to delay having a craving that comes at the end of a meal. You've probably had a cigarette after every meal you've ever eaten as an adult. That is a lot of  Pavlovian conditioning. When you quit it’s common to still want a cigarette so instead of dealing with the craving it’s easier to continue eating. Leave the table immediately and do something else. Go brush your teeth, have a breath mint, chew gum, get up and hand wash the dishes. It’s hard to smoke with wet hands. Use a smaller plate. Decide before you start eating on how much you will eat and don’t go back for seconds.
7. Food tastes and smells better once you have quit smoking. Smoking deadens the taste buds. Eat slower, putting your fork down in between bites. Decide and write it down, how much food that you are going to eat before the meal and don’t take seconds. Be conscious of what you are putting in your mouth. Keep a food dairy.
 8. Just as some people overeat for emotional reasons, some smokers will smoke for emotional reasons. If your emotional issues aren’t dealt with when you quit, it common to use food as a substitute for a cigarette in providing emotional relief. Both smoking and food are used to escape from boredom, tension, depression, stress. Remember to HALT (Hungry, Angry, Alcohol, Anxiety, Lonely, Tired). These are common reasons why addictive substances are used, so stop and take care of your emotional needs. Continue a food diary, paying particular attention to how you are feeling when you are eating. Only eat when you are hungry. Learn the different between hunger and emotional eating.
To counter these, I suggest that you keep a food diary. Write down what you're going to eat before you put it in your mouth. That is the time to decide whether you really want it or not. Just like we have been unconsciously smoking, it is easy to be unaware of our eating also, by keeping a diary will make you conscious of what is going into your mouth, and if you note your moods it can help you uncover your emotional eating.

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