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01.13 - January

Your weight: Success for life
Quit smoking — without gaining weight

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By Michael W. Rosen, M.D., and Melanie Polk, M.M.Sc., R.D., F.A.D.A.
(Click for author bios in About us)

Your quit date is on the calendar. And, you're ready to kick cigarettes for good. But, can you snuff out this habit without piling on the pounds?

If that's a concern for you, here's something you should know: Not everyone who stops smoking gains weight.

Also, let's say you're at a healthy weight now — and you do put on a few pounds. Remind yourself of this: That's still better — and safer — than continuing to smoke.

4 weight-wise ways to quit
As you take this great step for your health, try these stay-slim strategies. They can help keep pounds — and cigarette cravings — in check. And, if you're trying to kick a smokeless tobacco habit, they're useful tips for that, too.

1. Get your doctor's advice. He or she may suggest nicotine replacement products or other medicines.* These can help counter cravings, withdrawal and weight gain.

And, if you're not sure what you should weigh, that's a good question for your doctor. He or she can let you know what's a healthy range for you.

2. Make a move. From walking to cycling to swimming, exercise burns calories — and gives your metabolism a boost, too. Plus, it's a great stress reliever and can help take your mind off smoking — and the impulse to eat.

For safety's sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.

3. Find calorie-free distractions. Many former smokers miss having something in their hands and mouth. Try a hands-on activity when the urge strikes. File your nails. Write an email to a friend. Or, how about taking up a handy new hobby, such as painting, knitting or wood carving?

And, for a happy mouth, try these ideas: straws, toothpicks, and sugar-free hard candy or gum.

4. Be ready for snack attacks. When you quit smoking, you may notice that your appetite grows. So, have a variety of good-for-you munchies on hand.

Craving crunch? Make up a batch of popcorn. It's fiber-rich and filling — and a three-cup serving of plain air-popped corn has just 90 calories. Sprinkle it with your favorite salt-free seasonings, such as cumin or garlic powder, for a little added pizzazz.

Satisfy a sweet tooth with fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt. And, choose foods that take time to eat — such as sunflower seeds. See "Crunch time!"

Your healthier new life
Just remember, quitting smoking is your No. 1 goal — so focus on that first. Once you're smoke-free, you'll feel better and healthier. That may be all the motivation you need to work on losing any extra pounds.

*Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.
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Questions for your doctor
Here are a few sample questions about quitting smoking that you might ask your doctor. Simply hit "Print," and take this list with you to your next doctor visit.

Fast fact

Tales of the scale
When ex-smokers do gain weight, it's typically in the 4- to 10-pound range. But, that can vary. Some people may gain more — while others may even lose weight when they quit.

Crunch time!

Having something healthful to nibble can ease sudden cigarette cravings. These crunchy snacks will keep your mouth in gear — and may help you resist lighting up:
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Sliced jicama dipped in salsa
  • Whole-grain, low-sodium pretzels and rice cakes