Is fear of gaining weight getting in the way of quitting tobacco?
This article is adapted from a blog post on BecomeAnEX.org by Dr. J. Taylor Hays, a professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. BecomeAnEX is a digital quit-smoking program hosted by Truth Initiative® and developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic.
Have you or has someone you know put off quitting smoking, or relapsed after a quit, because of a fear of gaining weight?
It’s true that many smokers put on weight after they quit, but understanding why can help you beat the odds. Nicotine suppresses appetite and elevates metabolism. When you quit smoking, you’re hungrier and your body returns to a normal metabolism. Plus, your taste buds and sense of smell come back to life, so food is more appealing. Also, with cigarettes out of the picture, many people use food to occupy their mouths and cope with stress.
Remember, while weight gain can be temporary, the effects of smoking may not be. Extra weight will not cause lung cancer. And though extra pounds increase the risk of developing or aggravating diabetes, so does smoking.
Weight gain is not inevitable. A review of 62 studies published in the British Medical Journal found that about 16 percent of smokers lost weight after quitting smoking. For another 37 percent of quitters, their weight gain was less than 11 pounds. Many people feel so empowered by quitting, and inspired by their newfound stamina, that they start exercising and eating healthier.
If fear of weight gain is holding you back, one of the things you can do is notice your negative thoughts about your weight. Ask yourself: Are these thoughts accurate? Could they be excuses to keep smoking?
Let’s say your jeans fit more snugly, and you think: I’m worse off now than before I quit. People will think less of me if I gain 10 pounds. Challenge these ideas!
Even if you must buy a larger pair of jeans, are you truly "worse off" now than when you were addicted to tobacco? If a co-worker gained 10 pounds after beating tobacco, would you think poorly of her? Or would you congratulate her on her tremendous accomplishment? I think you know the answers.
Counter each negative thought with a positive one. For example: Now I don’t feel like an outcast at work, and I’m saving $250 a month!
Read about how people have dealt with weight gain anxiety during their quit attempts on the EX Community, where you can also register and create your own free quit plan.