Today,more than 200 health professionals attended the Institute for Women's Health Research at Northwestern University's first educational research forum of the 2010-2011 school year that  featured Bonnie Spring, PhD, a behavioral psychologist at Northwestern.   Her lecture entitled  "Untangling the Web of Women, Smoking and Weight"  made me realize how much we still need to learn about the power of addiction.  Here are some interesting notes about smoking cessation and weight gain from her lecture:

  • Reasons women continue to smoke:   mood and stress management, addiction/craving, social network, weight management.
  • Fear of weight gain discourages 50% of women and 26% of men who smoke  from quitting.   The reality is that 80% of people who quit smoking gain weight but the actual weight gain is about 6-10 lbs. , not the 15 lbs. that people assume.
  • The major cause of post cessation weight gain:   decreased metabolism (from nicotine cessation) and increased energy intake from snacks. Evidently, when we take away something the body values or provides pleasure (e.g., nicotine), we tend to substitute it with something else that we value (e.g. food).
  • Education about the benefits of not smoking is not enough to change behavior;  exercise alone to keep weight off while quitting smoking does not work.
  • Drugs sometimes used during smoking cessation to keep weight down work while they are being used, but once they are stopped, the weight returns.
  • Several studies have been conducted to determine if weight loss programs should be done simultaneously during smoking cessation therapy; shortly after smoking cessation has begun;  or completely after the person quits.  The results vary and it is not yet clear what the best approach is.
  • A lot of controversy persists around the question:   Do weight management efforts undermine tobacco abstinence?  Despite several national guidelines that state so, there is no study that demonstrates that trying to prevent weight gain while trying to quit smoking makes it less likely that a woman will succeed at quitting smoking, according to Dr. Spring.

Some promising approaches that are being evaluated include:

  • Sequential behavioral treatment (cessation, then diet and activity change) more effective than simultaneous treatment because it is  less overwhelming to the patient.
  • Exercise alone does not suppress weigh gain
  • Bupropion, varenicline, NRT suppress weight gain in the short term, but not long-term (after medications discontinued)
  • Weight acceptance (but so far tested only among very weight concerned smokers)

So the jury is still out on the best way to quit smoking.  Dr. Spring also shared some of the early advertising campaigns that were highly successful in raising the number of women smokers.   She noted, "Perhaps the best way to get women to quit smoking is to hire the companies that have been so successful in getting women addicted!"

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Comments

I think Dr. Spring should do a research on hypnotherapy, especially stop smoking hypnosis. Because, it work for me, in fact, there are research that have proven up to fifteen times higher success rates than other method, which lends even more credibility to this choice.

Weight is a tough obstacle to overcome for many women. They struggle with exercise only to discover that it isn't a quick fix. Metabolism is a big factor.

It always amazed me just how addictive smoking was. Now though I have finally managed to quit smoking for the last 11 months. One thing I found that helped was repeating positive affirmations. Just a thought for others.

A previous comment addressed that women should get in shape before attempting to quit smoking. I find this to be counter to the principles of higher wellness. It is impossible to get healthy while smoking. Obesity is just as much related to pain and dis-ease as is smoking. Addressing diet, mind, body and spirit is the only way to have lasting wellness.

it is amazing that people would don't quit smoking because they don't want to gain weight

WHAT ABOUT E-CIGARETTES? THIS HAS 90% LESS TOXINS AND STILL GIVES THE BODY THE NICOTINE IT CRAVES. I DON'T THINK SMOKING IS GOOD BUT WOULD THIS BE A GOOD ALTERNATIVE INSTEAD?

In general, a healthy person doesn't smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats healthy and exercises. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But exercise has to be vigorous to be worth our time. The truth is, movement is movement and the more you do, the healthier you'll be. Even moderate activities like chores, gardening and walking can make a difference. Didi you know that just a 10% weight reduction helpes obese patients reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and increase longevity! Walk more, do some chores, pace while you walk. Every little bit counts and it all adds up to burning more calories. Eating a healthy diet is another part of the healthy lifestyle. Not only can a clean diet help with weight management, it can also improve your health and quality of life as you get older.

Absolutely agree with just what you explained. Your explanation was undoubtedly the easiest to fully grasp. I generally get irked when people talk about issues that they plainly don't know about. You were able to hit the nail on the head and spelled out everything with out problem. Perhaps, folks could take a signal. Will more than likely be back to get a great deal more. Appreciate it

I was a smoker for 6 years and I found that staying around friends that didn't smoke, keeping busy and going to the gym with a motivated friend were what kept me sane when putting cigarettes down.

Just to answer one concern that got brought up in the comment here about E-Cigarettes. Actually the FDA "warned Americans not to use electronic cigarettes -- but did not ban the sale of the smoke-free devices." It's absolutely better to stay away for anything that contain the word "cigarette" in it. If you are a smoker, you just need to Quit! Thanks.

I can't help but think that the stated approach of smoking cessation then diet & activity change is backwards. Get women to reduce their body fat, increase their muscle mass, THEN quit smoking.

like this article...i was a smoker before i have my own family...it's so hard to stop smoking....i was just forced to quit after i gave birth to my eldest.... so i really appreciate having these sharing so people can have a sort of "a place" where they could really release their hang - ups.... thanks....

I absolutely agree with the sequential behavioral treatment approach - it's hard enough to stop smoking let alone change other lifestyle habits at the same time. The shorter the quit smoking program the better. This way people can see the benefits sooner and are more acceptable to diet modification. Another powerful technique, used by many sports psychologists and others is the use of positive affirmations to help with the mental side...

It surely is difficult to give up smoking if you believe you will put on weight. Looking at becoming healthier is a better way to stop smoking and keep the weight off. But as the literature keeps telling people they will put on weight, it becomes a hard ask for those wanting to give up. But try looking it as being healthier – so you stop smoking, increase your exercise and eat healthily.

The action of smoking burns calories and this combined with substitution of food for the oral side of this habit can lead to weight gain when someone quits smoking. I have noticed that the fear of gaining weight, as you have said, can put some women off quitting smoking. The goal of quitting one bad habit is not to substitute a new bad habit. I encourage the people I help to quit smoking to have strategies in place to minimize any risk of weight gain.

I really think that part of the secret to quitting is to stay active. Something that I found that works...when you have the craving to smoke do 10 pushups, at the next craving, do 50 jumping jacks, next time, take a walk. Get your mind around doing healthy activity every time you want to smoke and you will get the exercise to help you lose weight while your working to quit.

Your post is informative and spot on. As a woman and a smoker I have used all those "excuses" not to quit. I have tried several times, but unless you are truly ready to not just "try" but to committ to making that change. I believe no method will work.

It surely is difficult to give up smoking if you believe you will put on weight. Looking at becoming healthier is a better way to stop smoking and keep the weight off. But as the literature keeps telling people they will put on weight, it becomes a hard ask for those wanting to give up. But try looking it as being healthier - so you stop smoking, increase your exercise and eat healthily.

I have seen how addiction is primarily about previous experiences in life that have implanted the wrong subconscious response to the thought of your vice (cigarettes, food etc...) For me it was about opening my mind to linking a different meaning to food. Thanks to some hypnotherapy help I have managed to slowly change my reaction to food from pleasure, to ramifications of my health.

Hi! As a professional in Chinese medicine for the last 14 years I have accompanied many women through cessation of smoking.Besides the acupuncture, I also advise not to stop at once but to do this very slowly.For instance if you smoke 2 packs a day- 40 cigarettes- then smoke 39 for one week.After that 38 for the next week,and so on...In this way the body will not feel deprived of the niccotine and the metabolism will change very slowly- with no trauma.Besides it is always good to learn how to set goals and stay motivated, by attending personal development courses. Good Luck! Dina Ruth

I can understand the connection between smoking and weight gain due to the craving nature of both snacking and smoking, but where is the connection with smoking and social networking. Weight gain has always been an excuse to not quit, and if you really work through the addiction of nicotine, and the propaganda of the smoking brain excuses, you can quit and lose weight

The best way to quit cigs is by hanging aroung people who dont smoke and keep yourself busy.. Its not as hard as you think!!

I've recently quit 5 weeks ago and am at about 4-5 pounds heavier now. I do know quitters who thought twice about quitting because of fear of weight gain and in the end quit anyway because the benefits outweigh the cons. I question the statistic about percentage of people who actually keep smoking because they don't want to get fat.

I can understand the connection between smoking and weight gain due to the craving nature of both snacking and smoking, but where is the connection with smoking and social networking. With social media big now, you can feel connected with many people without having to go outside to smoke

“Perhaps the best way to get women to quit smoking is to hire the companies that have been so successful in getting women addicted!” Funny :) Very interesting article. I hope to see further studies regarding this.

Weight gain has always been an excuse to not quit, and if you really work through the addiction of nicotine, and the propaganda of the smoking brain excuses, you can quit and lose weight.

I can see the fear of weight gain being a legitimate fear for everyone who smokes, but particularly for women this could definitely be a deal-breaker when it comes to quitting. This issue could only be solved with serious commitment and determination.

Hypnotherapy is a VERY effective way of stopping smoking. When it works it almost always goes hand in hand not gaining weight. This is because the underlying reasons for smoking are addressed and there is not the perception of a gap having been left in the non-smoker's life so there is no need to compensate for the loss of smoking by over-eating.

I was a smoker for several years and I knew of three women personally who smoked and the reason they smoked was to keep weight off because that was what they were told, and of course that was several years ago to. One of the women tried to quit smoking twice and each time she would try and quit she would start gaining weight because she would start eating more and especially sweets so she went right back to smoking. You are so right when you stated that education about the benefits of not smoking is not enough to change a person's behavior, and exercise alone to keep the weight off while trying to quit smoking does not work either. As a former two pack a day smoker myself I believe that the jury is still out on the best way to quit smoking.

You are going to need to do several things, and that includes picking an actual quit date. Here is the catch though; this date does need to come. People every year decide that as a New Year’s resolution, they are going to aim to quit smoking, but January 1st comes and goes and they are still smoking. Rather than finding yourself in this position pick a day to quit and stick with it. On that day, all of your cigarettes need to be gone, and you need to be prepared mentally to kick the smoking habit for good.

I agree with you. Your post is so informative. Thanks. It is difficult to stop smoking, but it is possible.

Although weight gain is a consideration the person who is quitting feels so much better soon after quitting that facing their weight problem should become easier.

Does the fear of weight gain really discourage ppl from quitting? I honestly don't think that it's a major factor at all. If smokers can ignore the possibilities of getting lung cancer, would they even bother about weight gain? There must be a deeper underlying reason. Just my 2 cents :)

Every cigarette you don’t smoke is doing you good. There are many health benefits to quitting, some of which you’ll be able to notice within hours or days.

I rather be a little chubby than smoke... just quit soon!

It is possible to stop smoking and not gain weight. The key is to supplement the desire for nicotine with another desire, lets say fruits and water!

Smoking addiction is serious business. I consider myself blessed in the fact that I was a chain smoker for 2 years and one day I just quit cold turkey. I never really liked smoking in the first place but I couldn't seem to stop. I didn't gain or lose weight during that entire time though. I have watched many of my friends try to quit smoking and they have all fell off the horse. I really don't know why I was able to quit like I did. I just know that one day I said enough is enough and I never picked up a cigarette again.

This really is a great blog system here. I'm supposed to be working in my Melbourne Day Spa but keep finding more things to read. :)

It's amazing that people spend so much effort trying to quit smoking with pills and patches. And it never works. Speaking of neuroscience, I found a peculiar way to quit smoking nearly a year ago. Its using a type of "neuroscience" called NLP. I'm writing a blog on this anti-medical, pro-mind, quitting smoking method, and hopefully many more people will stop smoking when they try it. But that's beside the point. We all know smoking is horrendous, and I look forward to the day when no one wants to smoke any more. I'll be 20 years from now everyone will look back and associate smoking with the same shock as with asbestos and DDT problems...

I think it's unbelievable that this is even up for discussion. Smoking kills you don't need any institutes to prove or show that do you?

Weight gain does not have to be inevitable when you give up smoking. The actual smoking of cigarettes only increases your metabolic rate for a very brief period, so the amount of calories you are 'burning up' (excuse the pun) by smoking is minimal. Where the weight gain comes in is by substituting cigarettes with food, candy, or whatever your chosen 'self-medication' product is. You need to be totally in the right mind set to stop smoking - you have to want to quit - and you have to be conscious not to replace the habit with another detrimental one.

I have to agree that changing one habit at a time is more effective than trying to slap exercise, diet, and quitting all into one terrifying experience. Quitting is hard enough on its own!

As a marketer online and a smoker, don't mix the 2. Sitting out on the patio with a laptop and a pack of smokes, my consumption almost doubled and I didn't even notice because I was so involved with my marketing efforts. Just by bringing the laptop inside the house and never have it with me if I'm going to smoke, I am smoking way less, max 10 smokes a day now, Gonna quit, just have to "get" that mindset

this is an interesting read. Not only does it show both men and women are often times more concerned with appearance than health, but also talks about the mindset of the person wanting to quit. eating right and some exercise should be part of a stop smoking program.

Gaining weight is not as bad as smoking itself. It shouldn't be a factor for not quitting!

It surely is difficult to give up smoking if you believe you will put on weight. Looking at becoming healthier is a better way to stop smoking and keep the weight off. But as the literature keeps telling people they will put on weight, it becomes a hard ask for those wanting to give up.

It's sad to see yet another excuse for smokers not to quit. It was already hard enough on them, because of addiction. Hopefully this will be taken care of by good ole science!

I can tell you from dipping snuff years ago that if I would try and quit...here comes the weight. Food tasted so much better. It is all about lifestyle. Thanks for the great material again!

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