Most often, it’s the addicting powers of nicotine that are tagged as the most challenging element for quitting smoking. But in reality, every bit of nicotine is gone from the blood stream just two days after a smoker has their last cigarette. The real challenge is breaking one’s self from the habit; to replace the routine smoking moments with alternative activities. Though that does pose a difficult challenge, it takes just two to three weeks for that urge to follow the habit to significantly decrease.
I have a good friend who six weeks ago made the big step and quit smoking. She made it through the two-day nicotine frenzy. She fought the habitual urge that lasts two to three weeks. Yet, it is now, six weeks after her last cigarette that she’s found herself the most tempted to light up again.
The reason is that she’s not happy with her subsequent weight gain.
Putting on pounds after your client has stopped smoking is typical. According to the National Cancer Institute, four out of five people will gain four to ten pounds after their last cigarette, with the amount of weight gain being directly related to the number of cigarettes they consumed per day. The more they were routinely smoking, the more weight they’re likely to gain. Smoking burns calories and thus increases a smoker’s metabolic rate. In addition, nicotine suppresses appetite, so it’s not atypical for your client to begin increasing their food intake once they’ve quit. With the combination of eating more and burning few calories, weight gain is common.
With that said, it is possible to prevent or at least significantly reduce the weight gain your client experiences after they’ve stopped smoking. The following are tips for you to pass on to your client to help them continue to feel good about their decision to stop smoking.
- § Incorporate regular exercise
I’m sure you expected this one. Being physically active offers an array of health benefits, but if we’re going to remain focused on this one particular topic, it helps make up for the calories your client no longer burns by smoking. Have your client incorporate a thirty minute walk into their daily routine to burn calories and increase their metabolic rate. Urge them to use walks as a technique to keep themselves distracted whenever they’re hit with cravings.
- § Be ready with healthy, low calorie snacks
It’s important for your client to understand that they’re simply going to be hungrier once they stop smoking. If they’re not ready for it, they will be more likely to ignore the need of eating healthy and instead take in high calorie foods that promote weight gain. To set themselves up for success, your client needs to have nutritious, low calorie snacks on hand at all times. Quality choices include fruits and vegetables.
- § Decrease alcohol consumption
The amount of calories your client takes in will directly affect whether they gain, lose or maintain their weight. Alcohol is very high in calories, so if your client typically drinks routinely, they can significantly decrease their overall caloric intake by cutting back on the drinks.
- § Keep the mouth distracted
Those who have quit smoking report that they miss the “oral gratification” from having a cigarette in their mouth. This also can tempt them to eat more, as they can turn to food as something to put in their mouth. Make sure they’re ready with alternatives, such as gum or mints. Healthy snacks like cut-up celery or carrots are also low-calorie options for your clients to chew on. Soft non-edible items such as straws can also be used.
Overall, it’s important to constantly remind your clients of the importance of their decision. Immediately following their cessation of smoking, their lungs and cardiovascular system have already undergone significant repairs. The health benefits they receive will far surpass the significance of weight gain. Smoking one pack of cigarettes puts the same amount of extra stress on your heart as being ninety pounds overweight. However, it’s important to recognize that passing on the information is much easier than to be one undergoing weight gain, so reassure your clients that most previous smokers will begin to lose the weight they gained in just six months time.