If you're going to stop smoking, you need to know about possible situations that may be important to minimize your tendency to gain weight. Here are some common situations and practical solutions for each one. This information is based on the real-life experiences of many people.

HOW TO AVOID WEIGHT GAIN WHEN YOU STOP SMOKING

You may believe that stopping smoking means you'll automatically gain weight. It's not that certain. However, you can take steps to prevent or minimize weight gain.

Break the link between food and smoking. Don't use food to replace cigarettes.

SITUATION — LONGER MEALTIMES

Many smokers hurry through dinner so they can smoke. When they stop smoking, they're still used to eating fast. They may finish their servings before anyone else finishes theirs, then move on to a second helping. Avoid the temptation by pushing back. Sometimes they replace their after-dinner cigarette with a rich dessert. As a result, many people trying to become smoke-free consume more calories than they did before.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

  • You or your spouse can portion your food. Make it hard to have second helpings.
  • Slow down the speed at which you eat.
  • Cut food into smaller pieces.
  • Put your fork down after each mouthful. Swallow all food from each bite before you fill your fork again.
  • Sip ice water often during your meal.
  • Gradually extend the time between each bite of food. Slow down and savor the taste and texture of your food.
  • Set a goal to be the last person finished eating. (But not because you've had second or third helpings.)
  • If you usually have dessert, substitute low-calorie fruit, a small piece of plain cake or a cookie for a rich dessert. Low-fat frozen yogurt makes a great dessert, too.
  • Get up from the table as soon as you're finished eating. Don't linger. Do something like taking a walk to keep you busy and take your mind off food, or help clear the table, do the dishes and then take a walk.
  • Drink a beverage away from the table. That way you'll change your setting and start a new behavior.
  • Brush your teeth as soon as you finish eating. This will be a signal that you've finished eating.

SITUATION — ORAL CRAVING

Some people trying to stop smoking get strong urges to have something in their mouth. They want a substitute for a cigarette. This leads to frequent nibbling — usually of sweets.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

1: Carry sugarless gum or artificially sweetened mints with you. Chew only one piece of gum or mint at a time. To make the mint last, let it melt in your mouth.
2: Find things to keep your hands busy that don't involve food. Try a hobby, home repair or gardening. Even crossword puzzles are a good substitute.
3: When you're at home, choose foods to nibble on that require some work. For example, eat fruits or veggies that must be peeled or cut. These preparations will keep your hands busy. Because these foods take more time to eat, you are more likely to eat less of them.

SITUATION — EVENING SNACK

People who smoke to relax often turn to snacking when they try to stop.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

1:Keep a variety of low-calorie snacks handy. You can eat raw vegetables or eat them with a low-calorie dip. You can also munch on plain or rye crackers, bread sticks, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn or dry cereal snacks. Don't eat too much because even low-calorie snacks can add up.
2: Control your environment. Store high-calorie snacks in the back of cupboards or the refrigerator where they're harder to see. Place more suitable snacks in front. Remove food from living areas. That way food won't be so readily visible if the urge to snack strikes.
3: Delay your snack. If you have an urge to eat something, wait a predetermined length of time (a few minutes at first) before eating. Progressively increase the amount of time between the urge to eat and having a snack.
4: Plan to snack at regular times to prevent uncontrollable urges to eat. Better yet, save portions of your meals and use them as snacks.
5: Control the urge to eat when you're not truly hungry. Plan to do other activities when the urge strikes. This will reduce your caloric intake and you won't feel deprived.
6: Portion your snack. Never take more than one serving at a time. Put the rest of the food away and ask others not to offer you extra helpings.
7: Create situations in which you're aware of eating. Some people snack without thinking about eating.
8: Alter your meal schedules. Moving dinner to a later time may reduce your desire for a late-evening snack.

SITUATION — SOCIAL ACTIVITIES THAT LEAD TO EATING OR DRINKING (AND A CIGARETTE)

Coffee breaks, cocktail parties, sporting events and certain other situations are often associated with smoking. A person trying to stop may overeat to avoid lighting a cigarette.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

1: If you've only recently stopped smoking, avoid situations that will tempt you. Instead of taking a coffee break, take a walk or read. Instead of sitting and watching a sport, do something that requires you to be active. Exercise helps you avoid a difficult situation and burns off calories.
2: Modify situations that tempt you. Have flavored water, skim milk, fruit or vegetable juices, tea or low-calorie drinks during coffee breaks. Bring your own snacks to special parties. Look for fruit in vending machines or the cafeteria. Avoid high-fat foods like doughnuts that may be available at your work place.
3: Beware of alcohol. Drinking alcohol adds calories and may also weaken your resolve to stop smoking. Drink juice, flavored water or low-calorie soft drinks. If you don't want to quit drinking alcohol, try to cut down on the amount you drink or make weaker drinks.

This list of situations is far from exhaustive. However, the solutions given are very practical. Eating is a necessary behavior that can be altered by different techniques. People can evaluate their eating behavior, pinpoint problems and plan how to effectively deal with them.

Not all the solutions given here are suitable for everyone. Test them to find out what works for you.

You might find that recording your progress is helpful. Make a list of which techniques work for you. Then identify any problems you have. Knowing what your problems are is the first step in deciding how to solve them.

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