It’s no secret that quitting the cancer sticks can lead to weight gain–an incentive, for some, to hang on to the dangerous habit. But it’s time to put an end to that ridiculous excuse. A new anti-smoking medication may also help prevent weight gain among quitters, according to a study published in Biological Psychiatry.
Researchers at the University of Chicago and Yale University gave 700 male and female smokers either a pill, Naltrexone, or a placebo. Naltrexone helped the men ditch cigarettes, upping their quit rate from 17 percent to 30 percent over three months, but it did not significantly improve a woman’s odds of quitting. However, in women who did stop successfully, the drug helped cut their weight gain by more than half. Those on the placebo put on an average of 5.1 pounds, whereas women on Naltrexone only gained an average of 2.3 pounds. The drug is an opioid blocker, working to reduce cravings for alcohol, heroin, and nicotine, but it also blocks cravings for foods many smokers indulge on while they quit.
Mike Dow, Psy.D, clinical director of therapeutic and behavioral services at The Body Well integrative medical center in Los Angeles, explains weight gain is common with quitting because nicotine alters brain chemistry and induces cravings. “When you give up smoking, your brain is low in your body’s feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin,” he says. “Many people gain weight when they quit smoking because they trade cigarettes for unhealthy food to get these feel-good chemicals back. Dopamine is released when you eat high-fat foods, and serotonin is released when you eat sugar and processed carbohydrates.”
Here’s the thing: While more research is needed on Naltrexone (which, again, wasn’t actually effective at helping women quit), you don’t need to wait for a miracle pill to kick the habit. And definitely don’t avoid quitting in fear of food cravings and weight gain. A few strategies can help combat both problems. It’s not too late to re-write your New Year’s Resolutions list with “Quit Smoking” at the top. Here’s how:
Boost serotonin and dopamine levels–just don’t do it with food. Opt for healthy behavioral habits instead. “Running to loud music or kickboxing are great dopamine-booster activities,” Dow says. “Cuddling with loved ones or pets, calling friends, or taking mindful walks are great serotonin-booster activities.”
Avoid extreme dieting
You might think swearing off carbs is wise, but your body needs them to keep cravings in check. “Choose smart carbs like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to control cravings and boost serotonin to control anxiety,” says physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, M.D.
Up your protein
Lean meat, eggs, soy, and nut butters should stay in your food arsenal as you quit. Jampolis says protein with each meal will help “control blood sugar and hunger” over the course of your day.
Your mouth is used to cigarettes; don’t neglect it. Chew sugar-free gum between meals. “Quitting can increase appetite directly or indirectly, as you crave the oral stimulation of smoking,” Jampolis says. “Gum keeps your mouth busy, and studies show it can even help you lose weight.”
Did you used to take a smoking break at 10 A.M. with co-workers? Take your break at 9:30, and go for a short walk instead to avoid the sight and smell of cigarettes. “Just like eating patterns, smoking patterns contribute to addictive behavior,” says Jampolis.
The psychological impact of quitting smoking on a person’s well-being is often overlooked. A well-designed study published in the new December issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine offers comfort for smokers who are gearing up to take the plunge as the new year approaches. The innovative study of 572 smokers, done by a team of well-seasoned researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, involved real-time measurements called ecological momentary assessments. The study sampled smokers’ withdrawal symptoms for a week before and after quitting, and for a week after they made it to the one-year mark. These new findings can help ease smokers’ (often vague) fears of quitting. Unfounded fears can keep smokers in a bunker, and hold them back from enjoying the very real medical and mental benefits of quitting.
According to this new study, comparing life before quitting to life one year after quitting:
- There was a decrease in “stressful event frequency” for those who had quit. This lends support to previous studies showing that “quitting smoking decreases stress.”
- The “quitters experienced a steep decline in craving while continuing smokers’ craving levels only decreased slightly.”
- The “quitters experienced declines in restlessness and anger/irritability from pre-quit to one year while continuing smokers’ levels either remained stable or increased.”
The study’s findings on anger/irritability were a trend only because they fell just short of statistical significance. However, there are many other reasons besides withdrawal that smokers who quit, in comparision to continuing smokers, may still be angry. For example, many quitters need to practice handling anger without smoking, since reaching for a cigarette may have been an automatic response to “anger management” for many years! Despite the stereotype of the angry/irritable quitter, this research suggests that one year after quitting, many former smokers are likely to be less angry than continuing smokers.
Quitters had significantly improved when the study compared their state just after quitting to one year later on many symptoms of nicotine withdrawal syndrome. These include anger, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, hunger and craving. The study confirms prior findings that acute smoking withdrawal when present is a temporary state, typically lasting about as long as a bad cold. The smoker is therefore not trading in their smoking life for a lifetime of withdrawal. They are instead trading off some short-term discomfort for a much better outcome in the long term. As summarized in the DSM Manual of Mental Disorders:
“Withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of cessation, typically peak in one to four days, and last for three to four weeks.”
In the normal course of events, this initial healing continues throughout the whole first smoke-free year with demonstrated long-term benefits.
This research adds to a growing body of knowledge showing more clearly than ever that quitting smoking makes life better. Quitting is not only the best way to protect your body and your health, but also brings measurable benefits in terms of emotional well-being. As you contemplate your New Year’s resolutions, where would you like to be this same time next year? How does feeling less stressed, less craving, less restless, irritable and angry sound?
Stevia, a healing herb, “kills” the need for nicotine and also melts pounds, and the best about it is that you can cultivate it in your home. Stevia not only reduces high blood pressure and cures throat inflammation, it is also a good ally in the fight against chronic fatigue.
The latest clinic research conducted in the USA show that this herb gives excellent results if you want to reduce the need for both cigarettes and alcohol. Stevia is also known as a natural sweetener and an amazing substitute for sugar. So, with a single shot you can kill 10 flies, or problems.
This herb does not require any special conditions, so you can plant it in your own yard.
Everything is easier in life when you have a person by your side who helps you and who you can rely on in difficult times; quitting smoking is no exception. If you have decided to quit this harmful habit, try not to do it alone but enjoy multiple benefits of collective quitting.
First of all, you will get an accomplice. The person, who understands all of the emotions and feelings that you experience by quitting smoking. You are not going to feel alone in your choice anymore. You can always get support from your partner, however, be also ready to support him or her, as well.
The next very important benefit is mutual motivation. Since you are not simply quitting, but also take on some commitments with your partner, you have to strengthen your will. If you relapse and refer back to smoking, your partner will be left to deal with his problems one-on-one. However, the same could happen to you, so if you are not ready for the lead role, try to pick a partner who seems to have strong will power.
The third benefit is a mutual information exchange and experience accumulation – two heads are better than one. Share the information on the methods of quitting smoking and tools that help suppress strong urges to smoke. Experiment with them and provide your partner with the feedback and your best practices. Send each other motivating articles about hazards of smoking and the benefits of quitting. Together it is also easier to compose the quit smoking plan.
Quitting in a tandem is quite effective. Your partner can be your relative, a close friend or a complete stranger. However, don’t forget not only to ask your partner for advice and support, but also motivate him or her with the same. Because the more you help your partner, the more you help yourself in the end.
If you think that your fantasies cannot become a reality, you are wrong. It has been proven a while ago that thoughts can cause changes in the material world. However, if everything was that easy, we all would have been living on paradise dreamed up islands. The key to success is a regular practice. Form an image that attracts you and depicture it every day for 5 minutes in the mornings and evening at the same time – for example, on your way to and from the work. Ideally, it should become a ritual for you and should not cause you any inconvenience.
So what should you imagine when trying to quit smoking? The best thing is to fancy you’ve already quitted. Try to feel the positive changes that happened to your body: it is now easy to breathe and play sports, your skin started to look better and your teeth become whiter. Make the image very detailed. Think of the situations when you most often reach for cigarettes and replace them in your image. For example, imagine how, instead of smoking after lunch, you are eating a delicious dessert or are reading a fascinating book. Instead of smoking before bed, you are telling good night to your children or are taking a bath with rose petals in it.
Another approach is to depicture how you are quitting smoking: you are throwing away your cigarettes, cleanse your life of smoking and come out a winner. Affirmation also can be used – a positive setting about your health and life style. Form it in the way that carries a certain charge of inspiration and reflects your goals – for example: “I am healthy and I feel great. Since I quit smoking, my body had been getting rid of toxins every day and I look better and better” Constantly repeat this affirmation to yourself, especially when you feel that negative thoughts have crawled inside your head. The most effective method is to accompany of the affirmation repeating with visualization – pick an appropriate image for your affirmation. What exactly you should imagine depends on individual characteristics of a person, but try to form an image that is going to inspire you, call out your deepest wishes and aspirations. So then, every time you play it in your head, you are going to move further and further away from your ex-bad habit.
Why is goodbye ceremony needed? The answer is very simple – to really believe. By quietly quitting smoking, you can also quietly start smoking again. However, creating a special atmosphere around this event will allow you to imprint it into your memory and it is going to be harder to convince yourself that your quit wasn’t serious. There are different types of goodbye ceremonies out there, here are a few examples.
You can quit smoking at a certain place (better to do it abroad) and to promise yourself that you are not going to smoke, until you come back to that place. You can improvise a funeral for cigarettes by burning them and putting them underground. Also, a lot of people make a promise to their family. Of course, the best method would be to throw a party, so you can tell all of your friends and relatives that you are quitting smoking – that way, you commitment will become more significant as you cannot let so many peoples’ expectations down. It is best to take a pictures of the ritual so there is some evidence to your intention. You can print that picture and always carry it around with you to take a look at it when you really want to smoke.
This advice is quite simple, but I would like to accentuate it. If you have already reached some success in quitting smoking, in the moment of a bad nicotine craving mentally go back and remember how much effort you have already put into quitting, so you can easier keep on going without cigarettes. Remember situations in which you really wanted to smoke, but you managed to overcome it. The more examples you remember and the more vivid they are, the less you are going to want to smoke now as it will erase all of your past efforts.