Research shows that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest dependencies to kick, on a par with narcotics, so anyone who has taken up the challenge to stop smoking should be supported at every turn by those around them.
They will need all the encouragement they can get. However, one of the things that will worry them is the tendency to gain weight after they have beaten the cigarette. It is very disconcerting for a person who has had a victory over nicotine to find that their long-term health is again under siege from another quarter, as the body tries to find an equilibrium. Why does this happen?
There are a number of factors at play,
and as the struggle with both nicotine addiction and weight gain can be too much, with the help of professional counselling smokers can get advice and tools to achieve both goals i.e. clean lungs and a svelte body. Smoking increases the metabolism, and in a heavy smoker, burns 800 kilojoules a day without effort. At the same time, nicotine suppresses the appetite, so a smoker has less desire to eat.
Most reformed smokers speak of not knowing what to do with their hands and so unconsciously pick up food, usually snacks, to overcome this new sensation.
If these snacks are high in fat, salt and sugar, weight gain is almost inevitable, so a store of healthy snacks is essential. Celery and carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, other raw vegetables, fresh fruit, fat free yoghurt or popcorn, and unshelled sunflower seeds and peanuts are just some suggestions to keep the munchies in check. Drinking plenty of water and other fat-free beverages such as herbal teas which will also convince the stomach it is full.
Alcohol and cigarettes for many people go hand and hand.
Alcohol is high in kilojoules, so a change to non-alcoholic, kilojoule-free drinks will help. Exercise also plays a vital part, and a brisk, 30 minute walk around the block every day will not only boost the metabolism, but assist to keep cravings at bay. Kicking nicotine is one of the biggest self-improvement challenges a smoker will undertake, and by consulting a psychologist smokers’ efforts will be supported.
Any desire to review other life areas should be postponed as too many changes at once can become too difficult.
Most importantly, don’t delay quitting. Any weight gain can be dealt with after the nicotine habit has been banished, and the use of any of the well-known weight loss techniques will control it. To continue smoking as an excuse to stay thin is inviting serious illness and even death.
Clinical Psychologist Annabelle Young has extensive experience in working with people with depression, anxiety (including panic), adjustment difficulties, stress, trauma, PTSD, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem, grief and loss, interpersonal difficulties, as well as alcohol and drug use issues.