How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

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The holidays can be tough to maneuver, with all of the rich treats that go along with the season. If you've quit smoking recently, it's even more challenging. 

Take some time before the season is in full swing to set your priorities ( and a plan of action ) clearly in your mind before getting swept up in celebrations that could put you at risk for holiday weight gain and a smoking relapse.

Don't Try to Lose Weight, But Don't Gain Either

A great rule of thumb is to think maintenance as you go through the holidays.

The season is relatively short, and if you use moderation to offset the indulgences, you should be able to get through it without gaining much (or any) weight.  

Use the 80/20 rule as a reference.  If 80 percent of the meals and snacks you eat on a given day are healthy and in the right portions, you can allow yourself a few treats with the other 20 percent without throwing your diet out of whack.

Pare Down the Calories on Your Favorite Holiday Foods

There are plenty of reduced calorie recipe makeovers that you can use in place of some of the traditional holiday recipes.  The links below offer some great choices, and do a search to find more.

Limit or Avoid Alcohol

For the new ex-smoker, alcohol is a big trigger that can derail a quit program in no time. Most holiday parties involve drinking, sometimes to excess.  Therefore, it is prudent to prepare for how you'll handle alcohol during your first smoke-free holiday season.

 

Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, so if you limit or cut alcohol completely out this year, it will help you on the weight maintenance front, as well.

Use the following articles from About.com Experts to come up with a plan of action that will help you avoid gaining weight as you enjoy the holiday season.

Put a Little Extra Time into Your Exercise Routine

It's a tough time of the year to add more to your schedule, but an extra 10 minutes of exercise twice a day will help you do more than just keep your weight in check.

Exercise is a great way to curb cravings to smoke, and wonderful as a stress reliever.  It sends dopamine into your system, the feel good hormone that is also responsible for making nicotine seem so enjoyable.

Dopamine is thought to be the chemical in our brains that, when released, causes feelings of pleasure (and when dopamine is absent, cravings for the substance that triggers it). Science has proven that food, nicotine, numerous other addictive drugs and exercise all cause dopamine to be released in our brains.

Exercise is a safe and healthy way to experience dopamine!

The Bottom Line

Most people will gain a small amount of weight when they quit smoking. Due to temporary changes in metabolism, we can expect an upward shift on the scale of 5 to 10 pounds.

 

Within a few months, quit-related weight will come back off again as long as eating habits haven't changed. For most of us though, food becomes a replacement for smoking temporarily for a few reasons. Snacks and sweets become more appetizing and is something we must to learn to manage as we move through smoking cessation.

The holiday season adds weight control concerns for new ex-smokers, so safeguard your quit by thinking ahead about how you'll manage the parties - and stresses you'll be faced with in ways that don't involve eating too much food.  

Having a plan in place for the food (and other) challenges you may come up against will allow you to enjoy yourself while staying on track with holiday indulgences and your quit program.  

It's worth the work. Remember, the number one priority is to manage your first holiday season smoke-free. It's bound to be difficult at times, but take heart.  You are working through seasonal triggers that must be faced.  

Next year, the holidays will be much easier in terms of smoking cessation.  In fact, you will probably find that smoking doesn't even occur to you during your second smoke-free holiday season.  I know - it's hard to imagine, but give yourself the time you need to heal, and smoking will eventually become a non-issue.

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