By Bob Greene
Quitting smoking, especially when you’re dieting, may seem like a form of torture. After all, how many bad habits can you be expected to change all at once? And why would you want to quit when you know that smoking can help keep weight off (it revs your metabolism and dulls your hunger)? But you can achieve the same weight-loss results with healthier habits, like eating well and exercising.
Skeptical? Take exercise as an example. If you’re a smoker, you may have a difficult time working out at a vigorous pace—thanks to all that wheezing and huffing and puffing. (This is a result of congested lungs and a diminished capacity of your blood to deliver oxygen throughout your body.) That means you’re probably not reaping the full calorie-burning benefits of exercise. Kick the habit, though, and you’ll allow your lungs to heal, which means working out will become significantly easier, and you’ll be able to burn more calories.
Your diet is also affected by smoking. Cigarettes and nicotine have been shown to make food less palatable. If you stop smoking, you’ll be able to truly enjoy the flavor of healthy fruits and veggies, lean protein and whole grains. Imagine how delicious our mouthwatering recipes will be when you can actually taste them?
If you’re still not convinced, take a look at some of the other benefits of quitting, according to the American Cancer Society. Talk about motivation: You’ll see improvements to your health in as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette.
20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
1 month to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas also decreases.
15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.
Ready to kick butt (the habit) now? Before you get started, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of success. First, you should set a quit date a few weeks ahead so you can prepare yourself mentally. You can also use that time to clear your house of ashtrays, lighters, any remaining packs and anything else that may trigger a craving. You may also want to check in with your doctor about cessation methods, such as the patch, inhaler and drug therapy. Another important factor: Setting up a support system. You can round up a group of friends and family members, join a support group for ex-smokers or find the number to a quit line.
Remember, this program isn’t only about losing weight—it’s about living your best life, and quitting smoking is a big step toward that goal.
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