Maia is a member of the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation. Early on in her quit program, she gained weight, but as you'll see in the account below, written at six months smoke-free, Maia got her eating under control and lost all of her quit-related weight gain.
Thanks for sharing, Maia!
I wanted to make a few comments about weight loss, especially aimed at people new to quitting smoking. I'm 31 years old, and have struggled for the last 10 years or so with some significant health issues (I have health issues that are very similar to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), although I do not yet have a firm diagnosis).
When I was 21, I got mononucleosis for the first time, and I continued to contract it every few years after that. Doctors will tell you to not be physically active when you have mono, as this will exacerbate symptoms and leave you open to opportunistic infections/viruses and other nasty stuff.
I had been active as a teenager and during my first few years of university. I was always a committed student, had a part-time job, and did volunteer work on the side. I was energetic, active, and always on the go. After my first bout of mono, everything changed for me. I could barely stay awake in my classes, had trouble concentrating on my studies, and had little or no energy for my friends. I like to joke now that I "spent my 20's taking a nap", but it's basically the truth.
My health problems led to my first depressive episode, which caught me completely off guard. The more depressed I got, the more I smoked, and I was up to a pack a day by the time I was 23 years old. I had smoked throughout high school and my first few years of university, and I honestly believed that smoking had no impact on my health. I actually still believed that up until my quit six months ago. In any case, I now had depression to deal with on top of my health problems.
As the years went by, I gained more and more weight, got more depressed, and saw many of my friendships evaporate because I didn't have the energy to maintain them. This, of course, led to more depression - which led to more smoking. It was all pretty circular. By this time last year, I was 45 pounds overweight, and had terrible self-esteem. There are almost no pictures of me over the last few years, because I refused to let anyone photograph me.
Last summer I decided that I would quit smoking in the fall. At the beginning of July, I started preparing for this difficult experience. I did more research on antidepressants. I had started taking St. John's Wort at 24 and had taken Prozac on and off over the years. They helped a bit, but my level of functioning was still extremely low, and I knew it.
I tried a new antidepressant which was also recommended in the treatment of migraines (which I also have) as well as CFS. The medicine started to kick in after six weeks or so, and I began to feel like my old self. I also started working out three or four times a week. I started off slow and didn't push myself. If I could only do five minutes that day, I only did five minutes. From July to the beginning of September, I dropped 15 pounds.
When I quit smoking, I told myself that I would not worry about my weight and would make cessation my highest priority. I continued to exercise and made some minor changes in my diet, but didn't do much else. I had a very difficult time throughout the first six weeks, but I turned a real corner at that point and barreled right ahead. I felt more energy than I had in years - I felt more positive, more happy, and more alive than I had in many years.
After five months of not smoking, I decided to try Weight Watchers and focus on my weight problems. At first I didn't lose any weight at all, but I kept going. Quitting smoking taught me how to take it one day at a time, and this skill worked in my favor with weight loss too.
This morning I stepped on the scale, and I've lost five pounds in the last month, and I'm down seven pounds from when I quit smoking. I know that some people do gain a little weight after they quit smoking, but I'm here to tell you that not everyone will gain weight. Don't let that fear stand in the way of the best decision you will ever make in your life. I truly believe that I would never have lost weight if I was still smoking. I've used the extra energy that I've got from smoking cessation to become more active and more involved in life. I don't want to be on the sidelines anymore.
Quitting smoking will create such amazing change in the rest of your life. It is not always an easy path, but it is so worth it. I celebrated my six month milestone yesterday, and I can promise that I will never go back to smoking. I have gained so much, and I absolutely refuse to let it go. I'm truly happy for the first time in years.
Good luck to everyone, whether today is your first day smoke free or your first year. We can and we WILL all do this. We deserve health, happiness and everything great that life has to offer.
Cheers and hugs,