Smoking for Weight Loss
There's Nothing New About Nicotine
People who smoke, women in particular, are often afraid to give up the habit for fear of gaining weight. Actually, the use of nicotine as an appetite suppressant isn't new at all. Ancient people groups, including pre-Columbian indigenous Americans used tobacco to keep their figures. As we fast-forward to modern times, we see things haven't changed much - except that the tobacco companies have made a bundle on our neurosis. Advertising implying the connection between smoking and slimness has as its target women and the related body image issues that keep them looking for ways to beat the bulge.
Why Nicotine Works
Even though smoking is banned in many public places in North America and is widely discouraged by public health professionals because, frankly, it can kill you, nicotine is a proven appetite suppressant. It reduces the appetite and can have an impact on the eating habits of a person. A study done on the effects of nicotine on appetite showed that it elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and gastric motility while it decreased food consumption. This is where we see that the body's reaction to nicotine feeds into the link between smoking and weight control. Nicotine gum, originally intended to help people quit smoking, has served some non-smokers who use it for weight loss or weight control.
Another effect of nicotine is the lowering of insulin levels in the bloodstream. Lower insulin levels means less craving for sugary foods. Nicotine triggers a reaction of adrenaline in the stomach muscles which then leads to reduced feelings of hunger. Some studies have indicated that smokers tend to exert more energy when involved in activities which furthers the idea that the metabolic rate in smokers tends to be higher.
The Latest Target - Young Girls
Although most adults do not smoke for weight control, adolescents are definitely influenced by the idea of being thin and controlling their weight using cigarettes as the tool. Adolescence is a tumultuous time for girls, especially girls who value the idea of being thin. They associate thinness with popularity and acceptance and engage readily in behaviors that can be potentially dangerous in order to control their weight or lose weight.
There was a time when the target audience of certain cigarette manufactures was young, white, females because they were the ones who were most prone to using cigarettes to manage their weight. Recent studies now indicate that things have changed and the ethnic barrier is broken. Women across the spectrum smoke to keep their weight in check and negative body image is a prevalent factor in an adolescent's decision to smoke, regardless what ethnic background they have.
What Can We Do?
Over the years, smoking cessation advertising and government sponsored programs have done much to reduce the number of smokers. However, even though the overall number has dropped, there are still one million new smokers every year and most of them are young girls and boys. The ongoing challenge is to educate these young people well enough that they become spokespeople for being smoke-free.
In the meantime, weight gain remains an unwanted side-effect of smoking cessation and it continues to be a major part of the conflict when it comes to quitting. Smokers who try quitting often become discouraged by the amount of weight they gain and pick up the habit again just to get a handle on their weight. The statistics show that 75% smokers do gain weight after quitting. Without the impact of nicotine on their metabolism and the loss of appetite that comes with nicotine, quitters eat more and their metabolisms slow down, causing weight gain.
For those in the throes of quitting cigarettes, it is important to stick to a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. The discouragement of a little weight gain can be balanced against the manifold benefits of not smoking. With diligence and commitment, the weight will come off and stay off, and you will have conquered a killer.