You can quit smoking and not be forced to gain weight. It's true, but you have to plan for success.

Many smokers fear that if they quit smoking they will inevitably gain weight. While it is true that smoking often helps people stay skinny or keep from gaining any more weight, it is not true that if you quit smoking you will automatically gain weight.

Smoking is one of the most unhealthy things you can put your body through. You’ve heard all the stories and harangue from university types and health authorities, so I’ll spare you going through it yet again. Suffice to say that smoking is one of the largest risk factors for an early demise, right up there with obesity, the problem we’re all here to solve. So, can you quit smoking, and reduce your risk of dying young, without gaining weight and increasing it again?

Actually, yes, you can quit smoking and lose weight . There is also no guarantee that if you have a more or less healthy body weight now, that you will automatically pack on the pounds should you manage to quit smoking. The good news is that while the majority of people who quit smoking do gain weight over the short term do gain weight, there is no reason why you have to. In any case, even if you do gain weight as you quit (and I’ll give you some ways to avoid doing that) most people manage to lose weight over the long term after they quit.

The single biggest thing you can do to lose weight when you quit smoking is to actually start before you quit. Increase your activity level, and most importantly, change your eating habits before you stop smoking. Why? Because if you are eating healthy and you do increase your caloric intake temporarily as you’re quitting, you will at least be eating a greater quantity of healthy foods, rather than just eating more junk. Overall, your caloric increase will be less and you will get more nutrition than if you simply ate more breaded, deep fried foods and sweet treats.

One of the most powerful strategies for quitting smoking is to replace your need for a cigarette with something else. Many people tend to gravitate towards food, but that is not the strategy I’d advocate here. The secret is to use exercise and physical activity as a stand in for smoking. That way you’ll increase your activity level and become more physically fit as you quit. You’re basically killing two birds with one stone, to co-opt an overused metaphor .

To keep your oral fixation in check without increasing your caloric intake, chew sugar free gum. That will help keep you satiated without having to smoke a cig.

Switch to decaf if you are a coffee drinker. Quitting smoking can make you feel jittery and unsettled, as the nicotine level in your blood decreases. Caffeine amplifies this effect, so try to cut back there as well. You can still feed your Starbucks habit every morning, just ask for a half decaf, or heaven forbid, a full decaf latte next time. Speaking of lattes, changing to non fat or 2% and sugar free for your latte can  trim an extra couple of hundred calories each day. Even at only a 100 calories daily reduction, that ads up to a 10lb loss over the course of a year. Bonus!

It is essential that you get at least 7, but preferably 8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can increase your desire to both smoke and eat. Getting enough rest will help you fight those urges, and make sure you’re getting the most from your workouts.

Nicotine replacement therapy may work for you . You can quit smoking, but still get your daily dose of the nic, for a while at least. Then you’ll slowly wean yourself from the stuff. If you’ve already quit smoking, you’ll be good to go. Ask your health care provider about prescribing a nicotine replacement therapy, such as the patch.

One key is to plan for an increase in cravings. Keep your house, car, and office well stocked with healthy cigarette substitutes, so you don’t resort to eating or chewing on whatever you find. That can be a recipe for gaining weight in a hurry. With a little planning, you can avoid this.

Make sure you get plenty of emotional support from those closest to you, although if all your family and friends are smokers, that may be easier said than done. If you can get a friend or family member to take the journey with you, maybe you can both quit smoking and lose weight together. Make it a competition. If you’re a competitive person, that can be the edge you  need to pull this off.

Use any combination of strategies to ensure your success. The point is that you do not have to automatically gain weight when you quit smoking. In fact, with some planning, you might actually lose it.