Stress, Weight Control, And Smoking (Part 1)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

stress, weight, and smokingThis week, I’m going to talk about the interplay of three very common problems of modern living: stress, weight control, and smoking.  As you will see, these three problems are all interconnected in many important ways.

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Stress And Weight Control

If you talk to overweight people, you will find that many of them turn to food as one of the ways they cope with stress.  When they are feeling anxious or emotionally overwhelmed, they may turn to ice cream, candy, chocolate, doughnuts, or other favorite “feel good” foods.  After all, most of us enjoy eating certain foods, so it may seem natural that when we are feeling low, or otherwise feeling stressed, eating some of our favorite foods may be a pleasurable way to feel better quickly.

There are disadvantages, however, to this coping strategy, since most of our “feel good” foods are very high in calories.  Therefore, if we use this coping strategy too often, we can get in the habit of consuming such foods, which can easily lead to weight gain.

Another way that stress and weight control are related is that when people try to lose weight, by going on a very strict diet, this sometimes adds additional stress to their life.  They have to force themselves to constantly monitor what they eat, and if they stick to their diet plan faithfully, they can begin to feel irritable from the sudden changes in caloric intake that their bodies experience.  Also, if they fail to stick to their diet plan, this can lead to feelings of guilt, disappointment, self-recrimination, and other forms of stress.

Stress And Smoking

Many people smoke cigarettes as a way to reduce their stress.  When they feel agitated, anxious, angry or otherwise emotionally distressed, they often find that smoking a few cigarettes helps calm them down.  Whether this is primarily due to the deep breathing involved (which can be a stress reduction technique) or to the chemicals in cigarette smoke is not well-understood.  However, smoking does seem to make many people feel better quickly.

Also, as for trying to lose weight, when people make the decision to stop smoking, this introduces all sorts of new types of stress into their lives.  They now have to devote a significant amount of mental effort every day in order to fend off the many temptations they experience.  And just like with failing to stick to a diet plan, when people mess up and revert to smoking again, this too can lead to additional types of stress.

Weight Control And Smoking

Many people find that smoking cigarettes helps to dampen their appetites and therefore helps them control their weight.  This is especially true for young women today, who occasionally get hooked on smoking to maintain a slim, attractive figure.  Cigarette manufacturers have actually seized upon this relationship to market their product to this young, female target audience.

Also, when people try to give up smoking, one of the main reasons they fail is because their appetite increases dramatically, and they start to put on weight. Another main reason is because their stress levels also tend to increase, and they may go back to their previous smoking habit as the only way they know to cope with this mounting stress.

Dealing With Each Of These Problems Separately

One of the major barriers we have today in promoting healthy behaviors is that most of the programs we’ve developed so far tend to focus on just one of these problems in isolation of the others.  Thus, we have a slew of weight reduction programs, smoking cessation program, and stress management courses, all of which have a very dismal track record of producing positive, long-term results.

It is terribly foolish to try to address these problems separately.  Most programs don’t take into account the important interrelationships between all three of these very common factors. Or, if they do try to focus on more than one of them, they usually don’t do a very good job of it.

Thus, people who try to lose weight often go back to overeating to deal with their stress.  And people who try to quit smoking often fail to become non-smokers because their stress levels rise, or because they start overeating and putting on weight.

So, if you are trying to help people deal with any of these three problems, you pretty much have to become expert at helping them deal with all three.  Now this won’t be true for everyone, but it will be true for a large percentage of people trying to make such changes.

In my next post in this series (Part 2), I’ll explain why if you’re serious about giving up smoking, or if you want to reduce your weight, you’ll probably need to develop new and better strategies for coping with stress.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jboogie June 14, 2012 at 6:20 AM

control your diet weight will automatically reduce…..


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