Stress, Weight Control, And Smoking (Part 2)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

stress and smokingIn my first post this week, I pointed out some of the interrelationships between stress, weight control, and smoking.  I also highlighted how difficult it is to try to make significant improvements in any one of these problem areas, without having to address the other two as well (provided they all apply to you.)

In Part 2 of this three-part series, I want to explain why stress is often the most important thing to address, if you want to control your weight, or if you want to stop smoking permanently.

Smoking And Overeating To Deal With Stress

Smoking and overeating are two very common strategies many people use to help cope with their stress.   But are these strategies any good?

Well, you could say they are, because they help to immediately reduce heightened stress levels.  But what about the long-term consequences?  How good are smoking and overeating to deal with stress…on a life-long basis?

I would argue that they are both very poor strategies at best. 

With smoking you can end up with a serious addiction that is difficult to break.  And as a result of this addiction, you can damage your lungs, damage your heart, increase your odds of developing several types of cancer, and possibly even end up dead.

And with overeating to deal with stress, you can end up obese, with all the many adverse health consequences that this condition can also produce.

Another Important Drawback

Another key drawback with each of these coping strategies is that they both rob you of the opportunity to learn how to develop better coping skills.

If all you know how to do to cope with your stress is smoke a few more cigarettes, or get in your car and hit your local Dairy Queen, then what skills will you have in place should you ever decide to take one or both of these less-healthy coping strategies away?  The answer is…you won’t have many other good coping options, because you haven’t spent the time, or made the investment, to develop them.

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, this is one of the primary reasons why many weight loss programs and smoking cessation programs fail to achieve long-term results.  When people have been relying most of their lives on using food or cigarettes to cope with their stress, and then you take one or both of these coping options away, their stress levels typically rise (either immediately or later down the road).  And since they don’t know any better ways to deal with their stress, they often feel compelled to return to the only ones they do know—smoking and overeating.

Short-Term Stress Relief Can Therefore Be A Problem

Thus, if you become too dependent upon short-term stress relief strategies, such as turning to food, cigarettes, alcohol, or other chemical substances, you can be setting yourself up for not just a recurring pattern of stress in your life, but also for serious health consequences that come from a combination of all three problems we’ve been talking about here—stress, smoking, and being overweight.

This is why learning how to use non-chemical coping strategies to deal with your stressful problems in life is so very important.  It’s especially important if you are trying to lose weight (and keep it off) or if you are trying to free yourself from a dangerous smoking habit.

In my third and final post in this series (Part 3), I’ll explain why even if you do try to learn how to use non-chemical coping strategies, your efforts, no matter how determined or sincere, are still highly likely to fail.



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