Health Buzz: Quitting Smoking Means Weight Gain

How to cope with hypochondria; help kids keep weight off this summer


Study: Quitting Smoking Adds More Pounds Than Thought

Giving up cigarettes may lead to more weight gain than previously thought—an average of 8 to 11 pounds the first year. That's according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. Most of the weight gain occurs within three months of kicking the habit, but the health consequences of those extra pounds don't undermine the benefits associated with quitting smoking. The estimated 11 pounds is higher than what pamphlets on smoking cessation typically suggest—around 6 pounds. Doctors should encourage their patients to begin a healthy diet and exercise program, the study authors said. Nicotine boosts metabolism, so when someone gives up cigarettes, metabolism slows, causing weight gain. "There is also the 'I need something in my hands [or] mouth' feeling that smokers struggle with when they stop," Connie Diekman, director of University Nutrition at Washington University at St. Louis, told ABC News. "Change is hard." 

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  • How to Cope With Hypochondria

    Headache? It must be a brain tumor. Bruise on your leg? Leukemia. Slightly nauseous? Either cancer or a heart attack. 

    Welcome to the life of a hypochondriac. 

    We've become a nation of them, says Catherine Belling, an assistant professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. In her new book A Condition of Doubt: The Meanings of Hypochondria (Oxford University Press), she explores our increasing anxiety about our health, as well as the way hypochondriacs are perceived by the public and their doctors. "Hypochondria is not a mental illness, so much as it is an extremely irrational response to the uncertainty of medicine," she says. "We think of these people as silly, as demanding attention they don't really need. But no doctor can ever tell you that you're 100 percent healthy and will be forever. It causes a lot of misery and becomes a real nightmare for patients and doctors." 

    People who suffer from hypochondria make frequent doctors' appointments, insist on unnecessary tests, and see physical illness where medicine says there is none. They fret needlessly over diseases that procedures prove they don't have. They're obsessed with the idea that a disease is lurking, awaiting the right doctor and diagnosis. They experience ordinary discomforts more intensely than others, sinking often into a full-blown panic. They grow angry with physicians who fail to acknowledge sinister symptoms. [Read more: How to Cope With Hypochondria]

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    • Help Kids Keep the Weight Off This Summer

      With summer in full swing, many working parents are worried about how their kids and teens will fill idle time. 

      While day camp provides weekday structure and discipline, programs are often geared to younger children. Residential and specialty camps for older kids can be pricey and don't generally run the entire summer. Even a 16-year-old who wants a summer job may struggle with interminable days because of a teen unemployment rate of 24.6 percent. (That can add up to a lot of time on Facebook, playing video games, and watching television.) 

      It is a struggle for working parents to provide structure for unsupervised kids, says Dale Greifenstein, a physical education teacher at Riverdale Elementary School in Orlando, Fla. Studies show younger children gain weight in the summer, possibly because of too much unstructured time that leads to constant eating and zoning out in front of the screen. 

      "Parents say, 'I don't want them to sit, watch TV, and play video games all day,'" he says. "'I want them to be active, be outside and doing something. But then you have the whole 'it's not the way it used to be when we grew up. We were outside riding bikes or doing whatever.' Parents don't feel safe doing that anymore." [Read more: Help Kids Keep the Weight Off This Summer]