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How to Avoid Life's Big Fat Traps

Where you live, how late you work, and even the way you play could be adding to your weight. Take control of your scale, and your life, with these slimming strategies.
Quitting smoking You Quit Smoking

Congratulations: You ditched those cigarettes! But now your jeans are feeling snug. Blame it partly on the fact that your system is free of nicotine, a stimulant that sup­presses the appetite. The other culprit: You may have a newfound appreciation of food, says Karen Cropsey, clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In studies, recent quitters often report that food tastes better -- probably because they can breathe easier (taste buds are affected by olfactory cells). Former smokers may also start substituting food for cigarettes. That can result in an average weight gain of 10 pounds after about six months, Cropsey says. Giving up alcohol may produce a similar effect: A recent report in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that alcoholics in recovery often have a sweet tooth.

Outsmart it: Skip the fatty foods and concentrate on nutritious choices, like whole-grain pastas, breads, and cereals; vegetables and fruits; lean meat; fish; and dairy. After six months of healthy eating, you'll generally drop to within a few pounds of your prequitting weight, Cropsey says.

Also, take advantage of your improved lung capacity and energy levels and set new fitness goals. Train for a 10K. Try a new sport, like tennis. Or follow the lead of Christine Stewart, a stay-at-home mom who gave up all alcohol almost a year ago, started a regular program of walking, yoga, and weight lifting, and has lost 35 pounds. To keep herself motivated and successful, Christine puts a sticker on her calendar for each day that she works out. "My goal is to see every square covered by the end of the month," she says.