The current finding disproves current clinical advice that suggests trying to diet and quit smoking at the same time will sabotage efforts to ditch the habit. Lead author of the study, Bonnie Spring, claims, “Women who smoke often feel caught between a rock and a hard place, because they’re concerned about their health but also concerned about their appearance. Now they don’t have to choose between the two.”
Previously, it was assumed that a person could only change one health risk behavior at a time. Spring says, “But these findings show that, at least in the case of smoking and eating, you actually get an added benefit when you try to change a couple behaviors at once.”
During the study, researchers examined the results of over 2,200 smokers in 10 studies from 1991 to 2007. They found that women whose treatment addressed both smoking and weight control were 29 percent more likely to quit smoking in the short term (at three months) and 23 percent in the long term (six to 14 months) than those treatments who only addressed smoking. Women who underwent both smoking treatment and weight control also gained less weight than those whose treatment only included smoking. They gained an average of 2.1 pounds less in the short term and 2.5 pounds less in the long term.
Spring hopes that the study results will help change doctors’ attitudes and current clinical guidelines about combining weight control and smoking cessation. She believes that this news may also encourage more women to quit, noting that cigarette smoking kills an estimated 178,000 women a year in the U.S. About 17.4 percent of women in the U.S. smoke.