Therapy for Weight Concerns Helps Female Smokers
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A smoking cessation program aimed at helping women get over their fear of weight gain may boost their odds of quitting smoking while keeping extra pounds to a minimum, researchers suggest.
Women who smoke generally have a tougher time kicking the habit than men do, and experts believe that their concern about gaining weight is one important reason. Women gain an average of 8 to 10 pounds after they quit smoking, although the gain may be only temporary. They are about twice as likely as men to put on extra pounds when they give up cigarettes, the report indicates.
So far, studies on combining weight control measures with smoking cessation have met with mixed results, Dr. Marsha D. Marcus, a co-author of the new study, told Reuters Health.
So Marcus and her colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, tested a different approach. Rather than encouraging women to diet while they tried to quit smoking, the researchers used behavioral therapy to ease women's weight concerns.
The researchers separated 219 women who wanted to quit smoking but were worried about weight gain into three groups. Over 7 weeks, one group received standard smoking cessation therapy, one received therapy plus dieting tips, and the third received standard treatment along with behavioral therapy.
After one year, smokers who received behavioral therapy were more likely to have remained abstinent and had gained less weight than women in the other groups. Among women in the behavioral therapy group, 21% continued not to smoke cigarettes, compared with 13% of dieters and 9% of those in the standard program.
The findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
``It was really fascinating,'' Marcus said in an interview. A particularly surprising finding, she added, was that women who received behavioral therapy gained less weight than dieters--an average of 5.5 pounds versus 12 pounds. Women who received standard therapy had gained an average of 17 pounds one year after treatment.
But women in the behavioral therapy group reported no reduction in their weight concerns, making the reasons for the results unclear.
Marcus suggested that the therapy's ``emphasis on moderation'' helped the women deal with their weight concerns, even if it did not erase them. The therapy helped the women put weight gain in perspective by emphasizing how much more destructive it would be to continue smoking than to put on ``a few pounds,'' she explained.
In contrast to the dieters, who were told to limit their snacks, women receiving behavioral therapy were told that they may need to snack to help them to quit smoking.
Marcus said that more research is needed to understand why the behavioral therapy used in this study worked for some women. But she also pointed out that most women in the study failed to kick the smoking habit.
``It's still tough to get women to quit,'' she added.