By By Katherine Elmore
July 30, 2008

katherine-elmore(KATHERINE ELMORE) Its time to take a cold, hard look at the elephant in the room. I knew going into this that quitting smoking often results in weight gain, but I didnt want to dwell on that for fear it would interfere with my commitment. If I gain a few pounds, so be it.

Heres the thing: When you quit smoking, all of a sudden you can smell and taste again. And let me tell you—food smells and tastes good. Really good. Its like theres a whole world of food experiences Ive been missing out on, and my senses are screaming, "Gimme some of that!"

Last week it was onion rings. I caught a whiff of deep-fried onion coming from somewhere and next thing I knew, I was staring into the bottom of a greasy paper tray. Then it was Mexican food, which nobody would eat with me because of news that a salmonella-laced jalapeño was found somewhere in Texas. Um, OK. Am I seriously supposed to pass on my craving for jalapeños (whether fresh or stuffed with cheese and deep-fried) just because I might get food poisoning? Youre talking about health risks to a woman who inhaled carbon monoxide, arsenic, and pesticides for 20 years.

Even listening to James Bond telling me "You only want nutritious food" didnt help. I dont know what they eat where hes from, but hes obviously never had Sunday dinner in Alabama.

Youre probably thinking I should know better, but Ive spent years deluding myself about the true effects of what I put in my body. So after a week of overindulging, I put on my favorite skirt and did my final mirror check before grabbing my keys. What the...whose ass is that? I walked away, then came back, just to make sure my mind wasnt playing tricks on me. Yes, clearly something terrible had happened to my ass. The reflection put quite a damper on my greasy-spoon fantasy world.

The last time I quit smoking I didnt have this experience. I was pregnant and had an automatic 25-pound weight gain going for me. When the baby came, I was busy and active, of course, but I also did Weight Watchers to shed the post-pregnancy pounds, and I kept up a serious fitness regimen. I actually ended up stronger, healthier, and lighter than before I got pregnant.

So I know from experience that its possible to quit smoking and not gain a whole lot of weight. Ive gained four pounds so far, but frankly, thats on top of the 12 pounds Ive gained since going back to work at a sedentary job. Im going to have to turn this around, because I know myself, and gaining a lot of weight will make me want to smoke it off. I dont want that to happen.

I have a simple (and therefore doable) plan to spend 50 minutes a day on the treadmill and lay off the onion rings. Like a lot of people who have smoked, I've always sort of felt that anything to do with health and fitness has nothing to do with me. This thinking has made me weirdly cynical and suspicious when it comes to claims of the benefits of nutrition and exercise.

I was fascinated to discover recently that a woman I know is both a five-mile-a-day runner and a closet smoker who is trying to quit. In case you werent convinced yet about the power of nicotine addiction, heres a person who finds it easier to commit to running five miles every day than to stop smoking. This made me think about all the things Ive committed to do and followed through on in my own life, like law school, my marriage, my job, being the best mother I can be every day—mostly things people would consider a lot harder than "just not smoking."

So heres my plan for next week: More exercise, more eating in a way that doesnt make me want to beach myself on the nearest couch, and hence less stress of the kind that will make we want to smoke. Not to mention the stress on the seams of my skirt.

Read Katherine's previous posts:
James Bond Tried to Hypnotize Me to Stop Smoking (July 23, 2008)
I Quit! (I Think) (July 16, 2008)
I'm Quitting Tomorrow (July 9, 2008)

Also read Libby's quitting blog