April 27, 2009

Body image counseling helps quit smoking

One in five women ages 18 to 24 are smokers, and most of them say they keep lighting up for fear of gaining weight, U.S. researchers said.

Melissa Napolitano, a clinical psychologist at Temple University, and a team of researchers looked at the smoking habits and weight gain of women in the age group. The first phase of the study collected data from focus groups who stated that stress, peer pressure and weight management were the main reasons why they smoked.

The results laid the groundwork for a small pilot study of 24 women who were randomly assigned to either a supervised group exercise program or body image group counseling sessions. All women were provided with a nicotine patch as well.

After eight weeks, the body image counseling group showed a rate of smoking cessation that was more than double that of the exercise group -- 18 percent versus 8 percent.

In addition, the body image group lost more than three times the weight of their exercise counterparts -- 3.3 pounds versus less than a pound.

The findings were presented at the Society for Behavioral Medicine's annual meeting in Montreal.