Better body image eases quitting for smokers

A recent study found women have an easier time qutting cigarettes with an improved perception of body. The Independence Blue Cross Fitness Center was buzzing with students getting their workout on last Thursday afternoon. As

IAN WATSON TTN Study proves women have a more difficult time quitting smoking when they maintain a negative body image, for fear of gaining excess weight.

A recent study found women have an easier time qutting cigarettes with an improved perception of body.

The Independence Blue Cross Fitness Center was buzzing with students getting their workout on last Thursday afternoon. As a crowd of girls waited for the group fitness class “Interval Blast” to start, Kelsey Swierczek, a senior finance major, looked horrified.

“I am scared of exercising because I smoke too many cigarettes. I feel like even walking up a flight of stairs leaves me out of breath,” Swierczek said. “It is hard to quit knowing that I will gain some weight back on so I continue the habit.”

Swierczek is one of the many girls on Main Campus who feels smoking affects her physical endurance while exercising.

Dr. Melissa Napolitano, clinical psychologist at the Center of Obesity Research and Education, who is also an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and public health, said she feels all female students need to start somewhere when it comes to exercising.

Napolitano joined Temple in 2006 when the Center of Obesity Research and Education was established. Her interests in practices have focused on promoting healthy behavioral changes and smoking cessation.

“Smoking cigarettes is a way to maintain an ideal weight because the nicotine can curve your appetite,” Napolitano said, citing the fear of gaining weight that can ensue.

“Today, society’s ideal body image is what we see in the media,” Napolitano added. “Women in magazines and on television are often what young females strive to look like.”

In 2000, a study conducted at Brown University’s School of Medicine found that young females who smoke are less satisfied with their appearance than non-smokers. These females suffer from low self-esteem, dieting behaviors and weight concerns.

According to the “Journal of Applied Social Psychology,” 20 percent to 34 percent of college students smoke cigarettes. The study also found that 90 percent of daily smokers and 50 percent of social smokers in college will continue to smoke after the end of their college careers.

Napolitano recently conducted an eight-week protocol consisting of two intervention groups of female college students ages 18 to 21 who smoked at least one pack per week. The study monitored female smokers with two different treatments to target ways to enhance a satisfied body image. Napolitano was assisted by Elizabeth E. Lloyd-Richardson, Joseph L. Fava and Bess H. Marcus.

For this study, 35 females were assorted into two groups that represented two different interventions in order to see what strategy was more effective. These selected females were concerned with their weight and also had a smoking addiction.

The first group, “Body Image Group,” was assigned to take on a strategy of self-monitoring and mental techniques for smoking cessation.

The group was guided by Thomas Cash’s book, “The Body Image Workbook, an 8-Step Program For Learning To Like Your Looks.”

Participants in the group were given smoking patches and attended weekly group sessions and check-ins to observe behavioral changes and progress.

The workbook is based on psychological theories and in-depth research in order to help promote ways to create positive body images. Throughout the book, Cash walks his readers through eight significant steps in order to achieve a positive body image. The steps consist of keeping diaries and food journals, recognizing what each participant would like to change about themselves and changing life habits through cognitive reconstruction. It also consists of simple exercises in which study participants were asked to complete throughout the eight weeks.

Technology also played an important role throughout this study. Napolitano and staff used technology, such as text messaging and Blackboard as a tool to motivate the participants and interact with each other about their experience. It was a way to use the Internet for a resource and to share informational tips on weight loss and give encouragement to the students being studied.

At the end of the study, surveys showed that 72 percent of participants said that using technology throughout the study was helpful.

The second group was “Exercise Intervention.” The goal of this program was to evaluate the possibility that exercising could be another outlet to help females maintain an ideal weight rather than smoking to keep the weight off.

The exercise group met for 45 minutes and was taught by a fitness instructor. The exercise classes consisted of aerobic dance among other exercises to give each individual a challenging workout. The instructor also taught the female students how to target ideal heart rates and insure proper intensity of activity. Each female participant had a goal to reach 60 to 85 percent of their maximal heart rate based on their age, which was recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With a goal of exercising three times a week, the participants were asked to also keep a journal of recorded exercises.

At the end of the eight weeks, Napolitano and her colleagues found that participants in the body image group lost roughly three pounds at the end of treatment compared to only an average of 0.9 pounds for the exercise group. Of participants in the body image group, 18.2 percent of them quit smoking compared to 10 percent of the exercise group participants.

Although a small sample size was studied, it still evidenced that there was progress made. Overall, both groups taught participants how to cope with maintaining a positive body image in a more positive way and gave hope for more success in further research.

“I think this study is a great way to show college girls there are other ways to feel better about themselves,” Swierczek said. “I also think that regular exercising would lead me to quit smoking because I would want to stop unhealthy habits.”

“I quit smoking a long time ago, but one of the many reasons I started the habit was because it would keep me from being hungry when I didn’t have time to eat,” Amanda Harvey, a recent graduate from the School of Communications and Theater, said.

For future plans, Napolitano looks forward to continuing her research with smoking cessation and helping others maintain a positive body image.

“We think it’s exciting to find ways to make others feel better about themselves,” Napolitano said.

With a goal to help others find self-happiness and a healthy lifestyle, Napolitano said she plans to construct a focus on ways to promote health on the Internet through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Tina Diserafino can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Quitting smoking can be one of the biggest challenges in life. The most important factor in being successful in quitting is the determination and decision to be a nonsmoker.

    The tools or methods you use to quit smoking are less important. Many will work if you are committed to quitting.

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