(This article was submitted by Laura Bell of YSS.)

The time of year is here when people look back on the past year and start anew with a clean slate. For some this may mean being healthier. For some people being healthier in the New Year means losing weight or starting their life over, as a tobacco- free person.

We all know that tobacco use is not good for us and the best thing for our health is to not use tobacco products. At the same time, we all know another part of being healthy is watching our weight. When people think about becoming tobacco- free, a concern that often comes up is weight gain. How can people work on doing both? On average people gain about 4-10 pounds after stopping tobacco use, according to the Mayo Clinic. People should not look at these numbers as a reason to keep using tobacco. Overall, the improved health people have after stopping tobacco use is greater.

So how does someone become tobacco-free and manage a healthy weight? Stopping your tobacco use for one can help improve overall health, as well your ability to be more physically active. There are a number of parks, bike trails and walking paths available for people to use for free. There are also indoor public spaces, such as malls, that have walking programs available for people. Libraries often have exercise videos and books available for people to check out. Also, as people stop using tobacco, their ability to taste and smell food can improve. Making different choices in snack and meal options to include more fruits and vegetables can help (Mayo Clinic).

Another major step in stopping your tobacco use is getting help. A great way to get help is to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can talk with you about how tobacco use impacts your body, resources available to help you stop your tobacco use, and whether or not nicotine replacement therapies would be a good option for you. Also, your doctor may be able to give you information about healthy eating or a referral to a nutritionist. Grocery stores, insurance companies, city parks and recreation departments and even employers are working to offer more information and programs to help people get healthier.

Quitline Iowa is another excellent resource available to help people stop their tobacco addiction. Quit coaches, at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to work with callers on developing their quit plan and provide on- going support. A great thing about Quitline Iowa is they are able to serve Iowans 13 years of age and older. Also, adult Iowans (18 years and older) who are eligible can receive a free, eight-week upply of either the nicotine patch, gum or lozenge while funding lasts. If calling Quitline Iowa for help is not appealing, people can connect with Quitline Iowa through the web coaching link on their website at www.quitlineiowa.org.

This year as you work on becoming tobacco-free, something to keep in mind is you are not alone. People all over the world have taken these same steps. Also, when you are ready, help is available. Here is to a new year and a new, tobacco-free, you.