A fear of weight gain after quitting smoking is one of the biggest worries smokers have. The use of nicotine slows down metabolism and increases appetite. However, by following the right methods, weight gain is possible to keep in control.
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Does quitting smoking affect my weight?
Many smokers gain weight after they quit smoking. However, scientific research has proved that weight doesn’t increase by a lot even if you didn’t try to actively prevent it from rising. In addition, with time the extra weight will disappear and it will leave no longterm effects.
However, the fear of gaining weight is enough for some smokers to continue smoking. If you are one of these people, you should keep in mind that a minor weight gain is nothing compared to the health risks longterm smoking will have on your body. It is extremely clear that the benefits of quitting smoking are more important for health. After considering all possible health concerns there are, smoking is one that can be easily influenced just by making a decision of not to continue it.1
Why is quitting smoking followed by a weight gain?
There are several reasons why smokers usually gain weight after they quit smoking. Firstly, smoking increases metabolism which means that smokers spend relatively more calories than non-smokers considering that both parties exercise the same amount. The number of calories that a smoker burns is around 200 calories more than a non-smoker. All this is true if exercise and food behaviours stay the same.
It is also possible that the ex-smoker will start to eat more after quitting smoking and thus, increase the calory intake. Smoking diminishes appetite because the addiction to nicotine is usually stronger than the feeling of hunger. This will automatically stop when the smoker gives up on the cigarettes. In addition, smoking affects negatively on the taste buds as well as the ability to smell. These senses become stronger after quitting smoking which means that food will taste better and the patient is more likely to eat more. Sometimes people who quit smoking use food as a substitute for cigarettes especially after the first few weeks. At the end of the day, it is better to eat more than continue to smoke.
Is weight gain preventable?
Although the focus is on life without cigarettes and breaking those old routines, there are things that can be done in order to minimise the weight gain.
The simplest solution is often the best one. Physical activity, like biking or running, increases metabolism and thus, helps to maintain normal weight and keep those withdrawal symptoms in check. Also, walking decreases stress levels, burns calories, increases muscle mass and helps to keep the thoughts away from cigarettes. Exercise, such as jogging can easily be accommodated part of a daily routine and it doesn’t take much to start to practice it. In addition, walking instead of taking the bus or walking the stairs instead of taking the lift can help as well.
The effects of quitting smoking can be foreseen during exercise because the capacity of the lungs starts to grow after a few days from quitting. The optimal amount for heavy physical activity is around 2,5 hours per week. The more you exercise, the more calories you burn.
Pay attention to your diet – prepare your healthy snacks before by buying nuts, vegetables and fruit. Remember to eat slowly and chew your food well so that you prevent yourself from overeating. Stopping smoking brings back the taste buds which is why you should try to make mealtimes pleasant rather than eating something really fast. After a meal, it is good to go on a walk or similar.
Medication, acupuncture and hypnosis
Certain medications or alternative treatments such as acupuncture, hypnosis or nicotine replacement therapy can be supportive elements in controlling the weight gain after stopping smoking. Often times, ex-smokers mistake the desire to smoke as the feeling of hunger which can have an effect on the weight. Medication or nicotine patches decrease the desire to smoke and help to decrease the calories gained.
There are no miracle cures to stop anyone from smoking and gaining weight. However, these three options (physical activity, diet and alternative replacement therapies) should offer enough options for anyone to keep those extra kilos away. You shouldn’t overdo it, not mentally or physically, which is why stopping smoking should come first before worrying about gaining weight. If you are still concerned about weight gain you could have a consultation with a dietician who can give more detailed information on what you should eat after quitting smoking.
However, you should keep in mind that weight gain after quitting smoking is often very minimal and a big proportion of people manages to lose the weight after they get used to life without cigarettes. Stopping smoking raises the overall quality of life physically and mentally and thus, healthy life is achieved with the right diet and healthy lifestyle choices.