Ready to take the plunge and quit smoking for your health? Want to start taking control of your life? Got advised you must quit prior to surgery? Want to increase healing time and reduce the likelihood of complications?
What has stopped you in the past?
The social aspect? The addiction? Fear of weight gain?
It is widely documented that people experience some weight gain after quitting smoking. This typically occurs within the first 6 months and is on average 2.25 – 4.5kg. Whilst some increase weight only marginally, others may experience 10kg or higher after quitting smoking. These figures might just be enough to put you off quitting, but there after definitely ways around it. To understand how to prevent excessive weight gain, it is important to understand why it occurs in the first place.
Why do some gain weight after quitting smoking?
There are a number of factors that lead to increased body weight.
- Consuming more food due to:
- Increased appetite.
- Improved flavour and taste of foods.
- Replacing the action of smoking and the time spent doing it with snacking.
- Replacing the rewarding effects of smoking with the rewarding effects of eating (Studies have shown that the increased intake of foods high in fat and sugar activates reward signals in the brain similar to those achieved with smoking).
- Nicotine is known the increase the bodies metabolism by approximately 10%. This means withdrawing from nicotine can slow the metabolism back down, resulting in your body requiring less energy (calories/kilojoules) on a daily basis to function. If you continue to consume the same amount of energy you did when you were smoking, weight gain will likely occur over time.
- Nicotine can also supress appetite, leading to less consumption of foods and therefore weight loss. If we remove the source of this appetite suppression, you will have a larger drive to eat.
So what can you do?
Research suggests that the benefits of quitting smoking on your health are outweighed by the potential weight gain, and therefore it is recommended. The following tips can help reduce the amount of weight gained after smoking.
- Eat regularly – don’t let yourself get to the point where you are so hungry you binge on anything, have 5-6 small healthy meals spread throughout the day
- Increase activity levels – exercise not only is great for our health in general, but also plays a role in burning excess energy which can help prevent weight gain
- Stock up on healthy snacks based on foods from the core food groups (https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating)
- Plan ahead – make sure you have enough delicious healthy options around so you won’t be tempted by service station snacks
- Take note of your weakness’ and come up with some coping strategies (http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/coping-strategies)
- Take your time to eat – it takes your brain 20 minutes to recognise it is satisfied. Taking time can help prevent overeating or the urge for a second helping
- Keep hydrated – if you are craving food between meal/snack times, have some water to make sure this isn’t just thirst tricking you into thinking you’re hungry
- Try chewing sugar-free gum
- Look into your alcohol habits – could this be contributing to weight gain?
Audrain‐McGovern, J., & Benowitz, N. L. (2011). Cigarette smoking, nicotine, and body weight. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 90(1), 164-168.