How to Quit Smoking Without the Weight Gain
By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD
The fear of gaining weight can be a major psychological hurdle in any attempt to kick the nicotine habit.
Let’s weigh up the facts:
Putting on a few pounds as you kick the habit pales into insignificance when you recognise the overall health benefits of giving up. It’s far easier to shed a few pounds in weight than face a fight against a major illness.
Lots of people do gain weight after giving up smoking, an average of 11bs over the period of a year.
But weight gain is not compulsory and a little knowledge will give you the power to minimise the possibility of excess pounds - and enjoy the benefits of being a new, healthy you!
Why do some people gain weight after giving up?
Nicotine and Metabolism
Nicotine acts as both a stimulant and a sedative. Immediately after a puff of nicotine there is a rush of adrenaline which causes the liver to release glycogen (sugar) which raises the blood sugar levels slightly.
Remove nicotine and your body slows down your metabolism, which means you burn fewer calories.
Consequently, if you eat the same number of calories as before, your body will store the excess as fat.
Nicotine and Appetite
Nicotine can reduce your appetite by directly affecting the activity of serotonin and dopamine, which are substances that control neural transmission in areas of your brain, that turn your appetite on and off.
Nicotine elevates the activity of these substances in a way that is similar to what happens when you eat a sweet.
For a period after smoking a cigarette you feel less hungry.
Food can act as a comfort factor. You crave foods to replace the relaxing feeling and buzz that nicotine was providing.
The hand to mouth action of smoking cigarettes is a well-developed habit.
Remove the cigarette and what are you going to do with your hands? You can feel the need to occupy your hands – picking and snacking on food fills this gap.
Many people report that food tastes much better when they kick the habit.
So at a time when you're essentially denying yourself the perceived pleasure of smoking, the pleasure of eating is ready and waiting to take over.
11 Ways to Put Yourself in Control
1- Be Positive
Focus on the positive aspects of giving up smoking. Remember all the reasons why you want to kick nicotine out of your body with all its negative health consequences.
2- Replace Nicotine
If you're trying to lose weight and also want to give up smoking, you could try e-cigarettes, patches or other types of NRT to continue providing your body with nicotine without the harmful effects of actual smoke.
3- Be Aware of What You Are Eating
The easiest way to do this is to keep a food diary. This will help you to identify the times when you are eating more and snacking as a replacement for cigarettes.
This knowledge means you will be aware of the ‘danger’ times and can make plans to deal with them. (You can use the food diary in WLR free for 24 hours.)
4- Eat Healthy
Try to eat regular meals and reduce the need and desire to snack.
Plan ‘healthy’ meals to encourage your new health kick. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
5- Occupy Your Hands
Make plans to occupy your time and your hands. What can you do to take your mind off smoking – puzzles, crosswords, jigsaws, doodling, knitting, drawing…
6- Get Moving
Be as active as possible. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to avoid weight gain is increase your physical activity. Especially if you include resistance or weight training exercise which will build up the amount of muscle you have.
Muscle is metabolically active and increasing yours will help you to keep your metabolism up to speed without the nicotine.
Make definite plans to exercise more.
You'll hopefully find yourself with more energy and ability to exercise as your body recovers from the effects of smoking, which means you'll be able to burn more calories.
Plus you'll feel good about yourself for being healthier and fitter, which is great for your resolve to be a non-smoker.
7- Sip Water
Have a glass of water to hand with a straw in it. This can replace the act of 'sucking' on a cigarette as well as being great for helping you to feel full.
8- Avoid Alcohol
There are a couple of reasons for this.
Social situations that involve alcohol can break down your resolve with stopping smoking and overeating, not to mention the extra calorie intake that comes with booze.
Plus, for many of us, there's a strong association between having a drink and lighting up a cigarette.
9- Deal with Your Sweet Tooth
Many people find that stopping smoking sharpens their sweet tooth.
Combat this with sugar free gum, berries, or even sugar free boiled sweets.
10- Reward Yourself
Use the ££’s saved from not buying cigarettes to buy something to reward your efforts – a treat at a health spa, some new clothes, some sports equipment, days out, etc.
11- Finish Your Meal with Toothpaste
The period after just finishing a meal can be the hardest for new non-smokers to deal with and a danger zone for adding extra calories in the form of puddings.
So now your teeth have a chance of looking sparkley without tobacco stains, give them a helping hand and brush immediately after your meal.
This should help to 'finish off the meal' without reaching for a smoke or dessert.
Success Quitting Smoking
John had gained weight as a result of giving up smoking, however after losing over 16kg with the help of WLR he had this to say "I found giving up smoking then a quantum level more difficult than I have subsequently found limiting my eating – if that is any consolation for past smokers embarking on a weight loss programme". Read John's weight loss success story.
Weight Loss Resources provides tools and information to help you lose weight by healthy eating and getting your calorie balance right. You can access the calorie database and keep an online food diary, free, for 24 hours.