Nicotine is an incredibly dangerous chemical that is in most tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco.
We know of so many health problems associated with nicotine use and addiction and we know how important it is, if you are addicted to nicotine, to quit as soon as possible.
The thing is, many people are reluctant to quit using tobacco or other products that contain nicotine for a variety of reasons, but one that is often overlooked is weight gain.
Many people have reported that when they quit smoking, they gain weight and there is some truth to these claims – but why is this the case?
This article will look at the relationship between nicotine and the human body’s appetite and see what the physiological and psychological connections are.
So – Does Nicotine Suppress Your Appetite?
Yes it does, and this might be the reason why many people gain weight after quitting nicotine for good. Scientists discovered that nicotine has an effect on the area of the brain that regulates our appetite.
The hypothalamus, which is the area of the brain that controls appetite is affected to a point where the fight or flight response is altered.
This is our brains’ way of preserving our energy in case of danger, so that we do not need to eat for that final important burst of energy to save our lives.
The tests showed that mice who were exposed to nicotine ate much less than mice who were not exposed to nicotine – but we certainly see this with humans too.
As a result, when somebody quits using nicotine – they may find their appetite exceeds what they are normally used to and they put on weight.
Is This The Only Reason Why People Might Put On Weight After Quitting?
Not necessarily. In terms of the physiological effects, not only does nicotine suppress your appetite which means that quitting will increase your normal eating habits, but your caloric burning changes too.
A popular nicotine intake method is smoking, and smoking boosts your metabolism and makes your body burn more calories – likely due to the heart and lungs having to work harder than non-smokers.
Of course, this means that due to an increase in calories due to an increased appetite alongside a lack of caloric burning – you’re going to put on weight.
Another physiological effect that can lead to weight gain is actually mixed with a benefit. As your body is recovering from your time using nicotine, your sense of taste and smell is getting better.
This means that you smell and taste foods much better than you did, which can often lead to binge-eating.
This does not mean that you should not quit though, as there are plenty of ways you can try to curtail weight gain and reasons for weight gain, like binge eating, during quitting and this is much more beneficial than not quitting.
Other reasons for weight gain after quitting nicotine products is because of psychological effects. Some people develop an addiction to holding things and putting them to their mouth, as they would with things like cigarettes.
This means that with an increase in appetite, fewer calories being burned and the need to put something from your hand to your mouth, you will see the pounds piling on.
Another reason is for comfort. Cravings for nicotine can include things like the jitters or fidgeting, similar to how non-nicotine users will act when they are bored.
Both results mean that we psychologically look to “fight against” these feelings and look for comfort, and food can often help.
This is another reason for binge eating. Due to all of these factors, some people might avoid quitting nicotine in the fear of weight gain.
Does This Mean I’m Guaranteed To Put On Weight If I Quit?
There’s never a guarantee you’ll put on weight, but the majority of people that quit will put on some weight in their first year of quitting. It’s estimated that most people will put on around 11 pounds in these 12 months.
Having said that, within that year – their body will be recovering and benefiting from increased oxygen intake, a better sense of smell and taste and generally feeling better.
With so many of us having sedentary jobs, burning more calories throughout the day and opting for comfort foods to get us through is common, which can make losing weight – or fighting against gaining weight – much more difficult.
However, you have to remember that it will always be much more beneficial to quit nicotine than not to do it. So, you might be wondering if there is a way you can quit nicotine and avoid weight gain and there are some things you can do.
How To Fight Against Weight Gain When Quitting Nicotine
When you’re trying to lose weight or moderate your weight gain, you have to try and remember the basics. Burning more calories in a day than you intake will mean you’re in a caloric deficit.
If you can continue with a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. The best way to do this is to eat less and avoid empty calories (like soda) and move around more.
Making basic switches in your life can have serious beneficial implications. For example, swapping soda for water to drink in the day, choosing to walk to the store rather than drive etc – you will notice these help you achieve your goals.
Due to your metabolism reduction during quitting, you’ll want to try and increase it and the only way to do this is to move around more and stay highly active. The best way you can do this is to start an exercise program or join a sports team.
One of the most important things to remember is to maintain consistency. The human body is fantastic at adapting to change, and when something happens at a more consistent level – you will boost your chances of preventing weight gain.
When cravings for nicotine hit, you might be looking for a vice to fill the void. It’s a good idea to try and join a support group who can get you through this time. If this is not possible, it is recommended that you fill this time by doing some exercise.
This will help you twice over. Not only will you be avoiding food and nicotine, but you will also be working out. An easy way to accomplish this is to purchase some dumbbells for your home or workplace.
When you feel a craving coming on strong, you should head for the dumbbells and lift a few reps.
What If I Find It Hard To Exercise?
You should still stick to a good diet and try to move around as much as possible. If you can’t run or walk, you could try and do some yoga at home or perhaps visit a local swimming pool.
Remember, you need to try and burn more calories every day than you intake.
The Bottom Line
Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and quitting nicotine can lead to weight gain, but this should not put you off from quitting.
If you stick to a controlled plan of diet and exercise, along with a good support group – you should be able to control the pounds during the first difficult year.