Weight gain when quitting smoking is a well-documented phenomenon. It’s backed up by the statistics, too. On average, people gain between 5lbs and 10lbs when they quit.
Often, the weight gain is only temporary, and within a year of quitting people are back at the weight they were when they smoked.
However, for some people, the weight gain associated with quitting smoking stays on, and becomes a longer-term problem.
In fact, just the fear of post-quitting weight gain is enough for some smokers to stick with the habit.
But it doesn’t have to be that way- with a few clever strategies, you can quit smoking without weight gain at all, or at least burn it off fairly quickly. In this article, we’ll give you some of those tips.
Even if you do struggle to keep your post-quitting weight gain in check, it’s important to remember that by quitting you are still much healthier than when you smoked.
Without further ado, though, let’s get started. First: Why do you gain weight when you quit smoking?
Why Do You Gain Weight When You Quit Smoking?
Gaining weight after you quit smoking isn’t absolute certainty, but it is extremely common for people to gain a little weight when they quit.
Thankfully, it’s usually a small amount of weight, but about 10% of people who quit gain 30lbs or more. So, why is this the case? Here are the main reasons:
Smoking Dulls Your Taste
Yes, that’s right- research has suggested that food probably just tastes better after you’ve quit smoking.
Smoking is known to affect a person’s ability to taste food, and quitting, it is believed, often leads to a rapid improvement in taste sensitivity.
Some ex-smokers have reported that certain foods tasted almost completely different after they’d quit compared to when they smoked.
So, it’s hardly surprising that people may tend to eat more when they quit smoking if everything tastes better. Of course, the natural result of eating more is weight gain.
Smokers generally have a powerful hand-to-mouth association that can be extraordinarily difficult to break. As a result, many people who quit need to replace their drive to carry out that action with something other than smoking.
The obvious solution most people turn to, whether they realize it or not, is eating. After all, it’s the most common hand-to-mouth activity around.
Smoking Speeds Up Your Metabolism
When you smoke, you have an increased heart rate, which also leads to a quicker metabolism. As a result, you burn calories more quickly.
When you quit smoking, you lose the smoking-related metabolism ‘boost’ and calorie burn returns to normal levels. You’ll burn slightly fewer calories and at a much-reduced rate. As a result, you gain weight.
There’s a reason why the term comfort food exists- because food is comforting! Eating some tasty food gives us a dopamine rush in the same way that smoking does.
As a result, some people simply replace smoking a cigarette with a bite to eat when they quit smoking.
Smoking Curbs Your Appetite
Smoking is renowned for its ability to reduce people’s appetites. There’s a reason why all the top models used to smoke to keep skinny! When you quit, your appetite begins to increase, which naturally leads to weight gain.
Tips To Avoid Weight Gain When You Quit Smoking
There are, thankfully, several ways to help you avoid gaining weight when you quit smoking. Most of them are fairly straightforward tips for healthy living in general:
Go Easy On Yourself
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up about gaining weight when you ditch the cigarettes. Quitting smoking is no mean feat, and you’ll be so much healthier for it! If the side-effect is a little weight gain, so be it. Think about how much better you feel generally!
Plan Your Meals
Spontaneously deciding what to eat is much, much more likely to see you impulsively reaching for unhealthy foods.
If you plan your meals for the week in advance, you can create a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and rich in all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need.
You don’t have to completely ditch the pizza and fried chicken- you can pencil in a couple of less healthy meals here and there if that’s what you enjoy. Remember, though, always check the labels for calorie counts and nutritional information.
Keep An Eye On Portion Sizes
The other thing to do is to try and reduce your portion sizes. One great way to do this is simply using a lunch plate rather than a dinner plate for your meals.
If you can’t physically fit as much on your plate, you are likely to eat less. Being mindful of what you’re eating will also help you cut down on portion sizes.
Rather than eating on the couch whilst watching television, sit at a proper table and eat without distractions. That way, you’ll know exactly how much you’re eating.
Daily Moderate Exercise
No one’s asking you to go out and run a marathon, but a little exercise is never a bad thing. It can improve your health and your mood.
Try to take yourself out for a short walk each day of about 30 minutes to an hour. You could factor this into your routine, for example walking to the shops rather than driving.
Alternatively, you could join an exercise class (e.g dance) or take up a new physical activity, like cycling. In combination with a healthy diet, you’ll notice yourself getting healthier and you should avoid any further weight gain.
Keep Temptation Out Of The House
Don’t stock your fridge and cupboards full of unhealthy foods, so that when you get the urge to snack on them you’re faced with two choices: either snack healthily, or physically go out to get your cravings fulfilled.
You’ll be surprised by how often you pick the former, but if you do go out, you can incorporate it into your exercise goals. Rather than drive to the pizza place, you could try walking!
Keep Yourself Busy
Boredom is one of the biggest triggers for both smoking and comfort eating. By keeping yourself busy you can keep those thoughts from your mind and avoid any unnecessary snacking.
It’s also a great way to stop yourself from relapsing and picking up the cigarettes again.
Get Some Support
Quitting smoking is a tough ask, and trying to stick to a plan to keep your weight down on top of that will make it even harder. So go out and get some support!
There are plenty of online forums and in-person support groups for people going through the exact same struggle as you. Empathy from people who really understand what you’re going through can be an absolute game changer.
The experts all agree that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Focus on quitting smoking first, and dealing with any weight gain second.
However, we hope that by knowing what causes weight gain when you quit smoking, and armed with the tips we’ve provided, you can kick the habit whilst becoming fitter and healthier than ever before.