Most people who quit smoking worry about gaining weight. It seems to go with the territory. While a small gain is normal, excessive weight gain when you quit smoking can create new health problems and erode your determination to stay off cigarettes. Learn what you can do to keep your weight under control as you go through the process of recovery from nicotine addiction.
Why do people gain weight when they quit smoking?
Smoking increases metabolism slightly:
* Smoking burns up to 200 calories a day in a heavy smoker
* Because smoking burns calories, metabolism is boosted (increased) slightly
* Nicotine is an appetite suppressant
When you quit smoking, a gain of between 5 and 10 pounds during the first few months of cessation is normal. If your eating habits have remained the same as they were when you smoked, you can easily shed this small gain with a brisk, 30 minute walk daily.
Why do I want to eat more?
Smoking cessation throws our bodies into shock initially. Increased appetite is a side effect of quitting tobacco for most people. One or more of the following reasons may be at play:
* Cigarettes as an appetite suppressant
Smokers often avoid between meal snacking by lighting up. Nicotine is a stimulant, and may also interfere with the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin controls glucose levels in the blood. When this function is blocked, a person will become slightly hyperglycemic, and as a result, the body and brain may slow down the hormones and other signals that trigger feelings of hunger.
* Food as a replacement for smoking
Early on in a person’s quit, the urge to smoke is frequent and uncomfortable. It’s natural to look for something to ease the discomfort, and food is often used as a replacement. Not only does it fill the void left by the cigarette, food can be an emotional comfort, easing the pain of withdrawal.
Studies have shown that women are at greater risk than men for returning to smoking as a way to avoid weight gain. Understanding what happens to our bodies when we quit smoking, and what we can do to alleviate discomforts in constructive ways that do not involve weight gain will help you stay on track.
What can I do to avoid gaining weight when I quit smoking?
There are a number of choices you can make to minimize weight gain:
Because quitting smoking slows the metabolism, getting some form of daily exercise is very important. To combat excess weight, shoot for at least a half hour of exercise, 5 days a week. It doesn’t have to be a high intensity aerobic workout – a brisk 30 minute walk around your neighborhood will work wonders. Exercise is also a great way to beat cravings to smoke. If you’re having a bad day, get out for a walk. It’ll clear your mind and improve your attitude.
Put snacks together ahead of time so that when the munchies hit, you’ve got good food choices within easy reach:
* vegetable sticks – celery, carrot
* 94% fat free popcorn
* sunflower seeds in the shell
* Water – drink lots of it!
* hard candies to suck on
* fresh fruit
* fat free yogurt
* herbal teas
* hot cocoa made with nonfat milk
* frozen grapes
* fat free fudgecicles
If you’re concerned about weight gain, do yourself a favor and remove tempting, high fat foods from your home. Don’t have a chocolate cake on the counter begging you to cut a slice. If you have an intense craving for a hot fudge sundae, it’s better to go out and have one at a restaurant than it is to keep all of the ingredients to make it on hand in the house.
Not only is alcohol high in calories, it can be a huge trigger to smoke. For many people, smoking and drinking go together like a hand in a glove. Avoid the empty calories in alcohol, but more importantly, don’t put yourself at risk of relapse by drinking early in your quit.
One Challenge at a Time
People who quit smoking often decide it’s time to clean their lives up in other areas as well. That’s great, but be careful. If you try to do too many self-improvement projects at once, you run the risk of failing at all of them.
Keep these points in mind:
* Be good to yourself. Quitting tobacco is a huge accomplishment, and you should reward yourself for your progress often. Don’t underestimate the magnitude of what you are doing.
* Be patient. Quitting smoking is a process over time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but in comparison to the number of years most of us smoked, recovery from this addiction is short. Give yourself the time you need to heal.
* Accept yourself. You are a wonderful person just as you are right now.
If you gain a few pounds while going through the process of quitting tobacco, so be it. The benefits will affect your life as well as those who love you in more ways than you can imagine. You can quit smoking without gaining a lot of weight. Don’t let the fear of weight gain keep you chained to an addiction that will kill you, given the chance.
First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Health Service Food and Human Resources: Wholesale prices