One of the common effects of quitting smoking is weight gain, usually from 5-10 pounds, sometimes more. But, though common, it’s not inevitable.
Weight gain from a stop-smoking program can have a number of causes.
For many individuals, it’s a natural response to cravings from nicotine withdrawal. They substitute food for smoking. Increase the amount of calories taken in, as snacks add up, and sooner or later you’ve gained several pounds.
At the same time, people coming off a long-term cigarette smoking habit don’t often immediately enter an exercise program. For a while, the effects of smoking linger on. The fatigue, shortness of breath and other common conditions of smoking don’t disappear overnight. Starting a healthy exercise program is tough enough for anyone. For smokers, the change is even more substantial.
There are also purely physiological effects. Smoking, at low dosages, elevates the heart rate. That stimulating effect plays a role in keeping weight off. But, longer term, the build up of fatty deposits in arteries and other changes induced by smoking will outweigh them.
For most people, the combination of increased food consumption and little or no exercise is the double-whammy that puts on the pounds.
Fortunately, that problem is solvable. As you start your stop smoking program, start on other lifestyle changes as well. Plan a healthy diet, outline an age-appropriate exercise program.
Like any other issue in a stop-smoking program, or life in general, some willpower is required. Popping a piece of fresh fruit is a good way to stave off the cravings for a cigarette. But be sure to balance out that extra consumption by cutting down somewhere else. Resist the urge to substitute high calorie foods in large proportions to compensate for the desire for a cigarette.
That will be particularly difficult the first two weeks as the compounds introduced by smoking are flushed out of the body. That’s a good time to lay out that diet and exercise program. It’s short enough that only modest weight gain is likely during that period.
Drink lots of water during this time. It will show up as extra weight on the scale. But it’s easily flushed out later when you taper off, so the effect isn’t permanent. It also has other added benefits. Extra water helps the body more quickly remove the remaining contaminants from smoking. And, it’s a zero-calorie way to react to cravings. Water isn’t fattening.
The main struggle will be, as it is for anyone concerned with diet and health, to maintain the commitment to a long term goal. It will help to visualize the results. Aid your willpower by imagining a healthier, better looking you. Think of not having shortness of breath, from smoking or obesity. Think of having more energy and being able to accomplish your other goals more easily.
Stay on track and you can quit smoking without gaining weight.