How to NOT Gain Weight When You Quit Smoking: The Nicotine-Blood Sugar Connection

March 15, 2007 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

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By Todd Stofka

The negative impacts of smoking on our health are well documented and range from premature aging to death from heart and lung disease. Our society is more educated on the dangers of smoking than ever before, and yet, many of us still won’t even try to quit. One of the most common reasons for this is the fear of possible weight gain.

Understanding the physiological progression of smoking in the human body can go a long way to helping you understand how to win the nicotine battle without losing the war on weight. Many smokers believe that they have an “addictive personality”–what they actually have is a ride on the blood glucose roller coaster.

When you begin the process of quitting, you experience what many perceive to be physical and psychological cravings for the now missing nicotine. Most of these so called cravings relate to effects of nicotine on the body, and although nicotine itself is removed from your bloodstream within the first few days after you stop smoking, the physical cravings can still be triggered, and are still mentally associated to specific tactile feelings that you experienced as a smoker, and they relate to blood glucose levels.

Within three to seven minutes from the time you light a cigarette, nicotine begins to enter your liver. The liver is your body’s glucose storage facility, and its job is to protect this glucose (fuel) for you body. When nicotine reaches your liver, the liver protects its precious cargo (fuel) by releasing the stored glucose into the blood stream. This increase in blood sugar causes you to feel good, and have more energy because you’re getting what we call a “sugar rush.” However, any time your blood glucose levels raise quickly, your pancreas responds by sending insulin in to “control” the excess sugar. Insulin then does its job by presenting more glucose to the cells to be burned for fuel and converting glucose that isn’t presently being burned into fat. This causes your blood glucose levels to drop quickly leaving you feeling tired, anxious, an often hungry.

Having a cigarette placates this feeling and starts this cycle all over again and is why most smokers smoke twenty to forty cigarettes daily. Candy, gum, mints, soda, or any form of sugar will also placate these feelings, but just like the cigarette itself, the behavior creates the same response from insulin causing yet another craving and the cycle continues in this fashion ad infinitum. Add to this the fact that nicotine is a stimulant that increases an average smokers resting metabolic rate approximately equal to five hundred calories daily, and you have a formula that will cause massive weight gain, and weight gain is one of the primary reasons that people return to smoking. This is referred to as an anchored response: the feelings of the blood sugar ups-and-downs connected to the act of smoking which offers “relief”.

With the awareness that you need to either reduce your caloric input by 500 calories a day for the first few weeks after quitting, or increase your output by the same amount, smokers are able to face this demon head-on.

Food: For the first three weeks you need to eat 3 to 4 protein-based meals and small snacks in between these meals, and these meals and snacks need to be protein based. Protein and complex carbohydrates will help to maintain a “stable” blood sugar level. Stable blood sugar means fewer ups and downs that trigger the response. Breakfast is a must! When you skip breakfast your blood sugar starts to DIVE within about 2 to 3 hours. At this point just about anything you eat causes a rapid rise in blood sugar and the cycle of ups and down begins again. Additionally, smokers should eliminate refined products and sugars including artificial sweeteners–these all contribute to the addictive cycle.

Supplements. A good quality chromium product taken 3 times a day will help maintain stable blood sugar. (Good chromium is anything that isn’t Picolinate based) Chromium glycinate, polly-nicotinate, and de-nicotinate are all considered effective. An easy way to find good chromium is to look for “chromate” as a trade mark on the label.

For those smokers that can’t or won’t stay away from sugar and refined foods, any of the over the counter “carb blockers” will lessen the impact of blood glucose and help keep the physical responses to a minimum.

Knowing how to recognize, and deal with these addictive symptoms can often give soon-to-be reformed smokers a greater sense of power over conquering the smoking habit once and for all.

Our Hypnosis Smoking Cessation program is designed to eliminate the withdrawal cravings that are experienced when quitting cold turkey. Instead, we instill several new habits such as; to drink more water, eat a healthy diet and incorporate a moderate exercise program.

Todd Stofka HNLP sees clients for smoking cessation, weight management and executive performance coaching. His clients have come to his office in Philadelphia from as far as Central Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. His website is and can be reached at 877 557 7409.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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