Health & Wellness Articles

Stop Smoking and Gain Weight? Not Necessarily!

15 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain While Kicking the Habit

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to quit smoking. You know it’s a smart move—quitting cigarette smoking is the number one thing you can do to dramatically improve your health and avoid several potentially life threatening illnesses. You're feeling ready and committed to breaking the habit once and for all.

Or are you? Is there a little voice in the back of your mind warning you that if you do stop smoking, you are sure to gain some weight? Is that little voice causing you to hesitate, and delay the big step for a while? Are you thinking you want to get a little closer to your goal weight before embarking on this next big lifestyle change?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, that is OK. It makes sense that you are fearful about gaining weight when you quit cigarettes. Research says that the majority of adults gain an average of five to eight pounds when they kick the cigarette habit, and there are many reasons why this happens. However, with some planning, education and insight, it is not an inevitable consequence. There are tools and techniques you can use to keep the scale steady.

First, let’s get an understanding of why weight gain can be a problem when you give up smoking. Smokers may have a slightly elevated metabolism due to the calorie burning effect of smoking. It’s estimated that smoking cigarettes burns between 200-250 extra calories per day. Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant, so you may eat less. Along with the fact that many replace the urge to smoke with eating, daily caloric intake can easily escalate.

Nicotine also increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter that leads to relaxed and calm feelings. When the levels of serotonin decrease, we end up feeling irritable, cranky and stressed. To complicate matters, carbohydrates increase our serotonin levels, which explains the cravings for starchy or sweet foods. If you are used to reaching for a cigarette to calm down when faced with outside stressors, and you’re working hard to get cigarettes out of your life, food can easily become part of your stress-management toolbox.

Seasoned smokers tend to have an oral fixation; they’re used to having something in their mouth. Without cigarettes, food can become the thing that satisfies the need to keep your mouth busy. And last, but not least, stopping for a smoke is often a break in the action. It’s what you may reach for to signify the end of the meal, or a reason to take five during your workday, or just have a rest from anything you are doing. Once again, it would be easy to let food be the replacement when it’s time to take a breather (no pun, intended).
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen Goldman has bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education. An AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified wellness coach, she is also the founder EnerG Coaching, LLC. Through one-on-one and group sessions, Ellen helps individuals make positive lifestyle changes, lose weight, manage stress and attain work-life balance. Visit her at www.EnerGcoaching.com.

Member Comments

  • For me it's just a matter of discipline. If you quit the habit of smoking, that means you are making a good start to improve your life. We all know that smoking can really bring your health a lot of negative effect and it has to stop. Gaining weight I think is another issue. And there are appropriate things you can do with the help of people around you to loose again and be back in shape! - 7/13/2014 10:23:52 PM
  • Wow...just re-read this....I've quit several times during my life..for long periods of time and started back...read this article back in 2012 and continued to smoke...honestly if a person is trying to lose weight and get fitter...this article just is not the best motivator--as pragmatic as it may be.

    I've had a cold and been smoke free again for three days....thought I'd quit again..and trying to prepare..rereadin
    g this I want to go burn a whole pack...as helpful as I find most content here, this one seems pretty gloomy to me... - 5/15/2014 7:42:45 PM
  • It has been three months since I quit. I am using Nicorette lozenges in the smallest dosage. I noticed that the 1st month after I quit, I gained 10 pounds (pretty much consistent with what's mentioned in the article. I started walking daily when I quit,but apparently not enough. I bought a FitBit, got more addicted to walking & I've maintained the weight. I want to lose about 20 pounds, but I'm okay with dealing first with getting over the smoking (honestly,I miss it,but will never go back to it). I want to congratulate everyone that has quitor is trying to quit. You can do it! - 4/18/2014 12:41:00 PM
  • It's been 10 days quit for me after having smoked for 39 years, usually only on the weekends, two packs each time. That doesn't translate to a heavy smoker, nonetheless, the poisons were being ingested and doing their harm. Before I quit I had also lost 36 pounds after finding SP and am at a healthy weight.

    I discovered quitnet.com and log on every single day, reading testimonials, posts, info about withdrawals, in short, everything I can on there to understand this deadly addiction. It killed my mother (lung cancer) and my cousin (pancreatic cancer, only age 51). I read Allen Carr's book "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" and learned you MUST have the strong desire to quit, otherwise you won't be successful which I wholeheartedly believe because if it's half-hearted, your addicted brain will find a way to justify picking it up again.

    Personally, I believe it's easier to lose the weight first and solidify the change in eating habits before you try quitting; but since I've been reading so much about how bad smoking is for you and that you will more likely than not develop a smoking related disease if you continue this deadly habit by virtue of the cancer causing agents in cigs, it's much better to toss the cigs!! As so many people on quitnet have said, it's much easier to lose the weight, not replace a lung or fight cancer! If you do try both, just keep low calorie munchies around. For me, it's baby carrots and something to dip it in and drinking lots of water and track, track, track, keeping the calories around 1550. - 3/5/2014 8:36:33 AM
  • HIKGFEDCBA
    SMOKING.....DRINK
    ING.......GET
    TING ANGRY..... GETTING VERY GREEDY...TO BE VERY , ETC ETC ETC ETC IS NOT GOOD FOR THE BODY[WEIGHT]. TO BE POSSITIVE ABOUT LIVING CORRECTLY IS A GREAT HELP.
    THE BODY IS A WONDERFUL CREATION AND VERY SPECIAL TO LOOK GOOD AND BE FIT.

    THANKS

    NICO DU PLESSIS - 1/17/2014 3:28:41 AM
  • I am trying to quit cold turkey! Yesterday was day 1. Last night I woke up about 3 to 4 times drenched in sweat and has found it very hard to focus today. I also have headaches. My plan is to use exercise when I crave a cig. I read that cravings last about 3 minutes to I figure doing sit ups and or push ups during those cravings will give me something to do. This is day two so I am hoping to get better sleep tonight. My food cravings are about the same so far. Hopefully I can quit without the weight gain..... - 1/6/2014 2:08:21 PM
  • A little over a year ago I started using an ecig. Would still get one pack on the weekends. I am now no longer using regular cigarettes at all and am lowering my nicotine levels on the ecig. I am still losing weight, no longer get bronchitis, and overall feeling better. Wen I get down to no nicotine I plan on working on no ecig anymore. I know no smoking at all is the best but there are already benefits so far with this method.
    - 1/5/2014 1:23:28 PM
  • My quit date is today. The weight gain (I hope) is not an issue since today is also day 1 of the Daniel Fast.

    Too be continued. - 1/3/2014 9:34:39 AM
  • I'm going to make my quit date 11/16/2013. I need to stop making excuses of why I cant quit and just do it. - 11/15/2013 10:44:02 AM
  • One of the suggestions was to join a support group. Check out quitnet.com. It's FREE and they helped me to quit and stay quit. It's been almost 4 months now.

    - 11/15/2013 6:54:17 AM
  • MISSCHELLELYNN
    I quit smoking in January 2013. I gained 20 lbs. That is why I am here. I REFUSE to start back smoking though. - 11/7/2013 10:54:00 AM
  • Funny that I should read this today of all days. I've been contemplating on quitting (yes, again) for the past couple of weeks. My doctors visit is next month, so, I can ask him to give me a prescription for Zyban. I KNOW Zyban works for me because that was how I was able to quit for 3 1/2 years before I got stupid and started smoking again because of the weight gain!!! Now I think I've got the information I need from SP to quit once and for all. YEAH!!!! - 8/2/2013 1:31:11 PM
  • MAURITSK
    I know when you smoke for years and after you quit you gain weight, but, of smoking just a couple of days, one week, has the same problem with gaining weight? I'm asking this because I've had an accident 2 weeks ago, I couldn't do nothing than just sit and wait so I started to smoke just because of boredness and the pain..
    Please if someone could answer this I would appreciate it. - 7/30/2013 5:06:23 AM
  • My smoking tapered down over the years and my weight rose in direct correlation. Now I am 30 pounds up from where I was when I started to stop. I haven't smoked at all in 2 years but with a sedentary job, I have really packed it on. Age and arthritis do not help a bit but it is the latter that is making me try again. I know if I lose weight, my knees will feel better. I know you don't have to gain weight when you quit smoking but I have never, ever met anyone who didn't. It makes me think these nutritionists who talk about quitting smoking have never "walked the walk". - 5/20/2013 3:04:23 PM
  • I quit smoking just about a year ago but was trying even before that. Through out that period I gained back all of the weight I had lost - but I gave up on quitting every time before this last quit because I was gaining weight & this time I told myself that quitting was more important than being thin. Now, a year later, I'm working on getting to a healthy weight. I recommend that every one gain their freedom from smoking even if it means gaining weight - SOOOOOOOOO WORTH IT! - 1/31/2013 6:48:43 PM