Health & Wellness Articles

Stop Smoking and Gain Weight? Not Necessarily!

15 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain While Kicking the Habit

Page 1 of 4
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).
Continued ›
Page 1 of 4   Next Page ›
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

Member Comments

  • I quit smoking cold turkey after more than 40 years. Several days later, I had shortness of breath and attributed it to cessation of smoking. Upon examination at the hospital emergency room, I was told that my lungs were at the best measurable rate of more than 95%. Unfortunately, as a doctor told me, it probably meant a heart attack instead; addition examination confirmed his statement. In the first six months after, even with going through rehabilitation physical therapy for 4 of those months, I gained 15 lbs. The primary reason was I became sedentary except for the therapy rather than increasing my food consumption. - 1/21/2016 11:34:52 PM
  • I quit smoking 6 months ago. I did it cold turkey and I was scared of weight gain during this. First I tried to regulate my smoking and perhaps do it only at parties and gatherings, but when I went 1 week without cigarettes and gained 4 lbs and on the weekend I smoked again and lost 6 lbs... a realised (first hand) the impact cigarettes have on my body and that's when I decided to quit for good. I smoked my last cigarette, I gained 3 lbs, I fought with the cravings for 3 or 4 days and then I started loosing weight steadily and started to feel better and better every day.

    I was afraid of all the weight gain and that's why I hesitated so much to take this decision (a friend of mine quit a couple of weeks before me and he gained almost 30 lbs in 3 weeks, but he replaced smoking for eating, so I knew it was paramount I kept my good eating habits as much as possible).

    It's doable and indeed is the best you can do for your health!! Breath again, feel great. - 12/14/2015 1:12:42 PM
    Gaining weight when you quit smoking is indeed a real concern for a lot of people. It's best to go into such an endeavor with no reservations so that you can remain diligent and motivated. I found my motivation in my desire to have children and I was amazed at the technologies and programs that have been so helpful.
    Helene | - 2/11/2015 2:44:42 PM
  • It is a life long battle for my friend - 12/1/2014 12:18:23 PM
    I quit smoking and continued losing. I do wring my hands a lot though. I used the patches, they were invaluable, no withdrawal. I was a very heavy smoker, 2 1/2 packs a day, and was very afraid of the withdrawal, but my doctor said to double up on the patches, so I did, and it worked beautifully. The only difference is I have to stay busy. I have trouble relaxing until everything is done, this is typical of my personality though, and was being overridden by the cigarettes. - 10/28/2014 8:29:05 AM
  • It may be a good idea to build up a few healthy habits before quitting.
    I did not plan to quit, but after reading The Spark I revised my meal plan and started to exercise, and after one month I felt so healthy and clean that somehow smoking seemed dirty. I smoked a few cigarettes fin the next week than quit completely, and never missed it.
    And there was no negative impact on my weight loss at all.
    - 9/27/2014 3:42:44 PM
  • To gain weight or lose weight you need to have a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a proper diet plan can help you with both. Regular exercising is must and will be beneficial. Read more on how to choose right weight loss program www.consumerhealt
    ight-loss-program.html - 9/8/2014 7:12:33 AM
  • 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 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 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 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


    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

x Lose 10 Pounds by July 8! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.