Smoking Cessation & Weight Gain

Person smoking cigarette.
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The fear of weight gain that often accompanies smoking cessation is enough to keep some people from stopping this destructive habit.

Yes, many people gain weight when they quit smoking. On average, people will gain about five to ten pounds when they stop. You may put off quitting if you are worried about adding extra weight. But not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. The harm from  gaining a few pounds is minimal compared to the harm that comes with smoking. You can always take that unwanted weight gain back off. Once your heart and lungs are damaged from smoking, there comes a point where the damage is irreversible.

There are a couple of reasons why people gain weight when they give up cigarettes. Some have to do with the way nicotine affects your body.

  • The nicotine in cigarettes speeds up your metabolism. Nicotine increases the amount of calories your body uses at rest by about 7% to 15%. Without cigarettes, your body may burn food more slowly.
  • Cigarettes reduce appetite. When you quit smoking, you may feel hungrier.
  • Smoking is a habit. After you quit, you may crave high-calorie foods to replace cigarettes.

The good news is, the effect on your metabolism is really minimal, and none of the other  points above are impossible to overcome!

Smoking is as foolish as it is expensive!

Yesterday, I was waiting in line to pay for a few items at our local Walgreens drug store. Directly in front of me was an obese young man buying two packs of cigarettes for $18.37. I was floored at how much cigarettes cost nowadays, and could not help but to think all that he could be doing with that money instead of ruining his health.

As many youngsters will, I also began smoking at an early age. I believe I was about 12 years old. With my first draw, I can still remember how foul the cigarette tasted. I did not think I would ever get the taste out of my mouth. But wanting to be one of the cool kids, I continued to smoke until I began getting sick to my stomach, and green around the gills. Foolishly, I continued to smoke for about the next ten years until I realized how my stupid habit was affecting me. I quit cold turkey and never returned to this destructive habit again.

The benefit of smoking cessation sure outweighed the negative aspect of gaining a couple of pounds afterwards. Giving up this harmful habit takes time to get accustomed to, both physically and emotionally. Take one step at a time. If you do put on some weight but manage to stay off cigarettes, congratulate yourself. Here are some benefits you will enjoy once you quit:

  • Your lungs and heart will be stronger. You will be able to breath much easier and no longer be out of breath all of the time. You do not want to continue smoking until you have emphysema. At this point, you may likely find yourself tethered to an oxygen bottle for the remainder of your shortened life.
  • Your skin will look younger. Have you ever looked at someone close to your own age and thought they looked a lot older than they actually are? Chances are, this individual has been a smoker for many years. I would think most people, would not want to look old and haggard before their time.
  • Your teeth will be whiter. You and I both know that browned teeth is not attractive. There comes a point where brushing no longer helps much to keep them from browning.
  • You will have better breath. Face it, kissing a smoker is akin to licking an ashtray. Smokers breath is just nasty to a nonsmoker.
  • Your hair and clothes will smell better. Yes, if you are a smoker, you stink. Your clothing stinks. as well as your hair and even your body. If you smoke in your home, it also stinks to high heaven from all the tar and nicotine that coats the surface of everything in your home, including you.
  • You will have more money when you are not buying cigarettes. If you tell me that healthy eating is too expensive while smoking a cigarette, I will probably at least look at you as if you are stupid. Worst case, I might ask if you are actually that dumb. Come on, you buy a lot of healthy food if you skip paying about $70.00 a week or more on cigarettes.
  • You will perform better in sports or other physical activities. You may not be interested in sports, but you might like to be able to climb stairs better in your home or at other places you might visit. You might enjoy strolling around a park with a loved one instead of lounging about all day. You will find that being able to become more active will bring you more joy in life.

What you can do along with smoking cessation!

  • Get active. Physical activity helps you burn calories. It can also help you ward off cravings for unhealthy foods or cigarettes. If you already exercise, you may need to exercise for longer or more often to burn the calories nicotine used to help remove. Getting active will also help your lungs to clear out.
  • Shop for healthy groceries. Decide what you will buy before you get to the store. Make a list of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, and other healthy choices that you can indulge in without eating too many calories. Stock up on low-calorie, nutrient dense “finger foods” that can keep your hands busy, such as sliced apples, baby carrots, or pre-portioned unsalted nuts.
  • Stock up on sugar-free gum. It can keep your mouth busy without adding calories or exposing your teeth to sugar.
  • Create healthy eating habits. Make a healthy meal plan ahead of time so you can combat cravings when they hit. It is easier to say “no” to fried chicken nuggets if you are looking ahead to a roast chicken with vegetables for dinner.
  • Never let yourself get too hungry. A little hunger is a good thing, but if you are so hungry that you have to eat right away, you are more likely to reach for a diet-busting option. Learning to eat foods that fill you up can also help ward off hunger.
  • Sleep well. If you often do not get enough sleep, you are at greater risk of putting on extra weight.
  • Control your drinking. Alcohol, sugary sodas, and sweetened juices may go down easy, but they add up, and can lead to weight gain.

Smoking cessation does not have to lead to weight gain!

If you’re concerned about weight gain but think stopping smoking and dieting at the same time will be too much, stop smoking first and deal with any weight gain afterwards.

If you’re really worried about putting on weight with smoking cessation, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian for a diet plan tailored to your individual needs. And of course, you can always follow David’s Way to Health and Fitness to learn more about healthy nutrition and the positive effects it has on your body.

 Remember, it’s common to gain weight after you stop smoking, especially during the first several months — but weight gain does not have to be inevitable. It is up to you to make changes to your health, and then to remain committed to those changes.

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