How to Avoid Gaining Weight When You Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker who has been hesitant to quit because of the fear of gaining weight, you’re not alone. Many people share this concern, but quitting smoking doesn’t have to lead to significant weight gain. In fact, the health benefits of quitting far outweigh the potential for gaining a few extra pounds.

In this article, we’ll discuss five ways to avoid gaining weight when you quit smoking, including planning ahead, controlling food portions, exercising regularly, learning mindful eating, and seeking help from a professional.

Why You Gain Weight When You Quit Smoking

Although not every smoker who quits will gain weight, it’s a common phenomenon. There are several reasons why this happens. Firstly, smoking is an appetite suppressant. When you have a cigarette, you feel less hungry. Additionally, smoking affects your senses of smell and taste, so the actual experience of eating may not be very pleasurable. Finally, there’s evidence that smoking slightly speeds up your metabolism, making it easier to keep your weight down.

5 Ways to Avoid Gaining Weight When You Quit Smoking

1. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to avoid gaining weight when you quit smoking is to plan your meals and snacks in advance. By doing so, you’re less likely to make impulsive, unhealthy food choices. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and limiting sugar, sodium, and trans fats can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Reading food labels to understand the nutrition and calories you’re actually getting is also important so that you can make better choices.

2. Control Your Food Portions

Portion control is an important tool that can help you from eating or drinking more than you need. Restaurant portions are often oversized, so sticking to some basic guidelines can help. For example, one 3-ounce serving of chicken or meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and a 3-ounce serving of fish is about the size of a checkbook. A 1-cup serving is about the size of a baseball, and a half-cup serving is about the size of a lightbulb. An ounce (2 tablespoons) is about the size of a golf ball. Eating your meals on smaller plates to encourage smaller portions and waiting 10 minutes before getting seconds if you’re still hungry after your meal are additional tips.

3. Exercise Daily

Staying physically active can help you manage your stress and keep your weight in check. Exercise burns calories, boosts your mood, controls your appetite, and helps speed up your metabolism naturally. You don’t need to be an athlete to reap the benefits; just 10 minutes of exercise a day can have an impact. Activities like walking, gardening, dancing, and bike riding are all fair game.

4. Learn Mindful Eating

Staying mindful when you select, prepare, and eat your food can help you make better choices and become more in tune with your body so you don’t replace your smoking habit with mindless snacking or unhealthy meals. Take the time to set the table and sit down for meals when you can, and turn off all distracting devices like your phone and television. Focus on what you’re eating and pause during your meal to gauge whether you’re really hungry for more or if you’re using food to cope with your feelings or fill a need.

5. Seek Professional Help

Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. Some people need the support and guidance of a dietician or nutritionist. These experts can give you personalized advice and help you create an individualized plan that fits your needs.

Wrapping Up

Quitting smoking can be a challenging but rewarding experience. While the fear of weight gain is a common concern, it shouldn’t deter you from making this important lifestyle change. By implementing the five tips we’ve discussed, you can avoid gaining weight and maintain a healthy weight after quitting smoking.

It’s important to remember that the health benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh any potential weight gain. Studies have shown that quitting smoking lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, despite any subsequent weight gain. Researchers have also found that quitters who gain a few pounds still have about a 50% lower risk of heart disease than smokers.

In the long-term, the amount of weight gain related to quitting smoking is not significant, and the health benefits of quitting smoking will always be more important than the possibility of gaining a few extra pounds.

If you’re ready to quit smoking, it’s important to have a plan in place to manage any potential weight gain. By following the tips we’ve discussed, you can maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall health and well-being. Don’t let the fear of weight gain keep you from making this important decision to quit smoking.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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