Weight Control and Smoking Cessation

Weight control and smoking cessation introduction

Congratulations on your decision to quit smoking! Quitting is one of the best actions you can take to improve your health. You may be concerned about gaining weight, but try not to worry about it as you quit. Focus on stopping smoking first, and then continue to improve your health in other ways, such as reaching and maintaining a healthy weight for life.

Will I gain weight if I stop smoking?

Not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. Among people who do, the average weight gain is less than 10 pounds. Roughly 10 percent of people who stop smoking gain a large amount of weight - as many as 30 pounds.

What causes weight gain after quitting?

When smokers quit, they may gain weight for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Feeling hungry. Quitting smoking may make a person feel hungrier and eat more than usual, but this feeling usually goes away after several weeks.
  • Having more snacks and alcoholic drinks. Some people eat more high-fat, high-sugar snacks and drink more alcoholic beverages after they quit smoking.
  • Burning calories at a normal rate again. Every cigarette you smoke makes your body burn calories faster, but is also harmful to your heart. Once you quit, you are no longer getting this temporary effect. Instead, you are burning slightly fewer calories on a daily basis.

Can I avoid weight gain?

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Physical activity and a healthy eating plan may help you control your weight. In addition, being physically active may ease withdrawal symptoms during smoking cessation and help reduce the chances of relapsing after quitting.

While it is a good idea to be physically active and eat healthy foods as you quit smoking, try not to worry about your weight. It may be easier to quit first and focus on controlling your weight when you are smoke-free.

To lower your chances of gaining weight when you stop smoking:

  • Accept yourself.
  • Get regular, moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Limit snacking and alcohol.
  • Consider using medication to help you quit.
  • Consider getting professional advice about weight control.

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Weight Control and Smoking Cessation - Avoiding Weight Gain Question: Please provide tips and suggestions for avoiding weight gain while trying to quit smoking.
Weight Control and Smoking Cessation - Physical Activity Question: What types of physical activity worked for you while trying to quit smoking?
Weight Control and Smoking Cessation - Snacking and Alcohol Question: Discuss your desire for snacks and alcohol while trying to quit smoking. Did you acquire other unhealthy habits?
Weight Control and Smoking Cessation - Medications Question: What medications or supplements helped with weight control and/or helped you quit smoking?
Weight Control and Smoking Cessation - Getting Help Question: Besides a doctor, did another professional help you with weight control and smoking cessation? Please share your story.

Smoking Cessation and Acupuncture

Medical Author: Dr. Standiford Helm II
Medical Editor: Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler

Viewer Question: Can acupuncture help to stop smoking?

Doctor's Response: Smoking, which is better described as nicotine addiction, is a complex addiction, with both psychological and physical components. Stopping smoking is very difficult, as suggested by the old Mark Twain joke, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times."

There are also a thousand treatments available to help stop smoking. Whenever we have a multitude of treatments, it means we don't have any surefire way to treat a problem. Despite the absence of one "silver bullet" to treat nicotine addiction, you can stop smoking. The tools available to do so include both treating the physical addiction, such with as nicotine replacement and other medications, and treating the psychological component, as with support groups.

Many adjunctive therapies are also available, including acupuncture. While there is at least one study showing modest success in using acupuncture to treat smoking, the evidence, in our modern world of evidence-based medicine, is limited. There is no reason not to try acupuncture to stop smoking, but your chances of quitting are best if acupuncture is part of a broader treatment program.

Thank you for your question.