How Can I Quit Smoking and Not Gain Weight?

Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2021
Quit smoking without gaining weight

While some people do experience a slight weight gain when they quit smoking, it’s typically only a few extra pounds, and the benefits of smoking cessation far outweigh the gain in weight.

Physical activity and a healthy diet plan may help you control your weight even after you quit smoking. Unfortunately, many people fear gaining weight is an inevitable side effect of smoking cessation. While there typically is a slight gain in weight, following these tips can help you avoid excessively packing on the pounds:

  • Change your eating habits
    • Eat more vegetables and fruit, which help you reduce calories and hunger.
    • Avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages, which are usually considered bad for overall health.
    • Eat smaller amounts five to six times a day instead of two to three large meals.
    • Keep crunchy snacks, such as carrot sticks, apples and nuts handy.
    • Drink more water since it will help your body remove toxins.
    • Eat a good-sized, healthy breakfast that kick-starts your metabolism for the day (toast, muesli and fruit or eggs are all good options).
  • Exercise more and become physically active
    • Set time aside each day to participate in physical activity, such as taking walks, bicycling, swimming and playing active sports.
    • Consider breaking your physical activity into shorter, two to three sessions per day and stay as hydrated as possible.
    • Manage urges to smoke or to eat by taking a five-minute physical activity break (walking, cycling or even using jump ropes).
    • Performing resistance training with bands, weights and dumbbells will help provide your body with short bursts of energy that help keep your metabolism up.
  • Other tips
    • Keep your mouth busy to divert your urges with calorie-free mints, gum, cinnamon sticks, etc.
    • Buy healthy foods (vegetables, fruits and low-fat products) that do not cause weight gain and finger foods (baby carrots, apples and unsalted nuts) to munch on when you get hungry.
    • Avoid alcohol, high-calorie juices and sodas.
    • Getting an adequate amount of rest each night is vital after you quit smoking.

Bottom line, the risks of smoking far outweigh the risks of weight gain. Do not worry too much, most people who quit smoking gain only a modest amount of weight. Focus on improving your diet and increasing your exercise instead.

Why do people gain weight when they stop smoking?

Smokers develop a lifestyle that revolves around smoking rather than eating or exercising. When a person quits smoking, they may be looking to fill that void with something else, such as food.

In addition, people typically gain weight after smoking cessation because of these reasons:

  • Effect on metabolism
    • One of the main chemicals found in cigarettes is nicotine, which impacts the metabolism by speeding it up slightly.
    • When you stop smoking cigarettes, you may notice a slight weight gain over the first few months until your metabolism resets itself.
    • A heavy smoker can burn up to 200 calories a day by smoking, but clearly, there are much healthier ways to accomplish that.
  • Appetite-suppressant
    • Nicotine helps suppress appetite and once it is eliminated from the body, people experience the return of their normal appetite with food tasting more flavorful because the taste buds are no longer affected by the chemicals associated with smoking, which may result in overeating.
  • Replacement mechanism
    • The habit of taking an object from your hand and putting it up to your mouth begins to feel like second nature for a smoker.
    • Once the chemical addiction fades away, many still experience the withdrawal from the physical and habitual regime of smoking.
    • This leads to unnecessary snacking to replace the missing behavior.
  • Nervous eating
    • As a result of smoking over the years, many rely on it as a sort of escape from uncomfortable or overwhelming social situations.
    • It becomes a part of life to step outside for a smoke when the conversation is boring or an awkward moment arises.
    • Once smoking can no longer be used as a crutch, many ex-smokers feel the need to deal with the anxiety by eating as a method of distraction.

How can I avoid smoking again?

Initially, don’t rely on nicotine-replacement therapy or smoking-cessation drugs to control your weight when quitting, since this effect is unpredictable and temporary.

Furthermore, to avoid smoking again, try the following techniques:

  • Try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Ask family and friends to support you to quit.
  • Write down why you are quitting and reread these reasons often.
  • Spend time with other nonsmokers.
  • Go to where there are no-smoking zones, such as stores, movies, churches and libraries.
  • Reward yourself every day or week that you stay a nonsmoker, but don’t use food as a reward.
  • Treat yourself to a movie or activity with friends.
  • Talk with your healthcare professional to help you stop smoking and stay a nonsmoker.

Keep in mind that the health benefits of quitting smoking far exceed the risk of gaining five to eight extra pounds. Besides, if you do gain a little weight, you can take off any extra pounds you picked up along the way with a good diet plan and exercise.


How to Quit Smoking: 13 Tips to End Addiction See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2021
Hatfield H. Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight. WebMD.

Better Health. Quitting Smoking and Managing Weight.

National Institutes of Health. Dealing With Weight Gain After Quitting.