Managing Weight Gain after Quitting Smoking
Making the decision to quit smoking is a fantastic step but you may be worried about withdrawal symptoms – which can include weight gain. While some people who quit smoking will put on some weight, not everyone does.
On average, people gain around 5kg – or around three-quarters of a stone – in the first year after quitting smoking. But this often depends on things like diet and exercise. If you do notice some weight gain after quitting smoking, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to help.
Why do you put on weight when you stop smoking?
There are a few reasons why people typically gain weight when they quit smoking, including:
• The nicotine found in cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products increase your metabolic rate. This means your body burns calories faster and suppresses your appetite. Once you quit smoking, your metabolic rate may drop, meaning that your body burns calories more slowly. Stop smoking medicines, like Nicotine Replacement Therapy can help control weight gain following a quit attempt. Find the right products for you using our website.
• You may also find food tastes better, your appetite improves, and you start to crave more sugary foods when you quit. If you replace cigarettes with unhealthy snacks, you'll likely gain weight.
• You may mistake your nicotine cravings for hunger, or you may eat more to distract yourself from them.
•You may turn to snacks to replace the hand-to-mouth action of smoking.
Remember, you might not gain any weight when quitting smoking. Even if you do, the health benefits of quitting far outweigh the potential weight gain, as stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Tips for managing your weight after quitting smoking
If you're concerned about gaining weight when you quit smoking, there are plenty of things you can try. Simple lifestyle and behavioural changes could help you control and minimise any potential weight gain.
Exercise to control your metabolism
Getting regular exercise helps keep your metabolism high, which means your body will burn more calories. Bear in mind that if you've smoked for a long time, you may find exercise difficult at first, as smoking may affect your lung capacity. If you re not used to exercising, you could build up your exercise slowly until you reach the recommended amount of two and half hours a week.
You can start with some gentle, low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling and yoga. You could also try making small lifestyle changes like walking or cycling to work and taking the stairs instead of the lift.
If you've not exercised for a long time or have medical concerns, make sure you speak to your GP about what exercises are best for you.
Practice portion control
Managing your portion sizes and eating smaller portions can help to minimise weight gain when you quit smoking. It takes the body 20 minutes after eating to start feeling full. So, ideally, you should wait between meals or snacks to avoid overeating.
You could also try eating more slowly, thoroughly chewing, and taking the time to really enjoy your food.
Pick healthy snacks
Some people replace their cigarette breaks with unhealthy snacking, which is likely to result in weight gain. So, if hunger pangs strike, it s best to stick to healthy snacks, like nuts, fresh fruit and veg.
Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Keeping your nicotine cravings under control is an important part of sticking to your quit plan and reducing your risk of relapse. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products can help keep your nicotine cravings under control, so you might be less likely to reach for a snack instead of smoking. Plus, products like inhalators can be a good choice for those likely to miss the hand-to-mouth habit of smoking, rather than turning to unhealthy food.
Talk to your GP
If you're concerned about weight gain when quitting smoking, you can talk to your GP and request a diet plan from a dietitian.
Frequently asked questions
How long does weight gain last after quitting smoking?
Some people put on weight when they quit smoking, but others don't. This is because the amount of weight you gain (or don't gain) after quitting comes down to the way you deal with nicotine's effects on your appetite, as well as your diet and lifestyle decisions. The more control you have over your nicotine cravings, the easier it will be to stay focused on quitting and avoid replacing cigarettes with unhealthy foods.
How much weight will I gain when I quit smoking?
If you manage your diet and exercise regime, you might not gain any weight when you quit smoking. On average, though, people tend to gain around 5kg in the first year of quitting smoking. But this could be significantly more or less depending on other behavioural changes you make.