You Don’t Have to Gain Weight when you Quit Smoking
Are you one of the thousands of people in Ontario who are thinking about quitting smoking this year? Fear of gaining weight shouldn’t keep you from reaching your smoke free goal.
Quitting doesn’t automatically mean you’ll gain weight. The average person gains less than 10 pounds when they quit smoking, but you can quit and maintain your current weight.
Smoking raises your metabolism (nicotine can cause your heart rate to increase by as much as 33 beats per minute) and reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This makes your heart work harder and makes you a prime candidate for a heart attack or stroke.
One of the immediate benefits of kicking the smoking habit is that food tastes and smells better. When people gain weight after they quit, it’s usually because they are eating more. They replace cigarettes with food, and try to quell the nicotine urge with snacks. With a little planning you can keep your weight under control.
Keep your hands busy. Doodle, write a letter, do a crossword. When you do need to put something in your mouth, make it sugarless gum, a carrot or celery stick, or even a toothpick. Just make sure whatever you do - you don’t associate with smoking.
If you skip meals you may be more likely to crave nicotine and to overeat later in the day. Try eating several small meals throughout the day. Meals should include a variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lower fat milk products, leaner meats and meat alternatives. For snacks, chose lower calorie foods like unbuttered popcorn and pretzels.
Drinking lots of fluids will help flush the nicotine from your system. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol may trigger a cigarette craving - especially if you are used to having a cigarette with your coffee or alcoholic beverage. Caffeine can make you more nervous and anxious, so try switching to decaffeinated beverages.
Exercise will boost your metabolism, knock out nicotine cravings and make you feel and look better too.
Within 90 days of quitting smoking, you’ll start to experience whole days where you won’t crave a cigarette. That’s the time to work on any weight gained, and that’s when you’ll have the extra energy to do it. The key to having a healthy weight is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all four food groups as described in Canada's Food Guide, and to exercise regularly. A healthy weight does not have to mean dieting and restricting food.
If you need more information on maintaining a healthy weight when quitting smoking, contact the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit's Health Action Line at 1-800-660-5853 or 613-345-5685 and ask to speak to a Registered Dietitian.
You can also visit Smoker’s Helpline for more advice on quitting smoking.