Many people are concerned about gaining weight when they
quit smoking. But, with a healthy diet and
regular exercise, weight gain can be prevented. Also, adopting these healthy lifestyle factors will make you feel better. Feeling better overall may help you keep from
All of us should strive for a healthy diet, whatever our specific goals are. But, when you are quitting smoking, it is even more important. A healthy diet can help prevent weight gain while your body recovers from the damage of smoking. Adapting your eating habits also gives you something to focus on other than smoking.
Evidence shows that taking on a weight management program helps keep weight gain from happening over a long period of time. When you quit, you may see an increase in your appetite, so plan the right choices when you feel hungry. Here are some tips that may help:
- Plan ahead and space your meals every 3-4 hours.
- Avoid coffee if possible, and drink more water.
- Know your smoking triggers. If certain foods make you want to smoke, avoid them and choose other foods.
- To avoid after meal cravings, eat a small healthy dessert like fruit, angel food cake, or something sugar-free.
- Keep healthy snack options like carrots or popcorn, readily available.
When you eat better, you will feel better. This helps reinforce the good thing that you are doing for your body. A healthy diet is not the only good thing you can do. Exercise has its benefits as well.
Regular exercise is an important way to keep those pounds from creeping on. If you need to lose weight, exercise is even more essential. Even a quick bout of physical activity can improve your mood and that can be helpful in early stages of quitting. Also, by exercising regularly, you may be less likely to start smoking again.
If you do not have a regular physical activity routine,
talk to your doctor
before starting an exercise program. Here are some things to remember:
- Find something you enjoy doing.
- Go slowly and build yourself up each day.
- Start with walking.
- Go for short walks during coffee breaks.
- Go with someone else.
The key is to get into a routine of exercising regularly. Start with 3-4 days per week, even if you only do 10-20 minutes of exercise each day. Gradually build your routine to increase the time and intensity of your activity. Remember, the longer you are smoke-free, the easier it will be to breathe when you exercise.
Many Other Benefits
There are so many other benefits of being smoke-free. Try to focus on the positives of quitting rather than the negatives. You will notice some changes right away while others may take time. When you quit, you will see improvements in:
- The ability to breathe
Quitting will also add years to your life. You can lower the risk of cancer or death the longer you remain smoke-free.
There are many ways to quit smoking. Look into the ones that will work for you. Do not be afraid that you will gain weight if you quit. It can be avoided if you eat right and exercise.
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Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_13X_Guide_for_Quitting_Smoking.asp?from=fast. Accessed October 11, 2016.
Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation. Updated December 3, 2014. Accessed October 11, 2016.
Taylor AH, Ussher MH, Faulkner G. The acute effects of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, affect and smoking behaviour: a systematic review. Addiction. 2007;102(4):534-543.
Tobacco use. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114788/Tobacco-use. Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed October 11, 2016.
You can control your weight as you quit smoking. Nova Southeastern University website. Available at: http://www.nova.edu/gsc/forms/3c_weight_gain_02.pdf. Accessed October 11, 2016.
Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/24/2014