Tips To Help You Avoid Gaining Weight When You Quit Smoking Cigarettes
When I quit smoking twelve years ago, I gained weight--more than 50 lbs to be precise. I eventually took off most of this post smoking weight, but it did take some time and while I was carrying it around I was not a happy camper. Especially at the beginning, i had intense cravings for cigarettes and ate to try to quell them. It seemed like I had to have something in my mouth all the time in order to not reach for a cigarette.
My Weight Gain Story
I did not know that this was my blood sugar spiking and dropping in response to losing the jolt of nicotine my body was used to every waking hour. It felt to me like I had to make a choice between giving up smoking and gaining weight. If I stopped stuffing my mouth, I just knew I would smoke. It took everything I had to stay away from smoking. I figured I deserved to soothe myself with food.
I figured that gaining weight was the price I had to pay to get out from under a serious nicotine addiction. I figured a major weight gain was not a bad trade off and during those first few weeks without cigarettes, I was far too fuzzy headed to worry about what I was putting into my mouth as long as it wasn't a cigarette. Becoming a non-smoker took all my focus and energy. I had no time to think about revving up my metabolism and keeping weight gain at bay. I was too busy fighting fatigue and nicotine cravings.
Let me add that my final time was the umpteenth time I had quit. It was the first in which I decided to just not worry about weight gain. Worry about weight gain is a particular pitfall for women who want to quit because we are more concerned about our weight and our looks than men are.
Because I was a heavy smoker and had smoked for more than 30 years( starting at age 16) I was a super candidate for weight gain. I tried many times with varying degrees of success and always returned to smoking heavier and more hooked than ever. My final quit was the time I decided for sure that being smoke free was more important to me than being fat, thus the immense weight gain when I quit. I want to state for the record that I lost most of that weight over the next few years, but it took time and effort, however now I am delighted to be at a reasonably normal weight for my height and age and to have been smoke free for 12+years. I can run up and down a flight of stairs without getting winded. My skin is clear, my eyes are bright and my nose is cold and best of all, my house does not smell of smoke and there is no nicotine film anywhere.
I wish that I had known then what I know now--i.e. that there are a number of simple, practical ways to minimize or eliminate gaining weight when you quit smoking cigarettes.
Lower Your Daily Caloric Intake
While it is a fact that nicotine speeds up the metabolism and that, therefore, when you remove nicotine from your body, your metabolism will slow down-- there are many ways you can compensate for the slowdown in metabolism by a combination of burning more energy (exercise) and consuming fewer calories (watching what you eat)
If you can lower your caloric intake by 200 calories a day, you should be able to avoid gaining any weight at all during the crucial first weeks after quitting. At worst you will put on a few pounds, but these will probably disappear if you continue to eat well and exercise regularly.
Imagine a Non-Smoking You
Here are a few tips to make it easier to minimize gaining weight when you quit smoking plus an explanation of the how and why of it all. Quitting smoking, particularly if you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, will add years to your life and life to your years in a way that totally eclipses the five to ten pounds that most people gain when they first quit.
, So, no more excuses. If you want to unload your nicotine addiction (I'm assuming if you are still reading this that you do) don't let fear of gaining a few pounds keep you from doing it.
Imagine a non-smoking you, looking and feeling like a million bucks-- and no longer spending big bucks on a pack of cigarettes every day either. Sounds great, doesn't it? You can do it, It takes a bit of planning and some self-discipline but it can be done-- and if you really want to, you CAN do it.
Yoga calms the body, mind and spirit
Planning Ahead is Key to Success
Planning ahead makes all the difference. First you need to pick a quit day. Make it at least a week from today and not more than three weeks away. Tell your family and friends. Circle it on your calendar and make that the day that you get all smokes and smoking materials like lighters and ashtrays out of your life and commit to no more smoking.
It is really important to use the time between now and your quit date to prepare and put together a positive plan of action, especially if you not only want to succeed in giving up smoking, but also want to do it without putting on weight. You'll want to make a concrete plan to both increase your exercise and improve your eating habits. By doing both these things you can, if you are disciplined, manage to quit smoking and not gain a ton of weight. Here are some tips to help you get started..
- Buy a pedometer and track how many steps a day you take. Do a baseline before quit day, and then increase the number of steps a day you take until you work your way up to 10,000. If you don't get to 10,000 steps a day by quit day, that's OK-- just keep adding as many steps as you can a day until you hit 10,000 and then religiously walk 10,000 steps a day, every day. Walking will help clear the nicotine out of your system and helps with cravings too. You can walk outside, in the mall, at the gym on a treadmill or wherever you want. You can vary the walk in any way you want. Run up and down stairs when cigarette cravings strike, park far away from your destination and walk a bit-- just get to the magic 10,000 steps every day that fitness experts recommend.
- Consider starting weight bearing exercise either with free weights or at a gym using machines. Lifting weights will build muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat. Just how much more, is up for grabs, but whatever it is, it won't hurt you to do some strength training and it will keep hands busy and your mind off of smoking. Your body will get toned and the energy you expend will burn calories too. Before quit day you need to make arrangements -- if you own free weights or a weight machines or if you already belong to a gym great. If not, make a plan now and start working out as soon as possible
- Use Yoga, Guided Meditation and relaxation techniques Whether you are a beginner or advanced practitioner of yoga and meditation, use these and any other relaxation techniques you know of to help you through the first few weeks withut cigarettes. There is stress and irritation involved with quitting. Relaxation techniques can help keep both at bay. I suggest you sign up for a class or join a group for regular scheduled session and not just tell yourself you will do it on your own.
- Throw out sweet and salty snack foods. Get all the taco chips and cheese doodles out of the house in advance of quit day. Be ruthless. You know what to get rid of so I won't list it here. Hint: the one exception is plain, unbuttered, homemade popcorn. It is a caloric bargian and a great snack for the newly non smoking.
- Stock up on fruits and veggies....berries, apples, oranges, melon, carrots and celery( if you like them) and other raw veggies. I'm a radish kinda girl myself, but you might prefer cauliflower or cucumbers. Do all this before you actuallly quit. Trust me, the first few days with no ciggies are the hardest and having healthy snacks around is key.
- Don't skip meals and always eat breakfast Your blood sugar is going to be doing a real dance as your body gets used to functioning without nicotine. You will feel less fatigued and lessen the nicotine cravings if you eat regular meals, with some protein at every meal... and this is really really important-- never ever skip breakfast. I'm not talking about a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee on the way to work kind of breakfast either-- I mean a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, some scrambled eggs or even an egg McMuffin that you sit down and eat at a table before you start your workday. Your body needs to start the day with protein ,complex carbs and maybe a bit of fruit
- Caffeine and alcohol are things you might want to go light on when you first quit smoking, especially if you are trying to minimize weight gain. For me, coffee and a cigarette first thing in the morning were my ritual so when I quit, I drank tea in the morning instead of coffee for about two weeks to cut the psychological connection. It's best to leave alcohol alone for the first few weeks too if you usually smoke when you drink. It takes about three weeks to break the psychological triggers and alcohol is full of empty calories plus it lowers your inhibitions and makes it more likely that you will have just one puff and then be off to the races again.
- Drink water not soda Soft drinks and energy drinks have lots of calories and cause spikes in blood sugar. For at least the first few weeks without cigarettes, you would be well advised to dump them in favor of plain old water. If you miss the carbonation, try seltzer of club soda with a touch of fruit juice in it. Soda contains calories and caffene that you don't need. Diet soda is better, but plain old water is the best. It will hydrate you and help cravings too. If you can, six to eight glasses of plain water is the way to go every day.
- Do not weigh yourself for at least one month after your quit day Most people who quit smoking do gain at least some weight, which is why the one thing you should NOT do is weigh yourself during the first month that you are off cigarettes. The truth is that most people eventually lose all or most of the weight they gain in those first weeks, and some people ( mostly those who are very active and eat right) don't gain any weight at all. But getting on the scale five days off cigarettes and finding out that you have gained five pounds will definitely throw a monkey-wrench in your quit plan. Post smoking weight comes on fast and goes off slow-- but it does come off. If your clothes feel tight, just drink more water and double up on your activity and exercise,. Do NOT weigh yourself.
So that's it. Don't let gaining weight deter you from giving up smoking. Have a look at the links below for more info and advice from the pros. With a plan and a strong desire, you can do it I know. If you have already done it and have tips to add on your own experience, please feel free to share and add your comment below. Here's to success for us all in becoming happy healthy ex smokers.
Web Resources to Help You
- Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight
How to kick the habit without packing on the pounds. Good advice from WebMD
- How to Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight | Women's Health Magazine
Tips just for women on How to keep off the pounds when you give up cigarettes from Women's Heath Magazine
- Quit Smoking Without Weight Gain
Nutritionist and consultant Mary Donkersloot, R.D., discusses how quitting smoking does not have to involve gaining weight.
- Discovery may pave way to quitting smoking without gaining weight
The "why" of it all....Smokers may die young, but they tend to die thinner than non-smokers. A team of scientists has discovered exactly how nicotine suppresses appetite
- WIN - Publication - You Can Control Your Weight as You
Info from the Weight Control Information Network on avoiding weight gain when you quit. Download the free PDF
© 2012 Roberta Kyle
More by this Author
Holiday depression, winter blues or SAD-- All varieties of winter depression are a matter of brain chemistry and there are ways to deal with it effectively. Here are some things I've found helpful in handling seasonal...
I was a heavy smoker for 30 years. I tried and failed to quit close to a dozen times.I tried everything: hypnosis, acupucture, nicotine gum, cutting back gradually. Here's my journey and what finally worked for me.
Nicotine gum and lozenges can be useful quit smoking aids, but can create a new, hard to kick addiction themselves. Are you addicted?