Tips To Help You Avoid Gaining Weight When You Quit Smoking Cigarettes

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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.

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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

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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.

Imagine never having another one of these in your house. Think about the stink
Imagine never having another one of these in your house. Think about the stink | Source

© 2012 Roberta Kyle

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Comments 19 comments

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 4 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Great tips. I especially like your suggestion to not weigh yourself until one month after you quit. That would definitely add extra stress and make it harder to focus on the main task at hand. Great photo selection.


CR Rookwood profile image

CR Rookwood 4 years ago from Moonlight Maine

These are wonderful tips, thank you. Just cutting out sugar or reserving it for weekends only can work wonders, especially for those of us who are sugar junkies!


jaybird22 profile image

jaybird22 4 years ago from New York

Although not a smoker, I enjoyed the read. Everything you talked about is the same type of advice I would give from a personal training perspective.

I also like how you included links to other areas on the web that people can find further help on this subject. Great job on the hub and furthermore on quitting smoking and lossing weight for good. You must feel so much better now :-)


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Hello Frieda, Rookwood and jaybird-- thank you all for the great comments.....glad you liked the tips. Yup Frieda, I don't weigh myself more than once a week just on general principles and Rookwood-- thanks for the great tip about sugar-- Sugary treats wreak havoc with your blood sugar, making it spike and dip which is awful when you have just quit smoking so not eating sugar is a good idea and jaybird-- thank you for those kind words. Yes I do feel good and rather proud of the achievement( if I do say so myself) I don't drink or smoke and I don't eat lots of sweets and processed foods and I exercise daily and go to bed early-- you would think it would be a boring existence, but I feel great and am having more fun than I can remember having in years :-)If there is a fountain of youth it is eating right and getting enough exercise. I'm on my way over to your profile to take a look at your hubs and follow you


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Wonderful tips, Robie! I have never smoked, but with other addiction issues I can say that this hub is spot on! I am with Frieda in especially loving your tip not to weigh yourself the first month.

In the end, the smoker needs to decide that quitting is more important than anything else. Weight gain will probably be temporary and - as your story shows - even 50 pounds will come off. And, just think of all the benefits of finally becoming smoke free!

Rated up across the board, Steph


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Thanks Steph-- all addictions have in common that you think they are what is holding you together, when in actuality, the addiction is what is tearing you apart-- it's a kind of terrible irony there are a million excuses and no good reasons to smoke, drink,do drugs, gamble, shop, overeat or whatever. In the end we are all responsible for our own behavior. Thanks for the support and for a great comment.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Thank YOU! I am planning to quit in like a week - I have been taking Wellbutrin to help...so ugh! I am not looking forward to it - please tell me that you still do not smoke and you are glad you quit! Do you still crave cigarettes? I have quit several times but not for more than several months! I hate it though so I will keep trying!


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

HI Realhousewife I'm pullin for you. I quit before Wellbutrin and Chantix became well known, but I have known people who quit using both of them effectively and yes I am still quit and do not crave cigarettes( I'm more apt to crave lifesavers or potato chips these days ) but it took me a long time to learn the lesson. I was quitting and starting again for almost a decade and I tried it all-- hypnosis, acupuncture, support groups-- in fact I went through Smokenders not once but twice. Finally got it through my head that I couldn't have "just one" and that I always went from one puff back up to more than two packs a day in a matter of days. Here's my story if you want to read it http://hubpages.com/health/Best-ways-of-quitting-s...

I failed a million times-- but just remember-- you only have to succeed once:-) Good luck housewife. Just take it easy and take it one day at a time.


RGNestle profile image

RGNestle 4 years ago from Seattle

I found it interesting to hear that a scientific study has found that a certain nerve bundle in the diaphragm reacts to the lack of nicotine and other chemicals from cigarettes. When these chemicals are being flushed from the body, the nerves mimic hunger, much like what happens when we drink alcohol. It is not real hunger, but it feels as if it is and people eat because they think they are hungry.

I don't know how to get rid of that feeling, but it may help (as I believe was noted in the Hub) to drink lots of water and also to try to distract yourself from the feeling between meals.

Best to you all!


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Thank you very much, RGNestle, for adding that very important detailed explanation. I certainly mixed up food and cigarette cravings when I was quitting-- as I guess I mentioned. The only thing that helped me was drinking water and the knowledge that if I didn't give in, cravings would eventually. I used to set a timer for 10 minutes and tell myself if I still wanted to smoke after 10 minutes I could-- the craving never lasted that long. Thanks so much for stopping by and addins such an important point to the comments.


jenubouka 4 years ago

You rock for quitting! This was such an inspiration to quit, yes I am an active smoker; tried to quit for a day and my hair turned into live snakes and anyone I looked turned to stone; I sucked on three packages of hard candy; and paced my house for I feared I was homicidal so I lit up again. This article is extremely helpful for those wanting to quit yet fear the alternative of perusing the life of a sumo wrestler due to the dreaded weight gain. Awesome!


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Great hub Robie! I admit I do have a fear of gaining weight if I quit smoking. Back in March, I didn't smoke for 5 days but the only reason is because I was very sick with pneumonia. After the 5 days, I still smoked much less for about a week. We decided it was time to not smoke in the house. So I haven't smoked in the house for over two months now. But I do go outside to smoke. Just that decision to not smoke in the house has cut my habit in half not to mention that the house smells so much better and the animals can breath. Yet I do find myself looking for munchies more often and I have already gained weight too. I must bookmark your hub and keep reading your suggestions. One day, I will finally do it for good. Thanks for the inspiration.

Sharyn


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Hi Sharyn, and thank YOU for adding such a great comment. I am so impressed that you have cut your smoking in half-- I was never able to do that sort of thing on anything more than a very temporary basis-- kudos to you. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

My friend had to quit because she had a mild stroke. I guess the weight gain that you mentioned here and how you dealt with it helps a lot. Thank you! Love and blessings.


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

love and blessings right back to you Ripplemaker-- it is always a pleasure to see you....... and good luck to your friend. I guess that stroke was a real wake up call and if such a thing can have a silver lining, I guess it got her attention and got her to quit -- she will never regret it I am sure.


whowas 4 years ago

Very, very good robie2. Not only well written and encouraging, full of sound wisdom and good advice but also on a topic of real importance.

I stopped smoking three years agao after a lifetime in the constant company of nicotine. Everyone who does it successfully seems to have a different way of achieving their goal. The important thing is to quit.

People often forget that there are many motives for giving up the horrid habit - not just the issues of personal health and well-being, but the corruption within the tobacco industry, the environmental damage cigarette production and consumption causes and the psychological impact of dependency.

Whatever the immediate seemingly negative consequences of quitting smoking may seem to be - such as weight-gain - the benefits are far more significant.

Thanks again and my personal message to anyone wanting to quit would be do so now - and use the advice in this hub to help you. Upped, and shared on FB.


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Amen, whowas. Thanks for adding your two cents. Personal experience is the name of the game when it comes to quitting smoking-- and the message is, if I can do it, you can too. Thanks for stoopping by.


Thank you! 2 years ago

I am at week six today of quitting smoking. This has been extremely rough. No joke. I have cried and ate more in this past month in a half than I have all year. I have gained almost ten pounds. I needed to relate to someone fast and your story of struggle made me feel normal. Normal to feel the way I felt about giving in to just eating. But, not anymore I will make a promise to myself to change eat better but also remember it is a process and that a 16 yr habit will take time and patience and courage.


robie2 profile image

robie2 2 years ago from Central New Jersey Author

Thanks so much for your comment-- quitting is extremely rough so congratulations to you on not having smoked in a month. You are in the trenches.....and it really is tough.. It will get easier with time, I promise.... and you can take off the weight later.... for the moment, just do the best you can and don't take even one puff.

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