Not everyone who quits smoking will gain weight, but many do. A slower metabolism is among several reasons for potential weight gain. Keep in mind, however, that quitting smoking offers many more benefits to your overall health. The possibility of putting on a few extra pounds should not deter you from making this life change.
Smoking Burns Calories
While no proof exists that quitting smoking causes weight gain, the link between smoking cessation and weight gain is well-recognized. Smoking cigarettes burns up to 200 calories a day, according to research conducted by Marc Hellerstein at San Francisco General Hospital and published in the January 1994 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Investigation." If you quit smoking and don't want to gain weight, you can exercise more and eat less to compensate for the calorie-burning effect of smoking.
Smoking and Metabolism
If you smoke, the nicotine in cigarettes increases your metabolic rate. When you smoke a cigarette, your heart beats 10 to 20 times per minute more than the average nonsmoker's. You burn 70 percent of the calories you burn each day while at rest. When you quit smoking, your heartbeat slows, and your metabolism lowers to a more normal rate. So, yes, your metabolism slows when you quit smoking, but it only lowers to a normal rate from an elevated rate.
Smokers often also experience decreased appetite. Cigarettes suppress your appetite. Smokers may also snack less than the average person because they substitute cigarettes for food. When you quit smoking, you may find yourself eating more during the day. This is not only because you are suddenly filling your cravings with food instead of cigarettes but also because former smokers seem to need oral gratification. Keep healthy foods handy for when you have the urge to put something in your mouth. Your sense of taste and smell also improve when you quit smoking. This may result in foods becoming more appealing than they used to be and some changes in what foods you like and dislike.
Avoid Weight Gain
Most weight gain associated with smoking cessation occurs within the first six months. You may lose any weight gained without extra effort -- your metabolism will adjust to the new smoke-free you. But if you want to avoid putting on extra pounds, you can exercise more and eat less during the transition period. You could burn off about 200 calories by walking 40 minutes at a 2 mph pace. You could shave about 200 calories off your daily total by skipping the mayonnaise on a sandwich and pairing it with a piece of fruit instead of a bag of chips.