Smokers who quit are at risk for overeating and gaining weight, and the reasons are many. Smoking speeds up the metabolism and suppresses the appetite. Ex-smokers often turn to food to satisfy their renewed hunger or cravings. Some also use food in place of cigarettes to cope with feelings such as boredom, anger or depression.
Rework your diet. You can't simply stop eating to avoid weight gain, but you can avoid overeating or eating unhealthy food. Plan your meals and snacks around a balanced diet that includes foods high in fiber, such as apples, oatmeal and beans, to keep you feeling fuller longer. Eat several small portions of healthy food instead of one or two big meals a day to avoid hunger and poor food choices. Keep a journal of what you eat so you're aware of the amount and type of food you consume.
Limit unhealthy snacks and alcohol. It's tempting to reward yourself for quitting smoking with high-fat and high-sugar food. But better health is your real reward. For snacks, try healthy substitutions such as a crunchy apple for chips and fat-free yogurt for puddings or ice cream. But don't deny yourself an occasional treat. Just watch the portion size. Rather than drinking high-calorie alcohol, substitute herbal tea or sparkling water.
Start an exercise program. Instead of reaching for food, get moving. Physical activity helps you burn calories and control your weight. It also can increase the production of brain chemicals that elevate your mood and relieve stress. If you weren't exercising before, start slowly to avoid injuries and burnout. Begin by walking during your work breaks or after dinner. If working out at a gym isn't for you, take a class that gets you moving, such as yoga or dance.
Get involved and keep busy. Smokers often reach for cigarettes when they're bored or filling time. When ex-smokers get bored, they often turn to food in place of cigarettes. Avoid the temptation to eat by doing activities that keep you busy and distract you from food cravings. Some ex-smokers find it helpful to keep their hands busy.
Consider seeking professional advice about weight control. If you're unable to control your eating, you might need extra help. Talk to your health-care provider about healthy weight-management programs. You also can consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist for assistance in planning satisfying meals and snacks. An exercise professional, such as a personal trainer or exercise physiologist, can guide you in developing an exercise program. Check with your insurance company to see if any of these services is covered by your plan.
Before starting an exercise program, consult your doctor.
- Weight-Control Information Network: You Can Control Your Weight As You Quit Smoking
- Federal Citizen Information: You Can Control Your Weight As You Quit Smoking
- Smoking Cessation: Dealing With Weight Gain
- American Heart Association: Getting Healthy: How to Avoid Weight Gain When Quitting Smoking
- Mayo Clinic: Quit Smoking
- Cleveland Clinic: Tobacco Treatment Center