Quitting smoking and losing weight are two of the most common New Year’s resolutions each year – which unfortunately are perceived as being contradictory.
But quitting smoking doesn’t have to be accompanied by major weight gain. Eating more fruits and vegetables, walking every day, and finding emotional support can help you get cleaner lungs without a heavier figure.
You decided to quit smoking? Your heart and lungs will be thankful, but your waist might be less pleased if you aren’t prepared to protect it. Concern about weight gain is a real hurdle for most people considering smoking cessation, and is a major reason many smokers are afraid to quit. Moreover, post-cessation weight gain is a major reason people return to smoking, to lose the new weight.
The connection between quitting smoking and gaining weight has been known for decades – and is not surprising, given that the nicotine in cigarettes suppresses appetite and stimulates the body’s metabolic rate, making it burn energy faster, preventing excess from being stored as fat. Additionally, smoking provides the smoker with a substitute activity for eating, may impair digestion (thus, some food may be swept through before all nutrients are absorbed), and marks the end of a meal – so rather than taking a second or third helping or having dessert, smokers are likely to stop eating and have a cigarette. Finally, recent studies of certain enzymes in our fat cells suggest that the reason some smokers gain weight after quitting while others do not may be in part a matter of genetics.
A new study about weight gain after smoking cessation found that the increase may be bigger than assumed by most quitters.
How can you get the best of both worlds?
Researchers from the University of South Paris and the University of Birmingham systematically reviewed the results of 62 studies and found that smoking quitters may gain approximately 4.5 kg (10 lbs) within a year after quitting smoking. This new number is significantly higher than that often appearing in the information material distributed to those interested in quitting smoking.
The researchers compared the weight differences between quitters who used aids like nicotine substitutes (patches, chewing gum) or medications (bupropion or varenicline) and between those who quit smoking without using any aids. The weight gain among those who managed to prevent from smoking for at least 12 months was similar in both groups. A month after quitting smoking, the quitters gained an average of 1.3 kg (2.87 lbs); after two months, 2.27 kg (5 lbs); after 3 months, 2.85 kg (6.28 lbs); after six months, 4.21 kg (9.28 lbs); and after 12 months, 4.67 kg (10.3 lbs).
A quarter of the quitters gained less than 900 grams (2 lbs) or even lost weight after quitting smoking, and a quarter of them gained more than 7.7 kg (17 lbs). The researchers emphasize that quitting smoking at the age of 40 can add nine years to the overall life expectancy, even when taking the weight gain into account.
More fruits and vegetables—less weight
What’s the connection between fruits and vegetables and successful smoking cessation? In a study performed at the Royal College of London, incorporating data from about 373,803 subjects from ten European countries, it was found that among the quitters, the more they consumed fruits and vegetables, the lesser the changes in their weight.
The exceptions in this case were women over the age of 50 who had excess weight before quitting smoking. Women at this age need more support in order to prevent weight gain during the quitting process, and slightly different methods than are helpful to men and younger women.
Therefore, if you’ve decided to quit smoking, give yourself some time for preparation – at least two weeks – so you can cope with the end of the addiction in the best possible shape.
Steps to a healthy, smoke-free future
Commitment: Decide that you choose to breathe smoke-free air and commit to it.
Choose a date: Set a day and start counting 14 days ahead of it. In the 15th day, stop smoking. Write it down in a journal.
Think of three reasons why you want to quit smoking, and post them in a place where it will be clearly visible to you.
Start walking: A 30-minute walk each day can make a difference the quitting-without-gaining process. It increases the internal discipline to stick to the plan, helps you maintain your weight and decreases the craving for carbs.
Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet: This can raise the body’s alkalinity level and reduce the acidity level, which aids in the quitting process. Consume vegetables three times a day at main meals, with fruit between meals, and commit to this pattern as you would to taking medicine.
Choose enzyme-rich whole foods that stimulate digestion: This will replace the stimulation effect previously lended by nicotine.
Consult your family doctor about support options for smoking cessation: Begin taking the medications that will help your body fight the craving to smoke, so that you don’t feel compelled to use food for this function.
Don’t do it all by yourself: In such a difficult process, anyone would need encouragement and support. Find a support group or choose a friend/life partner – or even a quitting partner – who will accompany you during this important journey, and to whom you will be able to report how you feel and how determined you are or aren’t each day.
With the right plan and support system, you can give up smoking and the threat of excess weight, for a one-two punch in favor of good health. The Trim Down Club program has the tools you need to make to make key lifestyle changes that go beyond a simple diet and support long-term health – and we’ll be with you every step of the way to double success!