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Making the decision to quit smoking is undoubtedly a wise move from a health standpoint; however, many people fear that weight gain is the inevitable side effect of sacrificing the nicotine addiction. It doesn’t have to be that way however. While many people do report slight weight gain (5 to 10 pounds), there are certain checks you can place on your behavior to avoid excessive gaining.
Not only is weight gain discouraging for most people, but it can lead some unnecessarily back down the path of nicotine addiction as a result. Understanding why people commonly gain weight when quitting smoking can help lower your chances of experiencing this side effect.
Why do people gain weight when they stop smoking?
Impact on Metabolism: One of the main chemicals found in cigarettes, nicotine, actually impacts the metabolism by speeding it up slightly. When you cut out cigarettes, you may notice a slight weight gain over the first few months until the metabolism levels back out. A heavy smoker can burn up to 200 calories a day by smoking, but clearly there are much healthier ways to accomplish that!
Appetite Suppressant: Nicotine helps suppress appetite and once it is eliminated from the body, typically people experience the return of their normal appetite and food actually tastes more flavorful since the taste buds are no longer affected by smoking and the chemicals associated with it. If you think about your typical activities as a smoker, many times when food is involved it means stepping out to smoke in between courses when others may be inside still snacking. Once this is no longer an option, you may find yourself eating more at social events.
Replacement Mechanism: The habit of taking an object from your hand and putting it up to your mouth begins to feel second nature as a smoker. Once the chemical addiction fades away, many still experience the withdrawal from the physical and habitual regime of smoking. This leads to unnecessary snacking as a way to replace the missing behavior.
Nervous Eating: As a result of smoking over the years, many rely on it as a sort of escape from uncomfortable or overwhelming social situations. It becomes a part of life to step outside for a smoke when the conversation lulls or an awkward moment arises. Once smoking can no longer be used as a crutch, many ex-smokers feel the need to deal with the anxiety by using eating as a method of distraction.
How can you help reduce your risk of weight gain?
There are several things you can do to combat this undesirable side effect.
Exercise: If you continue to eat the same amount as you did as a smoker, exercising daily, even if only for 30 minutes a day, should help you keep weight gain at bay. The great part about this is that the longer you go without smoking, typically the better your lungs will begin to feel and you will be able to work out more comfortably as a result. This will help make the transition easier for your metabolism as well.
Stock up on veggies: If you find yourself mindlessly snacking as a replacement behavior, try keeping veggies and other assorted healthy snacks nearby so that you won’t be consuming excess calories.
Take time for yourself during the day: As a smoker, typically you can take a break from work to have a cigarette throughout the day. Once the habit is broken, many people miss these moments of solitude. Step outside, take a break and take a moment for yourself. Many find that at first bringing carrots or celery sticks out with them helps ease the anxiety over not smoking since this gives them something to do with their hands.
Drink plenty of water: Not only will this help flush the toxins out of your system and keep you well hydrated but it provides yet another activity that may help you divert from mindlessly snacking. This can be particularly handy when you are in a situation surrounded by smokers or in a semi-stressful social situation. Instead of taking that moment to have a drag of a cigarette, have a sip of water instead.
Carry lollipops at first: While you definitely don’t want to go overboard on the candy, some find it helpful to carry a few lollipops with them when the craving strikes. This helps take the mind off the craving and helps to satiate the need to have a cigarette in hand.