How to quit smoking without gaining weight

If you’re considering quitting smoking, there may be one thing swirling around your mind, “Am I going to gain weight?”. With so many health benefits tied to giving up cigarettes, you don’t want this concern to hold you back. That said, it is a legitimate worry, as there is a chance you’ll put on weight when you quit. In this article, we’ll share why this is as well as what you can do to prevent putting on the pounds so you can live a happy and healthy lifestyle.

What causes weight gain after quitting smoking?

There’s a number of reasons why people gain weight after they stop smoking, including:

  1. Smoking speeds up your metabolism which means you burn more calories quicker.
  2. You may be more tempted to snack after quitting smoking (for example, some ex smokers miss having something in their mouth).
  3. Your craving for nicotine may be mistaken for hunger.
  4. Smoking can leave you with a low appetite, so, when you give up cigarettes, you’ll likely feel hungrier more frequently.
  5. Your sense of taste and smell improves when you quit smoking which may tempt you to eat unhealthy foods.

Top tips on how to quit smoking without putting on weight

1. Exercise, exercise, exercise! 

As your metabolism decreases when you stop smoking, you’re going to need to keep it up by regularly exercising. The NHS recommends that adults should aim to be physically active every day and complete at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activities a week.

There’s many benefits to quitting smoking, one of these is that your lung capacity and cardiovascular health improve. This means that you’ll be better able to workout more frequently and for longer as you’ll become fitter. So, make sure you put all your extra energy to use!

You don’t need to dive into the deep end either. Simply walking to work opposed to catching a bus or attending some exercise classes with a friend at your local sports centre will make a huge difference.

Exercise is important for us for a number of reasons. Learn how to motivate yourself to workout here.

2. Stick to a healthy diet

By eating healthy meals and snacks, you’ll be less likely to gain weight than if you resorted to processed and sugary foods.You should also try to avoid consuming too much alcohol as this can contain a surprising amount of calories. Basically, you want to avoid falling into another bad habit so don’t let your lack of smoking lead you to drinking alcohol or making poor food choices. Try to do the following:

  • Eat smaller portions which satisfy your hunger.
  • Avoid shopping for food on a hungry stomach…you’ll be more tempted to add unhealthy treats to the trolley.
  • Eat healthy snacks such as low fat yoghurt, fruit and vegetables.
  • Try and eat slower as it can take time for your stomach to realise it’s full.
  • Eat regular meals as this can help to boost your metabolism and keep your energy levels up.
  • Enjoy a balanced diet and eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
  • Stick to the recommended calorie intake (this is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 a day for men).

3. Don’t turn to food when you miss having a cigarette in your mouth

Some ex smokers may find that they miss having something to do with their hands and mouth after ditching cigarettes. Food is something that many people may turn to but this could lead to unhealthy eating habits. That said, there is a positive way around this. For instance, if you miss having a cigarette in your mouth, don’t reach for a lollipop or sugary snack, opt for chewing on a vegetable, such as celery, which will keep you busy in a healthier way. You could also consider chewing on a nicotine replacement gum to distract yourself. 

4. Drink plenty of water

Drinking water will help you to stay hydrated and keep you feeling full. It’s recommended that you drink around six to eight glasses of water a day as this helps to replace normal water loss. 

5. Make smarter snacking choices

When you feel hungry between meal times, try to make healthy choices and snack on fruits and vegetables opposed to sugary or junk foods (which can be oh so very tempting). Good snacks include nuts, vegetable sticks (such as carrot, cucumber and celery) and fresh fruits. Foods that are rich in fibre will keep you feeling fuller for longer so you don’t end up eating too much.

Learn more about healthy snacking here

6. Ask yourself whether you’re really hungry 

You could well experience hunger as a withdrawal symptom when you quit smoking. This will pass over time (usually after several weeks) and your eating pattern should eventually return to normal but it’s worth noting that your cravings could also be mistaken for hunger. Before you turn to eating, really try to challenge this feeling to help determine whether it’s simply a craving which will pass. For example, you can consider the last time you ate, what you ate and whether you’ve been doing any physical activities. 

If you don’t learn to manage these feelings of “hunger”, you could be at risk of overeating, which will likely lead to weight gain. 

7. Take your stop smoking medicines regularly 

Stop smoking medicines can be used to help manage your nicotine cravings. You should therefore try and take this regularly so that you can stay focused on your goals. As mentioned above, you may mistake your nicotine cravings for genuine hunger. This means that by suppressing these cravings, you’ll have a better judgement and awareness of what your body really needs.

Coping with your cravings and managing your weight can be challenging at first, but it will get easier as time goes on. Why not take a look at Lisa’s smoke-free journey as she battled weight gain for inspiration?

When does weight gain stop after quitting smoking?

Some research suggests that people can experience weight gain as a result of quitting smoking for up to three years. That said, your personal lifestyle choices are going to have a major impact on weight gain or weight loss. For instance, if you quit smoking but increase the amount of exercise you do alongside sticking to a healthy diet, you can keep the pounds off.

Can you quit smoking without gaining weight?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to not gain weight when you quit smoking.Some people won’t notice any changes to their weight when they quit, but many people do. In fact, according to the NHS, people gain around 11lbs in the year after they quit smoking. If you want to avoid weight-gain, the best thing that you can do is be more active (as your body burns calories much slower after you stop smoking cigarettes).

Final thoughts

Everybody is different, so you may not notice dramatic changes in your weight when you stop smoking, however, it is a possibility. Try to follow the above steps to keep unwanted pounds at bay and remind yourself that quitting smoking will have many health benefits in the long-term. If you’re worried about gaining weight after quitting smoking, you can always contact a healthcare professional (such as our lovely team here at LiveWell Dorset) or your GP who can advise you.

Looking to quit smoking whilst keeping the pounds off?

If you live in Dorset and you’re looking for support to quit smoking whilst maintaining a healthy weight, we’re here to help. Here at LiveWell Dorset, we have a friendly team of professional health advisors and coaches who are ready to work with you so that you can manage your cravings, keep on track and stay healthy. 

So, whether you’re looking to stop smoking or lose weight, you can learn more about the services we offer by contacting us or registering here.

You can also get involved in the #YourMove campaign to keep any unwanted weight off as you quit smoking. Find out how to join others in being more active here.


"The LiveWell team are amazing. Every time I speak to them, they are so helpful. Having someone on the end of the phone is an amazing boost."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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