According to a JAMA Network study in 2022, up to 50% of smokers attempt to quit in any given year. However, certain side effects of quitting — such as post-smoking-cessation weight gain (PSCWG) — can deter many from quitting. In 2021, research published in Pub Med reported significant weight and BMI gains among adults who quit smoking, ranging from 2.2 lbs to 22 lbs. This is attributed to former smokers missing out on the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine reduces body weight in smokers by suppressing appetite and food consumption and slowing down the body’s metabolic rate.
Even though PSCWG can seem inevitable, certain lifestyle changes and habits can help your weight management post-quitting. In this article, we’ll look at four ways to manage your weight gain after you quit smoking:
Easing out of quitting
According to insights from the Truth Initiative, 95% of smokers who quit cold turkey don’t succeed for longer than six months. Aside from inducing withdrawal symptoms, quitting cold turkey can also result in a heightened chance of gaining weight.
Findings from the smoking cessation program at Thomas Jefferson University emphasize that because cigarettes activate your metabolism, quitting abruptly leaves your body with extra calories that lead to weight gain. Instead, taking it slow by using NRT products to ease your smoking habit can help improve your weight management post-cessation.
This is because NRT products — such as nicotine pouches, patches, and gums — offer low-dose nicotine to users so they can eventually reduce or quit nicotine entirely. The spearmint flavored ZYN nicotine pouches are smokeless, spitless, and discreet nicotine alternatives, allowing you to use them almost anywhere.
The spearmint flavoring may also promote weight loss by suppressing hunger and aiding digestion. These pouches are also gluten- and lactose-free, containing less than 1% calorie per pouch and using pharmaceutical-grade nicotine salt instead of table salt, preventing weight gain.
Other nicotine alternatives will also help you ease your smoking habit without triggering withdrawal symptoms. Smoking cessation brands like Nicorette offer nicotine gum, lozenges, and mini lozenges that help people quit smoking by gradually reducing their exposure to nicotine. Similarly, non-oral alternatives like NicoDerm CQ — Nicorette’s nicotine patch — are alternatives designed to help people quit smoking without going cold turkey.
Drinking more water
Drinking more water also helps you stay smoke-free after quitting without adding to your weight. According to the 2021 Clinical Nutrition study “Baseline drinking water consumption and changes in body weight and waist circumference at 2-years of follow-up in a senior Mediterranean population,” water helps speed up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories at rest and during activity. Drinking water is also doubly beneficial for smokers: MedicineNet explains water can flush the toxic chemicals from cigarettes out of the body. By doing so, it relieves uncomfortable symptoms caused by smoking withdrawals — like headaches — so you feel less tempted to smoke as time goes on.
Staying hydrated helps you perform tasks more efficiently. On the other hand, being thirsty can lead to a higher food intake and, subsequently, an increase in weight gain. Drinking more water can also help you exercise easier and allows your body to burn calories and fat more efficiently than without water.
Exercising regularly can also help build a routine to distract you from smoking withdrawal symptoms and other smoking urges. In fact, exercise has been shown to prevent smoking cessation-induced weight gain. The National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree website highlights the importance of exercise and physical activity in reducing smoking urges and strengthening your heart and lungs. Additionally, exercise also decreases appetite, helping limit post-cessation weight gain. Even short periods of aerobic exercise like walking and cycling can help manage stress and physical energy to keep urges at bay.
You can also ask or invite friends and loved ones to exercise with you. This helps keep you motivated, and having a friend with you also acts as an accountability buddy if you get urges to smoke outdoors.
Adopting a healthier diet
Finally, adjusting your dietary habits can go a long way in managing weight gain after smoking cessation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must adopt restrictive diet regimens or become a vegetarian if you don’t want to. Instead, focus on eating more mindfully and being aware of the nutrients your body needs. In our previous post by health writer Steve Calvert, he discusses the health benefits of Vitamin E and how it can help weight loss. Vitamin E helps lower “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, reducing inflammation. Vitamin E also stimulates feelings of fullness that help reduce food intake.
Foods like sunflower seeds and peanuts are high in Vitamin E and can make for great, healthy snacks that won’t significantly impact your weight while keeping your mouth busy to distract from smoking.