Avoid Weight Gain When You Quit Smoking
Edited by Grimm, Dougie, Donna, Eng and 2 others
This guide is part of our series of articles on improving and maintaining your health and wellness.
- 1 Understand Weight Gain When You Quit Smoking
- 2 Food Alternatives to Cigarettes to Help You Quit Smoking
- 3 Tips and Suggestions on Weight Gain and Smoking
- 4 Article Citations and References for Smoking Weight Gain
- 5 Questions and Answers
- 6 Comments
Understand Weight Gain When You Quit Smoking
Smoking tricks the body into unhealthy patterns, and rewards it for not eating.
Few people understand the real reasons behind smoking and not being overweight. If they did, a lot less people would smoke, and a lot more people would maintain a healthy weight.
Your body and brain use oxygen and sugar as a fuel. For a normal healthy person, oxygen enters the body through breathing, and sugar by eating. However, it takes the body about 20 minutes to release sugar into the blood stream after eating. That's why most people start to feel full about 20 minutes into a meal. People who eat fast, or don't observe portion control, often gain weight because they eat until they feel full.
Smokers don't usually have this problem, because nicotine tricks the body into releasing stored fats and sugar in a matter of seconds. What this means is that a few quick puffs of a cigarette can kill a person's appetite and cravings for sugary foods. This lets people who smoke often skip lunch or go all the way until dinner without eating anything, and still feel fine.
In simple terms, the hypothalamus is satisfied by the sugar and fats released through the use of nicotine, and lets the body know that everything is fine. In fact, everything isn't fine, but since nothing feels particularly wrong to a smoker, they don't worry. Their body adapts to the new routine, and stops regulating sugar levels, allowing nicotine to regulate it instead. It isn't until a person quits smoking that this becomes a real issue.
Weight Gain When Quitting Smoking Can Be Managed
Cravings are hardwired into your brain as a part of the nicotine addiction you've been battling.
When someone quits smoking, their body has an adjustment period of about three days while it learns how to regulate things without the help of nicotine. During this time the brain is also trying to develop new neural pathways to regulate itself without the help of nicotine. Overcoming nicotine cravings is key to quitting smoking, but requires time, as the brain builds new networks that don't rely on nicotine. Scientifically, it's quite simple, but for the person quitting, it's very unpleasant.
The body suddenly has more oxygen than it has had available in years, but blood sugar levels are low. Since the body was relying on nicotine to regulate blood sugar levels, it needs to relearn how to regulate blood sugar levels without nicotine. As a result, a smoker who quits will often end up eating non-stop for a full 20 minutes when a craving hits. Then, when their body gets the rush of blood sugar, the smoker feels better, and associates eating a lot with feeling better.
In reality, they could usually have eaten much less, and achieved the same results. Unfortunately, few plans geared towards quitting smoking place enough emphasis on this important detail. As a result, too many smokers are left on their own, battling nicotine withdrawals and overwhelming cravings. It doesn't have to be that way though.
Portion Control Limits Weight Gain When Quitting Smoking
Measured meals and snacks limit the amount you eat, and let you control weight gain.
Keeping several measured portions of snacks on hand can keep a smoker who is quitting smoking from gaining too much weight. This is because it lets them eat small snacks throughout the day to manually regulate their blood sugar levels. This way, they keep a more balanced blood sugar level while quitting, but don't gain weight through excessive eating.
Since they know in advance that they will have to wait 20 minutes after eating for their blood sugar levels to normalize, they can much more easily cope with cravings. This lets them observe portion control, eating a little, and then waiting for their body to normalize itself, rather than gorging themselves for the entire 20 minutes. This portion control is a key element to managing weight.
By distributing the intake of food over the course of a day, rather than at the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner mealtimes, you're able to better control your blood sugar levels. As more people become aware of the direct link between nicotine and blood sugar, more and more of them are using this technique to help them quit smoking and combat the associated weight gain.
It's also important to remember that weight gain is just one of the 15 side effects you can experience when you quit smoking. Part of the reason people aware of this still gain weight when they quit is because sometimes it's just too much to manage. The combination of cravings and the other side effects of quitting smoking without losing focus on actually quitting can be overwhelming.
Food Alternatives to Cigarettes to Help You Quit Smoking
- Bubble Gum: Many people find that chewing gum helps them curb their nicotine cravings. It's not the best solution, but it works for many people. As an added bonus, bubble gum flavored breath is much more appealing than ash tray breath.
- Carrot Sticks: These are a healthy snack that's easy to prepare, and will occupy your hands and mouth. They can be cut small enough to resemble the shape of cigarettes too, which is a good way to help recondition your mind to trigger cravings for something other than nicotine and cigarettes.
- Cinnamon Sticks. Like carrot sticks, these are similar in shape to cigarettes. They also give a feeling not unlike that of holding a cigarette, and they can be sucked on, or chewed on, as you prefer. Cinnamon sticks have a great many uses and health benefits, and should be seriously considered as an aid to help control nicotine cravings and quit smoking.
- Lollipops: These are a great way to occupy both hands and mouth, however, the sugar will contribute to weight gain, and can damage your teeth. Many people find that lollipops work for them, because the feeling is close enough to that of having cigarette in the mouth. Just make sure you take good care of your teeth and watch your weight if you choose this method.
- Popcorn: The crunchiness and taste of popcorn make it an easy snack to use when trying to distract yourself or take the edge off a particularly intense nicotine craving. As an added bonus, popcorn is part of a whole grain diet, and can help with other conditions, such as helping to get rid of vocal nodules for singers.
- Sunflower or Watermelon Seeds (in the shell): We've already discussed the fact that the time between when you eat something, and when the sugars enter the blood stream is about 20 minutes. Because of that, eating slowly is important. However, it's not always easy to eat slowly. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds in the shell are great for this. They take time to open and eat, plus, you have the added benefit of seeing how much you've eaten based on the large or small pile of seed shells. As an added bonus, you can also fill your own home made bird feeders with some of your seeds, and snack on the rest while enjoying the relaxing pastime of watching birds.
Tips and Suggestions on Weight Gain and Smoking
- One of the best foods to snack on when trying to quit smoking is natural sunflower seeds. This is because they are in a shell, which means you need to crack the shell to eat them. Since the nuts are small, you'll eat less, and take more time eating them, than you will with other snacks.
- An alternative to sunflower seeds is pistachios, which are usually open, but not shelled. The shells of the pistachios are a secondary indicator to how much we've consumed, and can help us manage portion control.
- Snacks should be healthy, and not junk calories like you'd get from candy or soda.
- Avoid diet drinks, and stick to water if possible. Anything you eat or drink is going to take 20 minutes to enter the bloodstream as a sugar. If you can choose between a healthy snack and an empty diet drink, always choose the healthy snack, and wash it down with some healthy water.
Article Citations and References for Smoking Weight Gain
The following articles, government sites, and medical journals were used in this guide.
- American Cancer Society
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Drug Abuse (NIH)
- Healthy Canadians
- Kids Health
- National Cancer Institute
- National Health Service (NHS)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Queen Victoria Quit Org
- Smoke Free
Questions and Answers
Is it true that eating sugar can help you quit smoking?
Although sugar is an addiction too, I have heard that eating sweet things can help you get through the withdrawal part of quitting smoking and that you can deal with any weight gain from quitting smoking later.. I have tried: I have tried nicotine gum and it didn't work.. I think it was caused by: Nicotine made me feel awake and perky and so does sugar so I am craving it when I do not smoke.
One of the withdrawal symptoms is craving for sugar, but it is suggested to chew sugarless chewing gum instead. You may give up smoking with sugar, but you will have a weight problem afterwards that is hard to battle as well, which may lead you back into smoking. You may still add a teaspoon or two of sugar to your morning, and only in the morning, decaffeinated (this is important to avoid caffeine) coffee.
Keep a basket full of fruits next to you at all times. When you crave for a cigarette, take one fruit out of the basket or chew a sugarless chewing gum. Nicotine dependency will demand your organism to refill itself with calories. To overcome this, eat several small meals throughout the day: having one meal every one-two hour is a good idea, including oats, apples, and nuts in the diet. Try not to use a blender to prepare food and chop your food instead: your organism may be tricked into demanding more calories that way. This diet advice will help you achieve a better effect than eating sugar whenever you crave for a smoke.
Categories : Health & Wellness
Recent edits by: VisiHow, Eng, Donna