So, You’ve Decided to Quit Smoking

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD

78396943The decision to stop smoking is one of the best actions you can take to improve your health. You may be concerned about gaining weight, but try not to worry about it as you quit. Focus on stopping smoking first, and then continue to improve your health in other ways.

Will I gain weight if I stop smoking?

Not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. Among people who do, the average weight gain is less than 10 pounds. Roughly 10 percent of people who stop smoking gain a large amount of weight—as much as 30 pounds.

What causes weight gain after quitting?

When smokers quit, they may gain weight for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Feeling hungry. Quitting smoking may make you feel hungrier and eat more than usual, but this feeling usually goes away after several weeks.
  • Having more snacks and alcoholic drinks. Some people eat more high-fat, high-sugar snacks and drink more alcoholic beverages after they quit smoking.
  • Burning calories at a normal rate again. Every cigarette you smoke makes your body burn calories faster, but is also harmful to your heart. Once you quit, you are no longer getting this temporary effect. Instead, you are burning slightly fewer calories on a daily basis.

Can I avoid weight gain?

Physical activity and a healthy eating plan may help you control your weight. In addition, being physically active may ease withdrawal symptoms after you quit and help reduce the chances of relapsing after quitting.

While it is a good idea to be physically active and eat healthy foods as you quit smoking, try not to worry about your weight. It’s usually easier to quit first and focus on controlling your weight when you are smoke-free! Plus, your health will be a lot better if you quit, even if you gain a few pounds.

To lower your chances of gaining weight when you stop smoking:

  • Accept yourself, and that quitting smoking is the right thing to do.
  • Get regular, moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Limit snacking and alcohol.
  • Consider using medicines to help you quit.
  • Consider getting professional advice about weight control.

If you gain a few pounds when you quit, do not dwell on it. Instead, feel proud that you are improving your health. Quitting smoking may make you feel better in many ways.

Quitting smoking may help you have:

  • More energy
  • Whiter teeth
  • Fresher breath, and fresher smelling clothes and hair
  • Fewer wrinkles and healthier-looking skin
  • A clearer voice

 Ideas for being active every day

  • Use your lunch break to walk around and stretch, or take a walk after dinner.
  • Sign up for a class such as dance or yoga. Ask a friend to join you.
  • Get off the bus one stop early if you are in an area safe for walking.
  • Park the car farther away from entrances to stores, movie theaters, or your home.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sure the stairs are well lit.

Tips for healthy eating while you quit

  • Do not go too long without eating. Being very hungry may lead to less healthy food choices.
  • Choose healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in its own juices,  air-popped popcorn, or plain yogurt when you are hungry between meals.
  • Eat enough at meals to satisfy you, but try not to overeat.
  • Eat slowly so you can pick up on your body’s signals that you are full.
  • Do not deny yourself an occasional treat. If you crave ice cream, enjoy a small serving, which is 1/2 cup.
  • Choose an herbal tea, hot cocoa made with dark chocolate, or sparkling water instead of an alcoholic beverage.

Medicines that may help you quit smoking

  • Nicotine replacement therapy, including the patch, gum, lozenges, nasal spray, and inhales. The patch, lozenges, and gum are available without a prescription from your healthcare provider. Nasal sprays and inhalers require a prescription.
  • Antidepressant medicines – some medicines that are used to treat depression can also help you stop smoking. This has nothing to do with whether you are depressed or not. To get these medicines you’ll need a prescription from your healthcare provider.

 Health risks of smoking

  • Cancer. Smoking greatly increases your risk for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Smoking is also linked to cancer of the esophagus, larynx, kidney, pancreas, and cervix.
  • Other health problems. Smoking increases your risk for lung disease and heart disease. In pregnant women, smoking is linked to premature birth, babies with low birth weight, and delivery complications.

By quitting smoking, you are taking a big step towards improving your health. Instead of worrying about weight gain, focus on quitting. Once you are tobacco-free, you can work toward having a healthy weight for life by becoming more physically active and choosing healthier foods.


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