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Can I Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight?

Por Ana C. López, Nutrition Counselor, MyDiet™ -
Can I Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight?

Weight gain is a common problem in people trying to quit smoking. However, is it inevitable? What causes this weight gain? 

According to the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at the University of South Florida, four out of five people who quit smoking gain weight. However, most get back to their normal weight after a few months.

It’s important to remember that the benefits of smoking cessation far exceed the risks of moderate weight gain.

What causes weight gain?

Several factors are responsible for weight gain during smoking cessation:

  • Nicotine increases/accelerates metabolism while suppressing appetite.  However, this is not a healthy way of burning calories. The term "metabolism" refers to the energy the body needs to perform its vital functions. When you stop smoking, your metabolism and your appetite are normalized, and this can lead to weight gain.
  • An increased appetitecan be part of the withdrawal syndromeexperienced by those trying to quit smoking. Even food preferences can change (for example, if you didn’t like  sweets before, maybe now you’ll get  cravings for sweets in the middle of the afternoon.). If this increased appetite leads you to eat more sweets and fatty foods, you’ll be at greater risk of gaining weight.
  • Tobacco alters your taste and smell.  Therefore, with smoking cessation you may experience greater sensitivity to the smell and taste of foods, and this can increase your appetite.
  • Replacing tobacco with alcohol.  Alcohol is very high in “empty” calories (it provides you with a lot of calories, but little or no nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals), and it has other adverse health effects. Some people increase their alcoholic intake when trying to quit smoking and this can be a risk to both your health and your weight.
  • The need to have something in your mouth ("oral gratification").  This is due to the habit of having a cigarette in your hands or mouth.
  • Anxiety or stress.  Many people tend to smoke every time they’re anxious or under  stress. After quitting, this behavior is often replaced with eating.

How can I prevent it? 

  • Watch your diet.  Without a doubt, we gain weight whenever we eat more than we need. The best thing you can do is get a personalized diet plan,along with nutrition counseling, based on your characteristics and requirements.
  • Plan your meals.To regulate your appetite, try to have regular meal times and avoid  skipping meals. 
  • Limit foods that are high in fat and/or sugar.These foods are higher in calories, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll satisfy your hunger. Choose low-fat, low-calorie, and sugar-free options, and stay away from fried foods and sweets.
  • Choose your snacks wisely.If you need to chew something, try sugar-free gum, sugar-free Jell-O, or celery and carrot sticks with lemon juice.
  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.Try to make these foods your priority (for example, eat the salad before the entree and eat fruits as desserts or snacks).
  • Use artificial sweetenersinstead of sugar and eat sugar-free candies if you’re craving something sweet.
  • Get moving!  Exercise will not only help you burn calories, but it will also boost your metabolism in a healthy way (and this may offset the previously mentioned side effect of smoking cessation on your metabolism). In addition, exercise can suppress appetite while reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Keep a journalto write down what you eat and how you feel each day. This will help you maintain a better control of both your diet and your emotions.

To achieve a  goal, the most important thing is to keep it in sight. Keep in mind how your health, your look and your body (nails, teeth, skin, hair, etc.) will benefit from quitting smoking, and soon you’ll feel renewed and with more energy than ever. 

Source:

Cancer Center and Research Institute (2000).  Smoking and Weight. Updated on April, 2009 from http://www.smokefree.gov/pubs/FFree3.pdf 

 

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