Weight gain that follows the decision to quit smoking is due to the denial of nicotine to the body that has so far acted as an appetite suppressant.
The first six months after smoking cessation is the crucial period in which smokers must view weight management seriously.
People tend to over-eat due to increased levels of appetite. Nicotine is also responsible for making food tasteless.
Food becomes tastier when you quit smoking which becomes another reason for gaining weight.
However, weight gain need not be a deterrent for smokers to get rid of their addiction, if the following simple precautionary measures are adopted.
Are hunger pangs really part of withdrawal symptoms?
A smoker needs to distinguish properly between a nicotine pang and a hunger pang. This is because it is difficult to distinguish the two.
What the body is craving for might actually be nicotine and not food, but since smokers are off nicotine, they tend to satisfy the same by over-eating.
This is how people end up gaining even 30 to 40 pounds during the quit-smoking stage.
- Eating when one is not genuinely hungry leads to obesity. Also nicotine pangs may strike even at late nights. Eating late is a significant cause of weight gain.
- The elements of stress and anxiety that are caused due to nicotine withdrawal are often managed by over-eating, since smokers find the hand-mouth coordination action that resembles smoking, in eating.
- There is a small decrease in metabolic rates, when nicotine intake is stopped. If left unchecked and if the extra calories are not burnt effectively, weight gain cannot be avoided.
- When you quit smoking, your serotonin levels are decreased. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that keeps body and mind happy and relaxed. As tension and anxiety increase, so do carbohydrate cravings, leading to weight gain.
Understanding the above hard facts will make it clear that there is no proven and direct reason for smokers to gain weight when they quit smoking.
They must fight the withdrawal symptoms by resisting them and not by following a fatty diet.
Seeking advice from a nutritionist or a dietician and developing a portion management and calorie reduction plan will help gauge weight increase soon after one quits smoking.
Indulge in a fitness regime
It is true that smoking increases metabolism, but it is only a very slight increase.
There is no reason for smokers to feel alarmed that nicotine cessation will slow down metabolism to such low rates that abnormal weight gain might follow.
The increase in metabolism when one smokes is due to the dangerous reason of the bloodstream getting clogged, resulting in increased heart rate and blood pressure.
One can easily make up for the slight decline in metabolism by
- Engaging in physical activities that can improve metabolism rates in a healthy way, unlike cigarettes. Brisk walking in the morning, swimming, cycling are some examples.
- Take up a new sports activity like badminton, basket ball or tennis, that can keep both your body and mind occupied. Sports also infuse discipline in daily life and can streamline eating habits.
- Burn those calories by avoiding bus or train and walking to work instead. Walk your pet, take the stairs instead of the lift and participate as often as possible in community marathons.
Reorganize your diet, the healthier way
Eating three heavy meals a day has become a concept of the past. Eating a light, healthy
Essentially, your diet during the smoking cessation phase must consist of:-
- A combination of carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins and not a carbohydrate-laden meal. Intervene starchy breakfast or lunch with a generous measure of green vegetables, fruits and legumes.
- Avoid those fat-rich salad dressings or sandwich spreads. Dessert time is the time when people tend to consume maximum calories. Sweets deep-fried in oil or fat, ice-creams, sugary milkshakes, cakes and chocolates must be avoided.
- Eating once in 4 to 5 hours in limited quantities will avoid hunger pangs, during which most smokers over eat. It is also advisable to time your dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
- Most smokers have the habit of skipping breakfast, since they used to smoking soon as they wake up. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and must never be skipped. Avoid sugary cups of coffee since caffeine intake might give that jittery feel when you quit smoking.
- Remember to brush your teeth at nights and to cleanse with a mouthwash after every meal, so that fresh breath can keep you off cigarettes.
Watch out those in-between quick eats
In addition to keeping a strict watch over your main diet, weight gain creeps in, taking advantage of unhealthy snacks consumed in-between meals.
- Win over the tea-time sugar rush, by substituting cookies and cakes with low-calorie soy-milk products, digestive biscuits, sprouted pulses and so on.
- Substitute those fried fritters with salads and nutrition bars; coffee with herbal green tea.
- In most cases, unhealthy snacks are easily available in coffee bars and fast-food joints, while healthy and homemade snacks may be out-of-reach when people are at work. Stock on plenty of Ziploc bags that can enable you carry salads, fresh fruits and dried nuts in right portions. Have them handy, whether you are at work or play.
- To manage those quick and unannounced food cravings, chew on sugar-free gums, mints, fruits and nuts.
- At home, stock up your kitchen cupboards with healthy and organic food substances so that you do not run out of stock on health essentials. Buying a fruit-peeler, vegetable shredder, juice-maker, microwave oven and a sprouts-maker are worthwhile investments that can be planned well in advance to quit smoking without weight gain.
Hydrate yourself regularly
There are a number of health benefits that accrue to people who are anxious over weight gain, after they put an end to cigarettes and tobacco products.
They must drink plenty of fresh and clean water that can help them cleanse the internal biological system.
- Detoxifying the body from the poisonous remains of nicotine traces is the greatest advantage of drinking water regularly.
- Drinking as much as 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, will have a calming effect on nerves and the brain. This prepares the brain to fight withdrawal symptoms better.
- Water helps to avoid intake of coffee, carbonated drinks, high calorie sodas and sweet juices, so that smokers can effectively concentrate on their smoking cessation goals without the concern of additional inches to your waistline. Drinking water before a meal also helps in reducing calorie intake.
- It is an established fact that it is possible to fight food cravings better by indulging in swimming in a pool or in cold springs, hot shower and baths, a pedicure in warm water etc. Sometimes, even staying close to the sound of rippling water will soothe the mind and help in resisting the urge to smoke or consume fast food.
- Drinking from a corked water bottle includes hand-mouth coordination that can help manage nicotine pangs better.
Engage in productive hobbies
Smokers find themselves standing up not against cigarettes, but against nicotine addiction. When they stop smoking, they find a sense of loneliness embrace them, as though they have lost a close friend.
Substituting this isolation and separation with food is the commonest reason for weight gain. Smokers can do well by substituting them with productive hobbies as under:
- Mindful mediation can help smokers find better ways to keep their mind occupied. Inner peace is a powerful weapon both against smoking and weight gain.
- Drawing and Knitting. Tactical activities like these help to keep hands and fingers busy. By timing them well before the food cravings strike, it is possible to reduce intake of unhealthy food.
- Trekking and mountain climbing. Besides being excellent ways to keep your body in shape, exposing body to the natural environment will spruce up depressed souls. Do not be a couch-potato on holidays and offs. Watching television while dipping into a big bag of chips will not help in weight loss. Have a well-planned physical activity plan in place. Waking up a few hours before sunrise will give ample time to manage your schedule for both exercise and diet.
- Spending time with the aged. Try this out instead of hanging around with a gang of smokers who can induce peer pressure to smoke and over-eat. Take time to walk with the aged, listen to their concerns and running errands for them. Physical activities like these will keep a watch over your weight.
It is important to understand that the weight-gain during abstinence from smoking is short-lived.
Smokers must first remain focused on their quit-smoking plans and address weight gain later, since weight gain can easily be brought under control by exercising the above methods.
These methods cannot be used in isolation since weight management is a healthy combination of diet, exercise and habits.