Quit Smoking & Gain Weight: Myth or Reality?

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You want to stop smoking but you are worried about gaining weight? That’s normal! During years, ads praised the appetite-suppressant effect of tobacco, associating cigarette with dream figure.

Half the truth is useless, only the whole truth is worth telling

Stefan Zweig

These are maybe not misleading advertising, but the information is however incomplete. The nicotine contained in cigarettes slows down significantly the fat storage and thus reduces appetite. It also increases the number of burned calories from 7% to 15%. According to an American study, smokers weigh around 3 kilos less than non-smokers.[1] This same study points out that people in smoking cessation gain in average 6 to 10 pounds.

But is nicotine the only responsible for this weight gain?

Specialists in Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies have proved that other factors have to be taken into consideration in the analysis of weight gain in period of smoking cessation. Among those, the recovery of taste and smell senses that occurs 48 to 72 hours after the last cigarette. The ex-smoker rediscovers forgotten tastes and therefore tends to become more greedy. The cigarette after meals or during the coffee break is thus quickly replaced by a desert or a snack. Researchers also remind of the anxiolytic effects of food that reduce the craving sensation and comforts the ex-smoker.

So then, myth or reality?

Weight gain is not unavoidable and differs from a person to another. A study relayed by the British Medical Journal (BMJ)[2] revealed that there are statistically more chances for an ex-smoker to see his or her weight stabilize or even reduce, than to gain 10 kilos. It is also necessary to highlight that around a third of people who stop smoking do not gain any weight![3]

Advice

  • Take time to identify your smoking triggers. For each trigger, think about how you can overcome it, so that you are prepared and don't give in when the craving hits. For instance, plan something you can do during these moments. The urge to smoke lasts approximately 5 minutes. By staying busy, you reduce the risk of wanting to eat.
  • It is possible to replace your cigarette with a healthy snack, if this one is in reasonable quantity. According to a study, some food such as fruits can make cigarettes taste worse and reduces the risk of relapse because it gives an unpleasant taste to tobacco.[4] Also keep in mind that you will take more time to eat an apple than a higher-calorie cake.
  • Take your time during the meals, you rediscover the taste of food, enjoy this new sense. By eating more slowly, you allow yourself enough time to experience satiety and you will not eat more than necessary.
  • Forget about drinking too much sodas and other sweet drinks, drink simply water.
  • The urge to smoke is particularly strong during the first three days following the cessation day. In order not to turn towards food as soon as the temptation begins to be too strong, try to sleep a lot to let your body and your soul rest. Keep in mind that when you sleep, you do not eat!
  • Don’t forget to please yourself! The week has been particularly tough and you need motivation? Go to your favorite bakery and allow yourself a pastry. As long as this stays occasional, it is absolutely fine to eat sweet foods.
  • However, to prevent sweet food from becoming your new addiction, do not buy cakes or chocolate bars. The less you have in your kitchen cupboard, the less you risk to yield to the temptation of eating when the urge of smoking comes.
— Marine B.
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