Do you always gain weight when you quit smoking?

By author photo Jenny Craig Team


Gaining weight after quitting smoking is something that concerns many when making decisions about quitting smoking. However, people who quit smoking have very different experiences, ranging from losing weight, seeing no difference in weight and those who gain a small amount of weight. The good news is that research shows the average weight of people who quit smoking is no different to people who have never smoked over the long term.

For those that do gain some weight, the average amount of weight gain is around 4-5 kilograms and most of this happens in the first 3 months post quitting.

Why do we gain weight when we quit smoking?

  • Replacing a habit – smokers may miss having something in their hand or the hand to mouth action and replace it with eating snacks.

  • Using food as comfort if feeling down or anxious.

  • Using food as a reward when making progress and achieving goals with their quitting efforts.

  • Food becomes more appealing – after quitting smoking and the senses improve, food can start to taste and smell much better.

  • The effect of nicotine on the body:

    • Nicotine slightly increases the body’s metabolism, so when you quit metabolism returns to normal.

    • Nicotine withdrawal can also increase feelings of hunger.

How to not gain weight after quitting smoking?

  • Keep active – think about increasing your activity regime and include resistance activities at least two days a week to help boost metabolism.

  • Have lots of healthy snacks on hand when you’re looking to put something in your mouth. Keep lots of fruit and cut up veggies handy. You could also try sugar free gum.

  • Eat mindfully and listen to your body. Take the time before you eat to tune in and decide if it’s real hunger or cravings caused by nicotine withdrawal. Take your time when eating.

  • Fill your body with nutritious food that will keep you feeling full – eat lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains as well as drinking plenty of water.

Even though quitting smoking can lead to weight gain for some, the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the small amount of weight gain you may experience.

Aubin HJ, Farley A, Lycett D, Lahmek P, Aveyard P 2012, ‘Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis’, BMJ, vol. 345, e4439
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