Weight Gain after Quitting Smoking: The Best Nutritional Approach

Contributor: Heather Wilk, MA, NCC, clinical team member, MeadowWood Behavioral Health System

Detail of man hikingThe decision to quit smoking is one that is often coupled with a wide range of feelings and emotions. Individuals, especially those who have smoked for a number of years, frequently worry about adjusting to life without cigarettes and preemptively fret about how certain situations or circumstances will impact their ability to not smoke.

These apprehensions, in conjunction to the withdrawal that occurs when an individual quits smoking, are enough to hinder a person in successfully overcoming an addiction to cigarettes.

Even with the ever-present warnings in the media and those provided by medical professionals that smoking causes a number of health concerns that could prove fatal, the hurdles faced by those trying to quit smoking can be enough to trigger the lighting of just one more cigarette.

However, once a person is committed to conquering an addiction to smoking, there are some aftereffects that could still prompt some worry, one of which being the fear of gaining weight.

Smoking as an Appetite Suppressant

Among the many ways smoking cigarettes affects the body, nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco products, possesses the capability of suppressing a person’s appetite and increasing metabolism. When an individual’s appetite is suppressed, he or she may be less inclined to consume more food.

Furthermore, the taste buds on the tongues of smokers and sense of smell are adversely affected such that an individual’s ability to taste and smell certain foods is dulled by the presence of a smoking habit.

The Fear of Weight Gain

watch-397227_640These two influences brought on by smoking are things that could cause weight gain when a person stops smoking and trigger fear of weight gain in those who are contemplating the end of a smoking habit.

Lastly, the oral addiction associated with smoking, or the habitual action of putting a cigarette in one’s mouth and the process of inhaling and exhaling smoke, is one that smokers often have a hard time breaking and could contribute to weight gain when a smoker ends his or her addiction.

The Health Benefits Are Still Significant

Regardless of the fear or apprehensions associated with quitting smoking, ending this type of habit does far more for a person’s health that continuing an addiction to cigarettes. Even if an individual gains a few pounds in the process of quitting smoking, some excess weight is a better alternative than the life-threatening damage that is known to occur when a person is a regular smoker.

Conveying this information, however, may not alleviate the concern for weight gain for a person trying to quit smoking. Nutrition experts, addiction specialists, and medical professionals, alike, agree that adhering to the following suggestions for healthy eating can ultimately prevent weight gain as one embarks on the process of ending an addiction to cigarettes:

Be Mindful of Serving Sizes During Mealtimes

mind, body control - man practicing pilatesWhen a former smoker’s sense of taste and smell return to normal, there is often a desire to consume more food. Sticking with appropriate portions of healthy foods during breakfast, lunch, and dinner can ultimately prevent weight gain.

Find Healthy Snacks

Snacking is not an entirely bad habit to have, however, it is important to snack on healthy foods in moderation rather than reach for a bag of chips, sugary treats, or other foods that could put on excess weight. Such snacks can include nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

Pay Attention to Your Hunger

Pay attention to your own sensations of being hungry and full during mealtimes. The oral addiction and seemingly new senses of taste and smell can cause a person to continue eating long after the individual has had enough to eat. Remaining mindful of this issue can ensure that a person will get enough to eat without overdoing it.

Drink Enough Water

Jumpstart one’s metabolism in a natural way. Nutrition experts agree that drinking enough water, eating some spicy foods, and increasing the protein in one’s diet can increase metabolism.

Adopt an Exercise Routine

Many medical professionals recommend that 20-30 minutes of exercise each day can boost one’s metabolism and improve the functioning of vital organs. Those trying to quit smoking can also reap these benefits and prevent weight gain while learning to adapt to a life without cigarettes.

Smoking Cessation Programs

wheat-582708_640Individuals who feel they require additional assistance in quitting smoking, due to fear pertaining to weight gain, can greatly benefit from a smoking cessation program, as these type of programs can offer guidance, education, resources, and support for how to live a smoke-free life.

Additionally, if a person is struggling with other concerns, such as those associated with other chemical dependency concerns or the symptoms of a mental health condition, more intensive treatment could be required to successfully quit smoking and prevent weight gain.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can care for substance abuse issues and mental health disorder symptoms that also incorporate the importance of living a healthy lifestyle without the burden of a cigarette addiction.

About the Author:

“Weight Gain after Quitting Smoking: The Best Nutritional Approach” was written by MeadowWood Behavioral Health System clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC. Heather has several years of experience working in the field of mental health as a psychotherapist and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Concordia University – Chicago.

About MeadowWood Behavioral Health System:

Situated on 11 private acres, MeadowWood Behavioral Health stands as a leading provider of top-notch psychiatric and chemical dependency services for people of all ages. With a commitment to supplying treatment that has elicited countless success stories for young people and adults alike, that staff of highly-trained professionals administers excellent customer service and cares for each patient’s needs in a truly empathic manner.

Individualized care is the cornerstone of the treatment featured at this center and the primary focus of the programming offered is to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of a mental illness or addiction. Whether a person is young or old, trying to cope with a mental health disorder or overcome an addiction, MeadowWood Behavioral Health System is where long-lasting recovery and healing begins.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 13, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 6, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com