How to Avoid Excessive Weight Gain When Attempting to Stop Smoking


Whether you stop smoking cold turkey or through nicotine replacement or using any other method, you’re going to gain weight. No one wants to hear that, but you need to be aware of it and accept it. Just about everyone who quits will gain a few pounds.

These pounds come from increased water retention mainly due to physiological changes. The good news is that your water retention should return normal within two weeks.

Unfortunately, many people gain more than a few pounds when they quit smoking. This is due to two main reasons:

1. Food as a nicotine substitute

Nicotine induces a flood of dopamine to the brain which creates a pleasurable feeling. A mouthful of food will also release dopamine, albeit a smaller amount. For this reason, many people will use food as a substitute for nicotine. You want to avoid this at all costs.

You may have heard the advice to eat something healthy when a craving hits.

  • First of all, reaching for a piece of celery when you really want a large piece of chocolate is perhaps even harder than not smoking, especially when you are in the midst of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Second, the last thing you want to do is to train your subconscious to respond to your triggers with a food craving. You don’t want to crave anything; you want to remove the triggers altogether. You do not want to replace one craving with the other.

2. The after-dinner cigarette

The second reason many people gain additional weight is the smoke most of us used to enjoy at the end of a meal. It signaled the end of the meal, told us to stop eating and to feel full. Without this cue, we may continue to eat even after our meal would usually be over.

I suggest paying attention to the amount of food you eat during each meal for the first week or so after quitting. If you find that you are eating more, stop immediately! Gaining a lot of weight will give you an excuse to resume smoking. Obviously, that is unacceptable.

You might try to find a new cue to signal the end of a meal–just make sure it’s a harmless one.

  • You could start using a toothpick after each meal or brush your teeth or go for a walk or even just take a deep breath.
  • Even before quitting, I always got up and immediately washed my dishes after a meal, so I never had a problem with this. You could do that as well.

While gaining a few pounds is unavoidable when attempting to stop smoking, take heart in knowing that those few pounds are temporary. Any additional weight gain can be avoided, meaning that you cannot use fears about your weight as a reason to continue smoking. So finish that last pack and stop smoking today!



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