When we smoke, our metabolism is falsely revved up by nicotine and all the other chemicals ingested with each drag. Our hearts beat faster and we burn more calories as our bodies struggle to maintain an optimal level of oxygenation. Our appetite is also suppressed, causing us to take in fewer calories.
When we quit smoking, the body slows down because it doesn't have to work as hard to get oxygen to the organs and extremities. Our appetite also returns and, if we aren't careful, these changes can result in weight gain. Of course, a slower heartbeat is a very good thing and gaining a little weight is a small price to pay for the possibility of living a longer, healthier life.
Studies have shown that weight gain in the first months after quitting is minimal for most people. An average gain of five pounds after one year is typical of successful quitters, according to a study conducted by the University of California. There were no reported differences in weight gain between the men and women in this particular study, although other studies have shown that women tend to gain more weight than men after quitting smoking.
Those who worry less about gaining weight tend to gain the least amount weight. They are also most successful at quitting, perhaps because they eat healthier and have a more positive body image. Below are some tips to help minimize weight gain after you quit smoking.
- Drinks lots of water to cleanse your system; sip water during meals.
- Find a way to end meals that doesn't involve high-calorie desserts (eat some fruit, take a walk, brush your teeth, do the dishes).
- To help with portion control, use smaller plates.
- Take small bites and eat slowly - try to be the last person finished eating
- Don't worry as much about eating less food as about eating healthier foods.
- Use a journal to write about your feelings when you find yourself eating to soothe your emotions.
- Don't skip meals - letting yourself get too hungry can make you overeat later.
- Relax and be good to yourself (try to worry more about not smoking than staying slim).
Remember that gaining a little weight after quitting smoking is perfectly normal. Your body is getting healthy again and gaining those few extra pounds could help you stay quit for good. Be forgiving of yourself and don't try to be perfect. The most important thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. You can worry about losing those extra pounds after you have some quit-time under your belt.