Kicking the smoking habit is one of the healthiest choices you can make—and with the New Year just one month away, a whole lot of people are contemplating quitting right now. Trouble is, in addition to symptoms like frustration and irritability, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and occasionally intense cravings to light up, smoking cessation can also lead to weight gain.
There are several factors that can contribute to weight gain after kicking the smoking habit. Replacing “emotional smoking” with “emotional eating,” seeking the comfort of food to escape the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal symptoms, substituting one hand-to-mouth habit for another, and discovering that food begins to taste better after quitting smoking are just a few of these factors.
Of course, understanding how quitting smoking contributes to weight gain is the easy part. The challenge is figuring out what steps to take in order to prevent the pounds from piling on.
Here are several suggestions that will help minimize weight gain once you’ve made the commitment to kick the habit:
You’re reading Healthy Living News, so you knew a plug for exercise would be in here somewhere. The simple fact is, exercise is the best way to rev up your metabolism, take the edge off those cravings, and compensate for the extra calories you may be taking in after quitting smoking. But you don’t have to exercise as if you’re training for a triathlon. A brisk, 30-minute walk on the treadmill or around your neighborhood each day is all you need to do.
Stock up on healthy snacks
As long as you’re grabbing the right types of food, snacking can be a good thing. Rid your fridge, freezer, and pantry of high-calorie, low-nutrition temptations, such as soda, chips, ice cream, cookies, and candy bars, and replace them with healthier options, such as herbal tea, carrot or celery sticks, frozen grapes, fresh fruit slices, nuts, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
Also, be sure to drink ample quantities of water. Not only does drinking water help reduce the craving to smoke and satisfy the urge to put hand to mouth, but it also helps flush toxins from your system and makes you feel full without adding any calories. For a little flavor and zest, add some fresh lemon to your water.
Skip the spirits
Drinking alcoholic beverages can be tricky for those trying to kick the smoking habit while preventing weight gain. For one thing, many smokers are habituated to lighting up whenever they drink, so partaking—especially early on—puts them at greater risk of relapsing. Moreover, alcohol tends to be loaded with empty calories.
Identify your urges
Smokers tend to translate every impulse or emotion into an urge to light up, and once they quit smoking, it’s easy to start translating feelings into hunger. When you feel an urge overtaking you, ask yourself what you’re actually feeling. Just like your smoking cravings, your “hunger pangs” might actually be completely unrelated impulses—such as fatigue, boredom, anxiety, or anger—that shouldn’t be satisfied through eating.
Weight gain is not inevitable!
The good news for smokers who are in the process of quitting or planning to quit is that weight gain after smoking cessation is not a foregone conclusion. The key to preventing it is, first, recognizing that weight gain can coincide with quitting and, second, taking simple steps to modestly increase your activity level and reduce your caloric intake.