Weight Gain

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Harvard Medical School
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Weight Gain

Tobacco Cessation
Predict the Potholes
Weight Gain
Weight Gain
Many smokers worry that quitting will make them fat.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Don't Worry About Your Waistline
Many smokers worry about the weight gain that can occur when they quit smoking. When surveyed, as many as 75% of female smokers and 35% of male smokers said they wouldn't quit if it meant gaining more than five pounds. Weight gain is one of the most often cited reasons why smokers — especially women — don't want to quit.
For some smokers, these worries are more exaggerated than they need to be. When weight gain does occur, it usually amounts to about six to 10 pounds. And 90% of those who gain weight are able to take it off within one to two years, with some effort.
There are two reasons why some ex-smokers are susceptible to gaining weight:
  1. Nicotine. The addictive ingredient in tobacco is a stimulant, which speeds up the metabolism. When you quit smoking, your metabolism slows down.
  2. Oral stimulation. One aspect of nicotine addiction is the oral stimulation that cigarettes provide. When you quit, food can become a substitute for a cigarette. If you reach for candy or other snack foods too often, the calories will add up.
Some smokers actually lose weight when they quit. Smokers who lose weight often engage in exercise as part of their smoking cessation battle plan. Exercise is a great way to stay busy and keep fit while dealing with the cravings and other side effects associated with quitting.


If You Gain

If you gain weight while quitting, let this be a secondary concern. It's important that you use all of your energy to quit; focus on one problem at a time. Worry about the weight later.

If you find yourself turning to food more than you want to, try to stick with healthy choices. Carrot sticks and celery do not lead to weight gain. But don't beat yourself up if you reach for something decadent. Smoking is a more serious health concern than the minor change in weight that can accompany quitting, so address the most serious issue first.
By the way, many experts recommend that you wait a couple of months after you quit smoking before you try to diet.


A Tip

One of the advantages of bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin), one of several available smoking cessation drugs, is that it is associated with less weight gain than other smoking cessation techniques. If food is an issue for you, you might want to speak with your doctor about bupropion.



Last updated September 18, 2014

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