So, you’ve decided to quit smoking. You’ve braved through your withdrawal and cravings with the right tools, but you feel disappointed seeing you’ve gained weight in the process of quitting smoking.
Many ex-smokers have experienced weight gain. This is normal – cigarettes can be an appetite suppressant, and have actually been a cause of weight loss among smokers. So, after quitting you can tend to feel much hungrier and want to eat more.
It’s normal to experience some weight gain after you’ve stopped smoking. In today’s post, we’ll learn why you’re gaining weight on your journey to kick the habit, and most importantly, how to minimise it.
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Appetite Isn’t Suppressed
Nicotine makes you forget how hungry you are by stimulating you with a bit of energy, which explains why you don’t feel too hungry after smoking. Once you start quitting, nicotine leaves your system, releasing the suppressed hunger and sleep signals – an explanation of why smokers on their quit journey feel much sleepier and tend to eat more.
During your first few months of quitting, your appetite levels will increase and then revert to normal as your body gets used to your hunger cues without smoking a cigarette.
Sense of Taste Returns
Chemicals in cigarette smoke can dull or kill your tastebuds permanently. After you quit, some of the affected tastebuds recover and improve how food tastes. The improved flavours and scents from food can stimulate your hunger more than before, making eating pleasurable to the point that it’s easy to overeat.
While your body is still adjusting to your sense of taste, it pays to eat healthy, non-processed foods to help reduce weight gain. It’s also a great chance to start good eating habits to remain disciplined and prevent having another addiction – this time with food.
Bored With an Oral Fixation
If you’ve smoked for a long time, the hand-to-mouth gestures associated with smoking are likely engrained, and this movement alone can be enough to trigger your cravings and withdrawals. While motivated smokers try various ways to address this, eating lots is one of the ways they keep their mouths busy.
The taste of chips and snacks and the satisfaction they bring can distract quitters from smoking a cigarette. However, overeating isn’t a good solution to oral fixation – sugarless gum, vegetables, and nuts are better and healthier options. Even chewing a toothpick can work!
When you’re bored, you’re at a higher risk of smoking once again, so why not try new hobbies and activities to keep you occupied and forget about smoking or oral fixation?
Lack of Dopamine
Nicotine brings feelings of satisfaction and can release dopamine in the system. A smoker’s dependence on dopamine explains why they have strong withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Food becomes a compatible substitute for nicotine’s dopamine release.
When we eat something delicious, our body also releases dopamine, which makes you feel full and satisfied. However, eating too much is never a good thing, even if it helps you stop smoking for good.
Risking Another Addiction
Food is also addictive, and it’s the top reason why your GP won’t recommend you binge eat even if it helps you stop smoking. Overeating means you’re just substituting one addiction for another. You may have stopped smoking for good, but now, after overeating, you might have a poor relationship with food and a potentially dangerous diet.
How to Stop Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking
Remember, it’s okay to gain some weight after quitting smoking and letting your body regulate its hunger signals and sense of taste. But be sure to pick up good eating habits and do activities that keep your body healthy.
When eating, try to prepare your own meals. Homemade food has fewer preservatives and calories. Plus, it’s another great way of keeping you and your hands busy.
Next, you can deal with your oral fixation by keeping your mouth busy. While you can try singing or reading a poem or book aloud, you can also use sugar-free gum or vegetables to cure your oral fixation, especially in the office.
Lastly, have a smoking cessation programme in place if you don’t have one yet. It’s admirable to have accomplished so much after a month or two, but a capable programme that prioritises your needs gives you the best chance of quitting.
Plus, a GP overseeing your programme can have you use tools such as NRT products and pharmacy NVPs as a second-line solution to help you quit completely.
Once again, it’s normal to gain some weight after quitting smoking. Your body is trying to make up for the lack of nourishment smoking has masked for years. However, make sure you maintain a good relationship with food as it’s easy to get addicted to the richer flavour you taste with every bite.
We know you’re reading this because you want to know if it’s normal to gain weight and eat so much after you quit smoking. We hope you found this information useful, and we encourage you to learn more about your smokefree journey.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.