Can I quit smoking without gaining weight?
Fear of gaining weight is a common obstacle to quitting smoking, especially for women. Is it fact or fiction? What can you do to avoid it?
Nicotine and weight
Nicotine really can have an effect on your weight. In fact, because it stimulates the basal metabolic rate, it causes your body to burn slightly more calories every day than if you didn’t smoke. It is estimated that smoking a pack a day can increase your metabolic rate by 4 to 16%.
What’s more, nicotine decreases feelings of hunger and reduces the sense of taste, and therefore the pleasure of eating. That’s why smokers eat a little less than if they did not smoke.
What will happen when I stop smoking?
When you stop smoking, your basal metabolism will return to its "normal" level and your body will burn slightly fewer calories. An estimated 40% of the weight gain that occurs when quitting smoking is due to the metabolism reverting to normal.
Your feeling of hunger also returns to normal. And since food tastes better, it’s easy to start eating a little more without really noticing.
Also, some people tend to replace cigarettes with food, especially when a sudden urge to smoke occurs.
When we add up all these factors, it becomes clear that quitting smoking can result in a higher calorie intake. And if we’re not careful, that can lead to weight gain.
What can I do to avoid gaining weight?
The use of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) is a good strategy – not only for alleviating withdrawal symptoms, but also for mitigating the impact of quitting in terms of weight gain. In fact, NRTs help gradually reduce the effect of nicotine on the metabolism, and can be used in parallel with other strategies to prevent weight gain.
Examples of strategies to prevent (or at least mitigate) weight gain:
- Take advantage of your improved physical capacities (especially your lungs) to gradually increase your activity level. You can start with something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing some walking. Try to find a physical activity that fits well into your routine and increase your chances of keeping it up over the long term. When a craving occurs, try not to compensate by snacking - drink a glass of water, chew sugarless gum or do breathing exercises - or munch on some raw vegetables or other low calorie options. You could also try nicotine gum or lozenges, if these products are right for you.
- Keep an eye on how much food you eat. Now that food tastes better, you might be tempted to indulge in larger portions!
- Take the time to assess the quality of your diet. Do you eat a lot of processed foods, chips or sugary treats? Although it’s wise to make better food choices, you should also avoid embarking on a strict diet – this will probably not produce lasting results and will only divert some of the energy you should have devoted to quitting smoking.
Do you have concerns about gaining weight? Do you need help in preparing yourself to quit smoking? In addition to consulting your family pharmacist, you can make an appointment in a Quitting Smoking Center (CAT), where you will meet various professionals, including nutritionists, who will help you develop a personalized plan that will maximize your chances of success while keeping your weight down.
Are you convinced? Have you decided to butt out? Feel free to talk to your family pharmacists. They can help you create a personalized strategy that will enable you to reach your goal.
They can also prescribe* can prescribe medications for certain minor health problems, including NRTs for smoking cessation, when no diagnosis is needed. A consultation will be required to make sure you meet the prescribing criteria. To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.