Every year, more than half of all smokers in the US attempt to kick the habit, hoping to shift to a healthier lifestyle. However, a JAMA study found that those who quit smoking had greater increases in weight than continuing smokers.
Further research reveals that nicotine suppresses appetite, which means that quitting can cause a person to eat more than they did while smoking.
In addition, when smokers quit, their metabolism slows down, and they burn fewer calories than while they were smoking. All of this requires an effective approach to help individuals navigate weight loss while seeking to become smoke-free.
Below, we’ll look at some practical tips to help smokers manage weight without compromising on their quit journey.
Engage in regular physical activity
Exercise has been shown to lessen smoking cessation-induced weight gain, which has been a significant factor preventing many smokers from quitting smoking. The health and weight loss benefits of exercise are well-established.
It helps burn calories, boost metabolism, and improve mood. A systematic review also found that exercise in conjunction with nicotine patches or other types of nicotine replacement therapies has the potential to increase the success of smoking cessation in the short term.
For this, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercises per week, along with a 7mg to 21mg nicotine patch worn once daily to beat nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Consider using a smoking alternative
Studies suggest that smokers going through withdrawal symptoms tend to replace cigarettes with food, leading to overeating behaviors and weight gain. Caffeine pouches may be particularly helpful for addressing nicotine cravings and other withdrawal symptoms like increased hunger, thereby minimizing weight gain.
These pouches contain between 2mg and 8mg of nicotine and are coffee-flavored. When placed between the lip and gums, caffeine pouches deliver nicotine to your system, while the rich flavor can distract smokers from turning to sugary snacks.
The variety of strengths also means that smokers can gradually reduce their nicotine intake over time until they can wean off of it completely.
Prioritize nutrient-dense foods
Focus on consuming foods that are rich in essential nutrients while being low in calories. This approach helps in managing weight as it provides the body with nutrients for optimal functioning without excessive calories.
According to researchers from the University of Buffalo, fruits and vegetables additionally increase feelings of fullness, lessening the desire to smoke since smokers sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke.
Foods like bananas, mangoes, and papayas are also considered low-acid fruits that are good for digestion and reduce inflammation. Moreover, these fruits may worsen the taste of cigarettes, decreasing the likelihood of smokers lighting up.
Seek support and accountability
Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or a healthcare professional who can provide encouragement and accountability throughout your journey to quit smoking and manage your weight.
In adults, brief, one-time counseling alone may increase cessation rates by 2% points and by 5 to 16% points when adults use smoking cessation medications.
Your support system can come in the form of a quitline that puts you in touch with a counselor to deliver comprehensive and evidence-based intervention tailored to you.
Often, this includes nutrition tips and behavior change techniques, both of which are beneficial for cessation and weight loss.
With the right strategies and support, smokers are better equipped to overcome the challenges of quitting and weight loss.
Armed with these tips, remember to approach this journey with patience, persistence, and self-compassion, recognizing that small, sustainable changes can lead to significant long-term benefits for both physical health and overall well-being.