Smoking cigarettes can decrease the appetite, increase the metabolism, and serve as a distraction from hunger and eating. When a person quits smoking, they may gain weight as their appetite returns.
People may see smoking as a way to manage their body weight and therefore be reluctant to stop smoking. However, smoking
This article discusses why some people may gain weight after quitting smoking, as well as the effects of tobacco and nicotine on body weight.
The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products
When a person quits smoking, their brain is no longer getting the effects of nicotine,
Many people may feel apprehensive about quitting smoking because of the potential for changes in weight, particularly weight gain.
In comparison to people who do not smoke, those who smoke
- a lower body mass index (BMI)
- a less nutritious diet
- less likelihood of obesity
In one study on smoking and body weight in China, researchers found that smoking cigarettes increased the chances of being underweight by
More specifically, a
People who stop smoking
A 2018 study in the British Medical Journal found a link between having a lower BMI and increased appetite 3 months after quitting smoking and gaining more weight. It also found a link between using nicotine replacement therapy and gaining less weight 1 year after quitting.
Overall, the authors concluded that people who gain more weight soon after quitting do not necessarily continue to gain large amounts of weight after 1 year.
A person’s body weight and the amount they smoke may help predict whether they are likely to lose or gain weight when they quit smoking.
Causes of weight gain
Researchers do not know exactly why people gain weight when they quit smoking. However, it may link to:
- Eating more: Increased hunger can be a symptom of smoking withdrawal, but people usually return to their typical eating patterns eventually.
- Nicotine: Nicotine speeds up the metabolism, or the processing of food as energy. When a person stops smoking, their metabolism gets slower, so they burn fewer calories.
- Physical activity: Inactivity can increase a person’s chance of gaining weight.
Managing weight when quitting smoking involves eating a nutritious diet to reduce cravings and staying active to boost mood and improve overall health.
In addition to helping with weight management, regular exercise has many health benefits,
- reducing the risk of certain health conditions, such as heart failure and diabetes
- contributing to a longer life span
- improving quality of life
Alternatively, people can do an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.
Restricting what a person eats while quitting smoking may seem like an obvious way to avoid weight gain, but restricting food intake can heighten cravings and increase the chance that they will smoke again.
Healthy eating tips to help a person abstain from smoking may include:
- planning healthy meals that contain more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains ahead of time
- reducing or eliminating processed foods such as candy and baked goods
- limiting snacks to nutritious ones such as fruit and vegetables
- talking with a doctor or dietitian to create an individual eating plan
- avoiding crash dieting, which makes quitting harder and may cause the body to reduce metabolism and burn muscle for fuel if a person is not eating enough
- finding ways that do not involve food to cope with cravings
- keeping the mouth busy with something such as sugar-free gum or a nicotine inhalator
According to the
As the following table explains, the health benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately:
|Length of time after quitting||Health benefits|
|several minutes||decrease in heart rate|
|24 hours||decrease in the level of nicotine in the blood|
|several days||decrease in the level of carbon monoxide in the blood|
|1 year||decrease in symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing|
|2 years||decrease in the risk of heart attack|
|5–10 years||decrease in the risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and kidney cancers|
Other health benefits of quitting smoking include a longer life expectancy and a lower risk of premature death.
When a person quits smoking, they are likely to gain weight. This is mostly because smoking can decrease appetite and increase metabolism. A person’s appetite usually returns once they stop smoking.
Some may see this as a deterrent to quitting, but there are healthy ways to manage weight while quitting smoking. For example, people can plan nutritious meals and reduce or eliminate consumption of processed foods.