Why is weight gain common after you quit smoking? What can I do to avoid it?
Answers from J. Taylor Hays, M.D.
It's common to gain weight after you stop smoking, especially during the first several months — but it isn't inevitable.
Smoking acts as an appetite suppressant and may slightly increase your metabolism as well. When you quit smoking, your appetite and metabolism return to normal, which may lead you to eat more and burn fewer calories.
Also, your ability to smell and taste food improves after you quit smoking. This can make food more appealing, which may lead you to eat more. And if you substitute snacking for smoking, the calories may quickly add up.
To avoid weight gain when you quit smoking, make diet and exercise part of your stop-smoking plan. It may help to:
- Get moving. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular exercise not only burns calories but also helps relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Make wise food choices. Plan good-for-you meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat smaller portions. Limit sweets and alcohol.
- Choose healthy snacks. If you're hungry between meals, opt for healthier snacks, such as fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in its own juices, low-fat air-popped popcorn, or fat-free yogurt.
- Work with a dietitian. If you're overweight or a heavy smoker, talk with your doctor about the possibility of receiving personalized weight management support from a dietitian.
Above all, remember that the health benefits of being smoke-free far exceed the problems associated with even moderate weight gain.
July 13, 2016
J. Taylor Hays, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Rigotti NA, et al. Benefits and risks of smoking cessation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 20, 2016.
- Forever Free: Booklet 3 — Smoking and weight. Smokefree.gov. https://smokefree.gov/free-resources. Accessed June 20, 2016.
- Clair C, et al. Association of smoking cessation and weight change with cardiovascular disease among adults with and without diabetes. JAMA. 2013;309:1014.
- How can I avoid weight gain when I stop smoking? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/QuitSmoking/YourNon-SmokingLife/How-Can-I-Avoid-Weight-Gain-When-I-Stop-Smoking_UCM_307852_Article.jsp#.V2gwNNjbJYU. Accessed June 20, 2016.
- Veldheer S, et al. Ten-year weight gain in smokers who quit, smokers who continued smoking and never smokers in the United States, NHANES 2003-2012. International Journal of Obesity. 2015;39:1727.
- Harris KK, et al. Metabolic effects of smoking cessation. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2016;12:299.
- Krukowski RA, et al. The relationship between body mass index and post-cessation weight gain in the year after quitting smoking: A cross-sectional study. PLOS One. 2016;11:e0151290.