Smoking is the main preventable cause of death and illness. In addition, a smoker will see their life expectancy decrease by 10 years. Note that quitting smoking is associated with many health benefits such as reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, or chronic respiratory disease. Many smokers say that they do not want to quit smoking partly in fear of gaining weight. However, the risk of gaining weight should not be an obstacle to this very beneficial change for your health.
It is true that a large majority of smokers (80%) who quit smoking tobacco gained between 1.8 to 4.5 kg of weight. Weight gain of the order of 10 kg and over can be explained by compensating for a dependence by snacking and unsuitable food choices, but also by the difficulty in listening to your signals of hunger and satiety. In such a case, a consultation with a dietitian is strongly recommended.
In order to better control this possible weight gain, it is important to understand what is causing it.
When you quit smoking, your taste and smell will improve, which will in turn stimulate your appetite and thereby increase your caloric intake from around 120 to 230 kcal/day.
Nicotine influences hormones that regulate hunger and satiety, which reduces the feeling of hunger. Thus, a smoker is naturally 4 to 5 kg lighter than a non-smoker. When you stop smoking it is therefore normal to regain this weight.
A smoker also has a slightly higher basal metabolism. In this way, due to the effect of nicotine, the body burns more calories. When smoking ends, the metabolism returns to normal, which leads to an increased storage of energy sources.
Former smokers tend to have an affinity for fatty and sugary foods, which create a boost in the body’s reward system, just like nicotine used to. However, to produce the same effect as nicotine, one must consume a large amount of these kinds of foods.
Finally, the composition of the intestinal microbiota is influenced by smoking. Therefore, stopping smoking has an impact on the composition of our intestinal flora which could also be an explanation for the weight fluctuation.
Now that we understand better the mechanisms behind the weight gain, let’s see what we can put in place to curb it.
Make the right food choices: prioritize healthy and nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, vegetable proteins … and avoid ultra-processed foods.
Avoid dieting and rebalance your nutrition by eating 3 balanced meals a day and 1 to 2 snacks as needed. Follow these tips to avoid sugar cravings.
Take up cooking and make delicious and nutritious meals for yourself. We rediscover our tastebuds by using them!
Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages, because in addition to containing many calories, they are often accompanied by a cigarette, which is likely to exacerbate your desire to smoke and can leave a desire to nibble as a result.
Get active. Choose a sport or physical activity that suits you and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. This activity, in addition to helping you control your weight, will make you forget about cigarettes for a while and will have many other health benefits.
Nourish your microbiota to encourage the growth of good bacteria. To do this, consume more foods rich in prebiotics and fermented foods such as kefir, miso, kimchi.
Quitting smoking is not easy, it is a process that requires motivation and energy. So, for some, having to change your diet can be an additional challenge, which is why we are here to help you eat well. We offer several meal plans that will satisfy your hunger as well as your taste buds. You just have to choose the one that suits you best.
If you feel that you need support or guidance, do not hesitate to use the services of a dietitian who will be happy to assist you in this process.
Filozof, C., M. C. Fernandez Pinilla, and A. Fernández‐Cruz. “Smoking cessation and weight gain.” Obesity reviews 5.2 (2004): 95-103.
Biedermann, Luc, et al. “Smoking cessation alters intestinal microbiota: insights from quantitative investigations on human fecal samples using FISH.” Inflammatory bowel diseases 20.9 (2014): 1496-1501.
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.
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