Can Quitting Smoking Cause Weight Gain? (2023 Data)

Table of Contents

When people quit smoking, one of the biggest concerns they have is gaining weight. This can happen for some people, and the weight people gain after quitting smoking can be for both physiological and habitual reasons.

Remember, during this process, be kind to yourself and give yourself and your body the time and space to relearn new healthy habits and adapt to being a non-smoker. This is a habit that you may have done for many years, if not decades. You and your body need some time to adjust.

You’re no longer putting these chemicals in your body – which is a great thing! You’ve also ditched an old habit that may have been used as a coping mechanism, a time filler, or just a habit from the past that is now outdated and no longer serving you. It’s like getting a new pair of shoes – you may need to wear them in, but they are certainly more comfortable, and better for your feet than those old worn out pairs. 

​​People often say people gain weight even after quitting smoking due to a combination of physiological and behavioural factors. Here are some of the main reasons:

It’s important to note that not everyone gains weight after quitting smoking, and the extent of weight gain can vary from person to person. Strategies to manage weight loss or avoid weight gain while quitting smoking include maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active, finding alternative coping mechanisms for stress, and seeking support from healthcare professionals or support groups.

Physiological Reasons for Weight Gain

Metabolism Changes

Nicotine in cigarettes can increase our metabolism at rest, and act as an appetite suppressant. It’s burning the candle from both ends. When there’s an increase in metabolism we burn calories faster in our body, and when our appetite is suppressed enough sleep we eat less.

Some people who smoke don’t eat certain meals in the day as they just don’t feel hungry. This has an effect on our weight. 

Then when you gain weight after quitting smoking, nicotine levels in the body drop, which can increase appetite and reduce the metabolism at rest. Causing the person to eat more, burn less calories, and if they lose weight but the food intake stays the same this can cause weight gain.

There can also be other hormonal changes associated with quitting smoking that can contribute to weight gain, such weight changes such as alterations in insulin sensitivity and fat storage.

Increased Appetite

The increase in appetite that can happen when quitting cigarettes is a result of the body’s appetite regulating system returning to normal. It can cause the desire for more food and cravings for high-calorie foods. These two compound the effects of smoking gain weight and gain.

Reward Pathways

Smoking can activate the brain’s reward pathways and release dopamine, providing a short-lived sense of pleasure and satisfaction. When a person quits smoking they may start consuming sugary or high-fat foods that also stimulate these reward pathways in the brain.

Changes in Taste and Smell

Smoking cigarettes can dull the senses of taste and smell. By quitting smoking, these senses may become more sensitive, making the smells of food more stimulating and eating more enjoyable. These heightened senses can lead to increased hunger and to an increased consumption of food.

How Much Weight Gain is the Equivalent to Smoking?

No need to worry though, giving up the ciggy’s is one of the best things that you can do for your health. You’d have to gain 40 kg or more to put your body at the same amount of risk as you were when you were smoking. That’s the amount of extra weight that would cause the same distress to your heart health as you were with all those chemicals in the cigarettes.

Now that you’ve quit that detrimental, and expensive habit, stop smoking (you know you were just burning your money away and damaging your body anyway) you can start to replace that old habit with more productive, healthier ones.

Habitual Reasons for Weight Gain

Oral Fixation & Eating Habits

This is when food and eating replace the habit of smoking. It can replace the hand to mouth movement that smokers become so accustomed to and quickly increase weight control the amount of food consumed.

This can be for reasons of either habit, stress, boredom or other reasons. It may be time to look at these underlying triggers and deal with what else is going on for you.

After all, you’ve decided to better your health so why not take additional steps to better deal with stress, boredom or just work towards a weight change creating healthier habits.

Stress and Coping Mechanisms

Smoking can serve as a coping mechanism for stress and negative emotions. When people get weight when they quit smoking, they might turn to food as a substitute coping strategy, leading to emotional eating and weight gain.

Lack of Physical Activity

Smoking can reduce lung capacity and overall physical fitness. After quitting, individuals might experience improved lung function managing weight, and increased energy levels, potentially leading to more sedentary behaviour and less physical activity.

Social and Environmental Factors

Social situations and environments associated with smoking may also influence eating habits and weight gain. For example, people might consume more food while socialising with friends who smoke or in places where they used to smoke.

Perhaps you want to start eating healthier and exercising more? Once you start to notice the health benefits because of these habits, it’s hard to go back to your old ways. Even making one small change at a time can give noticeable differences.

Like drinking more water, eliminating certain processed foods, going for a walk every day. Whatever you choose for yourself, give yourself the time to see the changes. Then just think back to how you felt, or how you were with these old habits – do you really want to go back? Know for certain, that giving up cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for your body.

Most of the weight gain happens soon after stopping smoking. The increased appetite and the effects on the metabolism can level out within a few months to 1 year.

It can be hard in the beginning to accept any weight gain, but instead try to focus on the benefits you are giving your body, and your bank account, as a non-smoker. Your metabolism and body will level out again and in the meantime you can also use eating habits and exercise to help with these effects of quitting smoking and gaining weight while building a healthier lifestyle for yourself.

Conclusive Thoughts On Quitting Smoking & Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking can lead to weight gain due to a combination of physiological and habitual factors. Physiologically, the absence of nicotine can slow metabolism, increase appetite, and alter hormonal processes, potentially leading to consuming more calories than before.

This change in appetite regulation and reward pathways can also prompt cravings for high-calorie foods. Moreover, the heightened senses of taste and smell that result from quitting smoking might contribute to increased food consumption.

Habitually, quitting smoking can trigger the substitution of food for the oral fixation of smoking, as well as the adoption of unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as emotional eating, in response to stress. Additionally, social and environmental factors linked to smoking can influence eating habits. Although weight gain might be a concern, it’s important to focus on the numerous benefits of quitting smoking and to allow time for your body to adjust. Over time, the physiological effects of smoking cessation are likely to stabilise, and incorporating healthy eating habits and regular exercise can support your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

About The Author
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Tanya Leyson

Tanya, a Wellness Ambassador, Health Coach, and Hypnotherapist with 15+ years of experience, holds a nutrition degree and coaching certification. She's served private clients, corporate health programs, and collaborated with food companies. Tanya's mission is to foster vibrant health through nutritional advice, stress management, and weight loss strategies. Her "Let’s Get VibrantlyHealthy eCookbook" offers 80+ clean recipes, while "Thriving: Health is Your Greatest Wealth" shares insights from 13 authors. Tanya also provides powerful hypnotherapy tracks for belief reprogramming. As a holistic wellness expert, Tanya is dedicated to helping individuals achieve healthier, more fulfilling lives, offering a wealth of experience and guidance.

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