This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
Weight gain can often hold people back from quitting smoking, but there are ways to keep it to a minimum or prevent it all together. In our article below we’ll look at some tops tips to minimise weight gain when quitting smoking.
Why do you gain weight when you quit smoking?
It’s not certain that you will gain weight after quitting smoking, although many people do. Typically, people gain 5kg (11lbs) in the first 12 months after quitting. 
The main reasons why you put on weight after quitting smoking include:
- Slower metabolism. Smoking speeds up your metabolism, meaning your body burns calories at a faster rate. When you quit, your metabolism slows down so you need fewer calories
- Smoking can suppress your appetite, meaning you don’t feel as hungry >li
- You may find that food tastes better after you stop smoking
- Nicotine cravings may make you feel hungry
- You might eat to distract yourself from smoking
- You may replace the hand-to-mouth action of smoking with eating
How to avoid putting on weight
Keep your metabolism high by regularly exercising. Not only will exercise help you to prevent the weight gain experienced after quitting smoking, but it can also reduce your cravings for cigarettes. Try walking rather than getting the bus or a lift, start a gym class, or see what activities you can do at your local sports centre. You should aim to slowly build up to at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise such as fast walking, swimming, or cycling a week.
If you’re unable to walk or run, there are other types of exercise you can try. Gentle swimming and aqua aerobics can reduce the stress on your joints during exercise. Low impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi may be helpful, especially if they have been adapted to suit the needs of people with disabilities. Gentle cycling on a static bike is the ideal low-impact exercise for people with osteoarthritis.
Eat healthy snacks. You can combat hunger pangs with healthier treats like nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetable sticks instead of sweets, crisps, or chocolate.
Eat smaller portions until your metabolism has stabilised. After eating, it takes around 20 minutes for you to feel full. Chew slowly and enjoy each mouthful and, if you feel hungry after your main meal, do something to take your mind off it. If you’re still hungry after half an hour, have some of your healthy snacks.
Focus on stopping smoking
If you’re concerned about gaining weight but think dieting and quitting smoking at the same time will be too much, stop smoking first. You can deal with any weight gain after you have successfully quit.
If you’re really worried about it, your GP can refer you to a dietician who will work with you to develop a diet plan tailored to your needs.