On more than one occasion we have heard or read that quitting smoking makes you fatSomething that can make many people doubt the idea of quitting this harmful habit.
In fact, it has been observed that weight gain is one of the most common concerns raised by people who want to quit smoking. Without a doubt, this makes it an aspect which is of great interest to study and on which doubts may arise as to whether this is true or not.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what is true in the belief that quitting makes you fat, to help determine whether we are dealing with an urban reality or legend, why it is happening, or if there is something we can do about it. to prevent it.
Does quitting smoking make you fat?
As to whether or not smoking cessation makes you fat, the truth is that several studies seem to indicate that indeed, smoking cessation promotes weight gainIn many cases, there is an increase that can go up to four and a half kilograms.
However, there are many factors that influence whether or not you gain weight, including our eating habits and the levels of exercise we do.
It is also important to note that weight gain does not occur continuously or exponentially, but is usually very limited to a stage or interval after stopping consumption. Specifically, the average weight gain usually occurs during the first three months after quitting, after which the weight gain for this reason is usually minimal.
Regardless of this possible weight gain, different studies also indicate that the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh this gain and other drawbacks, In addition to returning to a normal life expectancy (which tobacco consumption can decrease up to ten years) and in fact promoting that in the future we will be able to lose weight more easily, by reducing the level of fatigue and increasing lung capacity (which would allow us for example greater physical capacity and sports performance).
Why is this happening?
As we just mentioned, quitting smoking has been correlated with an increased chance of gaining weight (although generally to a lesser extent than is usually thought). But why is this given?
Several elements can explain this trendMany of them are not directly related to tobacco but to smoking.
1. Deceleration of metabolism
Nicotine is a stimulant type substanceLike for example caffeine, something that speeds up our brain and our body in general. It also affects the metabolism and the heat emitted by our body.
When you stop smoking, that metabolic acceleration that generated nicotine decreases, which can cause the body to burn fewer calories at the same time as before. However, this factor, which still exists, is not the most relevant of all, even if it contributes to a possible weight gain if other conditions are met.
2. Increased appetite
Another consequence of stopping nicotine consumption it has to do with its anorectic effect. And just like other substances, nicotine has the property of reducing hunger and hunger.
Stopping smoking then generates an increase in appetite, Which, along with the increased anxiety and irritability inherent in abstinence, encourages more eating.
3. Regeneration of taste and smell
The consumption of nicotine tends to generate a slight atrophy in our ability to perceive the aroma and taste of food.
As we stop smoking, these senses gradually return to normal. That means food will seem more desirable to us, As it happens to have more noticeable aroma and flavor. And while it’s good, it can make us eat more.
4. Abstinence and anxiety
The most important factor in explaining why there is a tendency to gain weight after quitting smoking is that the smoker is used to working with a substance on which he is addicted, so that its disappearance (and especially if you stop suddenly) smoker) this usually leads to increased anxiety levels as a result of abstinence.
Faced with this anxiety and based on the above points, many smokers resort to increasing the number and quantity of their intakes, eating more and more often to reduce this anxiety. And this increased intake leads to weight gain.
What can be done to prevent this?
It is possible that quitting smoking promotes weight gain, but it is also true that this gain it is not an inevitable thing and that we can do different strategies and activities to keep weight off.
First, one of the simplest, most general and effective indications would be to increase the level of physical activity. Playing sports helps reduce the calories we might gain and reduce anxiety levels.
Outraged, exercising also allows you to see one of the many benefits of quitting smoking: Our lung capacity will increase compared to where we used to smoke, and little by little we will see how much less it costs us to exercise. In this sense, in addition to not gaining weight, it also increases the perception of self-efficacy and helps to maintain abstinence.
Another key aspect is taking care of the food. In this sense, we need to reduce the consumption of high-calorie foods, especially if we are talking about pastries and sweets, as this is the type of food that we usually prefer when we are anxious.
It is advisable to plan meals and mainly include healthy foods, such as those typical of the Mediterranean diet. We will also have to maintain the measure regarding the quantities we eat, without increasing. However, controlling does not mean being hungry (which on the other hand would be counterproductive).
Using chewing gum (whether nicotine or not) can reduce anxiety levels and occupy the mouth to avoid trying to compensate for anxiety with food or drink.
Finally, we can also use the services of professionals such as nutritionists, personal trainers or specialized psychologists to reduce or eliminate this possible side effect of quitting smoking.
- Aubin, HJ, Farley, A., Lycett, D., Lahmek, P., and Aveyard, P. (2012). Weight gain in smokers after quitting: a meta-analysis. BMJ, 345.
- Tian, J., Venn, A., Otahal, P., Gall, S. (2015). The association between smoking cessation and weight gain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Obesity Reviews, 16 (10): 883,901.