If you stay mindful and remember that you're in control, you'll be ok.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. If you know that quitting smoking can make you want to eat more, or eat more often, you can be ready for it.
It’s important to not make too much of a big deal out of it, because quitting is the number one, very best thing you can do for your health. Increased appetite, should it happen, can be managed with mindfulness. Eating mindfully is about listening to what your body needs before you decide to eat something. It’s about working out if it’s an actual hunger cue or you’ve mixed up nicotine cravings for hunger pangs. When you stay curious, you’ll discover if you’re eating because you want distract yourself from cravings, emotions or simply snacking to have more hand to mouth action.
It’s possible that you might just want to eat more because you can finally actually taste and smell how delicious food really is. The idea is to pace yourself, think about your overall health and wellbeing and decide what kinds of food you reach for. If it’s going to be takeaways and comfort food, full of refined carbs, sugar and fat, quitting smoking or not, it will only be a matter of time before the outcome on the scales isn’t going to be fabulous.
You might have been told that when you quit smoking your metabolism is suddenly going to go on a go slow, but your body actually has a clever mechanism that regulates your metabolism to meet your own specific needs, and everything should actually sort itself out in just a few short weeks.
Smoking does very slightly increase metabolism because of the nicotine. Nicotine has a tendency to give you less of an appetite and calories may burn at a slightly faster rate. However, if you’re choosing to vape to quit smoking, any metabolic changes will be less significant because you’ll be giving your metabolism more time to get used to the very gradual way you’ll be reducing nicotine, if you’re taking the nicotine route. And, by the time you quit nicotine entirely you’re not likely to have such intense cravings and withdrawals.
Although your metabolism is the process where your body converts what you eat and drink into energy, how much you eat and drink along with how much physical activity you get, is what ultimately determines your weight.
The bottom line is that if we eat more calories than we burn, we can put on weight. It can of course be complicated by a number of factors like genetic makeup, hormones, lifestyle choices including whether we sleep well or not, how much stress we might be experiencing and how much physical activity we do or not do.
If you’re feeling thrown off balance, a few adjustments like getting an extra ten minutes activity scattered throughout your day can help. Climb the stairs whenever you get an opportunity to, park the furtherest away from the shops, wash your own car, put some oomph into the housework, it all helps. This might seem obvious, but lots of us don’t get enough exercise. Sometimes the busier life is, or in winter when it gets dark so early, we can spend less time exercising. We spend more time sitting than ever before, working in front of the computer, checking our phones and then couch blobbing to wind down at the end of a busy day. We need to remind ourselves to stand up more, walk around a bit, stretch more, walk around the block.
If you want to ramp things up a bit in the metabolism department make sure you drink more water, and make it cold water. Green tea may increase your metabolism. Eating spicy food now and again does too. You might think caffeine would be added to that list, but smokers' bodies clear caffeine 56% more quickly than nonsmokers'. That's why you really should cut your caffeine intake in half when you quit, or risk some serious irritability and insomnia.
Studies do interestingly show that many people who quit smoking are more likely to engage in a healthier lifestyle anyway, adding in physical activities they were unable to do before and establishing a routine that help them stay fit. There’s something about making such a big positive life change as quitting smoking, that can inspire us to consider our whole wellbeing and motivate us to change more than one thing. Some quitters find it the perfect opportunity to learn new recipes, or to go vegetarian or plant based. Or they go for the sensible 1/4 lean protein (no bigger than the size of your palm) 1/4 carb and the rest vegetables and or fruit.
Remember that it takes 15 to 20 minutes after eating to feel full, so wait before you take a second helping. Whichever path you choose, have fun shopping for healthy groceries. Make sure you have low calorie finger foods that keep your hands busy. Try apple slices, carrots, celery sticks, unsalted nuts. Have sugar free gum on hand.
Some quitters say they crave more sugary foods. That really depends on your tastes. It doesn’t happen to everyone, especially savoury fiends! But if it’s sugar you crave, don’t go overboard “comforting” yourself. Sugary sodas and fruit juice may go down easily but their sugar content is high. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to a teaspoon. 6 teaspoons of sugar a day maximum is the recommended amount and that can live in one glass of orange juice. Sports drinks may have around 9 and some other fizzies may have around 16 teaspoons in a 600ml serve. Yikes. Too many artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain because they can mess with your gut health, so go easy on them. Also don’t forget sugar hides in so many other places, like sauces, dressings, pickle, jams and spreads.
If you’re being really careful and avoiding drinking lots of alcohol for a while, so as to not accidentally forget you’re no longer a smoker, you’re also avoiding a lot of wasted calories. Sparkling water or soda with a touch of lime or herbal tea are likely to be doing you a world of good. Keep up the terrific work. You can do this!
“People can change their nicotine content, so to quit smoking they might start off on a higher strength e-liquid and then they can taper down really quite gradually in a much more sophisticated way than they can with NRT, which is probably good for weight maintenance and for weight loss. The huge range of e-liquids available, could also help prevent snacking, particularly given the number of sweet and fruit flavours on offer.”
Linda Bauld. Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling & Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies.