Stop smoking without putting on weight

You may be worried about gaining weight when you stop smoking, but there are steps you can take to manage this.

To minimise weight gain when you quit smoking:

  • Do more exercise
  • Use stop smoking treatments
  • Avoid dieting until you've successfully quit

Why do you put on weight when you quit?

Try not to let the propect of putting on weight put you off quitting smoking. Not everyone puts on weight and, even if you do gain some pounds, certain strategies can help you control it. These include:

According to Deborah Lycett, consultant dietitian and researcher at the University of Birmingham, people gain on average 5kg (11lbs) in the year after they stop smoking.

But she urges prospective quitters not to let the prospect of weight gain deter them in their goal. She points out that the benefits of stopping smoking more than make up for the negatives of putting on weight. Although you may have gained a few pounds, you've stopped smoking and taken a big step toward a healthier life.

"It’s natural to be worried about putting on weight, but the health risks from this weight gain are far less than if you were to continue smoking," says Deborah. "The priority is to give up smoking rather than worrying about putting on weight. You can tackle the weight gain later." There is very little evidence that weight gain leads to a relapse in people who have given up smoking, she adds.

Which smokers are more likely to gain weight?

Some people are more likely than others to put on weight when they stop smoking. You are more at risk of weight gain if you:

  • are already very overweight
  • are a heavy drinker (or you don’t drink any alcohol at all)
  • are a heavy smoker

Deborah Lycett recommends these steps to avoid weight gain after quitting:

Exercise to beat weight gain after stopping smoking

Regular exercise may prevent about half the weight gain expected after a year of quitting smoking. It burns off calories and reduces cravings for cigarettes. Build up to at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as fast walking, swimming or cycling, every week. Moderate-intensity activity means working hard enough to make you breathe more heavily than normal and feel slightly warmer than usual. The more exercise you do, the more calories you'll burn.

Read more about how to do more exercise or try our Couch to 5K programme, which will get you running 5km in nine weeks even if you're an absolute beginner.

Use stop smoking medicines to prevent weight gain

Stop smoking medicines such as nicotine-replacement therapy and the prescription tablets Zyban (bupropion) and Champix (varenicline) can double your chances of quitting successfully and also seem to help reduce weight gain in the first few months.

Don't diet while stopping smoking

Studies suggest it’s better to tackle stopping smoking first before trying to lose any weight gained while quitting. If you’re really worried about putting on weight, ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian for a dietary plan tailored to your individual needs. This plan will guide you on how much to eat, based on your current weight, age, gender and activity level, and stop you gaining more weight.

Find a registered dietitian.

Page last reviewed: 27/09/2013

Next review due: 27/09/2015

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

rylanmede said on 07 December 2012

People who smoke to avoid weight gain do it because it is an appetite suppressant, but rather instead of solving a problem with another bigger problem you should chew gum more often as they can reduce cravings, also avoid the so called empty calories you get from sodas and added sugars. Those can make you gain weight and keep you craving for food all the time. Plus do exercising and this should be a good alternative for smoking.

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