By Rhonda Stanton, Psychologist on World No Tobacco Day 31 May 2017
The road to quitting smoking is different for everyone. While some weight gain is common, with a healthy diet, it slows down the longer you stay quit. Being aware of what might happen to your mind and body after quitting can put you ahead of the game, and help you stay quit.
Weight gain is common in the first few months of quitting for a number of reasons (Quit Victoria, 2017).
- Nicotine is an appetite suppressant. After quitting you may feel hungrier. As your appetite returns, along with your sense of taste and smell, food becomes more appealing.
- Nicotine also speeds up metabolism. After quitting, it returns to a normal rate which can result in weight gain.
- Smokers often miss the hand to mouth action of smoking and eating can replace this urge.
- If smoking has been associated with being a reward or treat, or to fill boredom, increased snacking can fill this function.
Tips to help manage weight gain.
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Have healthy snacks readily available and clear your house of unhealthy snacks e.g. chips, biscuits, lollies, soft drink. Try to eat mindfully and avoid strict diets because hunger will make quitting more difficult. It helps to increase your physical activity such as walking, to keep your weight down and also to act as a distraction from cravings.
If you use food to help you cope with feelings such as stress, boredom or loneliness, try increasing other activities that you enjoy. Replace your smoke breaks with a “breathing break” – you can still take time out from stressful situations without a smoke.
Research suggests that those that enlist the help of friends, family and health professionals to support you during the quitting phase have a better chance of long term success. Having a support network will help you manage cravings and triggers that tempt you to smoke and provide the emotional reassurance you need.
Psychologists are trained in helping people quit smoking by supporting them with a variety of effective evidence-based approached to combat relapse and help identify triggers. Mindfulness-based therapy is one commonly used strategy to help people be more present and make considered decisions in response to triggers and cravings.
So, when you’re ready to quit, don’t let the fear of weight gain stop you. With the right help and support, you can start living a smoke-free life and enjoying all the health benefits that come with it. If you would like help quitting speak to your GP about a referral to see a psychologist.
Here are some helpful resources and information to help you plan your quit date: