Recent studies show that weight gain after quitting may be more attributed to poor eating choices, and not as a direct result of quitting. Adopting a healthy lifestyle before, or during this time, will actually support the increase in metabolism.
While everyone knows that quitting smoking is crucial for health and longevity, some smokers are hesitant to give up their habits because they believe it will lead to weight gain. In the past, it was believed that smokers who quit would gain anywhere from five to fifteen pounds in the year following smoking cessation. This idea has finally been put to rest in recent studies, which have shown that the opposite may, in fact, be the case.
Why Smoking was Believed to Cause Weight Gain
Most individuals who smoke regularly are addicted to the nicotine naturally found in tobacco products. When nicotine is withheld from the addicted individual, side effects are very common. These side effects may include things like anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings. One theory is that those who are in the midst of quitting may eat more in order to offset these symptoms. Others may eat out of boredom, or to pass the time when a cigarette craving hits. Nicotine has also been shown to be a mild appetite suppressant, and it was once believed that smoking increased metabolic rate. More recent studies have shown that this may not be the case after all.
Another reason why smokers may gain weight is because those who smoke may be more likely to have additional unhealthy habits. If someone regularly smokes and already eats poorly, and then quits smoking, it is more likely they will turn to these poor food choices in greater quantities. The smoking, or quitting, may not be the direct result of weight gain, but a predisposition to an unhealthy diet may be the cause.
In previous reports according to the Mayo Clinic, even those who do gain weight, however, usually do not gain a significant amount.
Weight Gain vs Smoking
There is a misconception that weight gain is equally, or almost as dangerous as smoking. While being excessively overweight does increase the chances of certain adverse health conditions, the risks are far lower than the health risks attributed to smoking. Additionally, the amount of weight one could gain from quitting, if that were to be the case, is not generally substantial enough to make a difference in terms of overall health.
New Studies on Quitting and Metabolism
Despite previous thoughts on the matter, new studies have actually shown an increase in metabolic rate in those who quit smoking. A study looked at individuals who smoked one-half to two packs of cigarettes per day, and remained abstinent over an eight week period. These smokers showed to have an improved metabolism and improved health markers during this time. There were also no substantial differences in insulin resistance and other diabetes related health markers in the study participants.
What These Studies Mean
These latest findings mean that quitting should not directly cause individuals to gain weight, and may actually help individuals lose weight. This is especially true when an overall healthy lifestyle is adopted, including a healthy diet and exercise plan. It is possible that those who quit may unwittingly eat more unhealthy, “feel good” foods during this period, resulting in weight gain that is not directly related to the act of quitting itself.