Stop Smoking – don’t gain weight

Fatty Arbuckle 

Why you might gain weight after stopping smoking

1. Because smoking suppresses the appetite and increases you metabolism, most people find that when they ditch the fags their appetite returns making them feel hungrier than normal.

2. Your body actually needs extra energy. Think of it like this – you’ve stopped poisoning your body, so it will be hungrier as it needs energy to repair the damage.

3.In particular, nicotine suppresses your body’s appetite for carbohydrates, so when you give up you’ll be craving filling and sugary foods.

4. Smokers generally associate having a puff with certain occasions such as after dinner, at their coffee break at work and first thing in the morning. The temptation is to replace smoking with eating. After a meal they might have a desert, whereas usually they’d have a coffee and a cigarette or a biscuit with a cup of tea instead of a cigarette during a teabreak.

5. Smokers are in the habit of putting their hand to their mouth. When they try to quit, lots of smokers recreate this action by putting their hand to their mouth to eat!

6. And of course lots of smokers see smoking as a treat. Take smoking away and they might treat themselves with food.


NUTRITIONIST Kate Cook says: “A typical reason for smoking is a crisis. If you get stressed, you have high blood sugar levels as adrenaline speeds around your body. You then crash when it’s over and adrenaline levels are low. Your body is left needing a high and this comes in the form of a cigarette. “Cigarettes are a stimulant and the nicotine gives you a ‘high’. Once you’ve quit, the temptation is there to reach for snacks instead.” To avoid the crash and burn, try Kate’s tips:

1. While quitting, eat five smaller meals a day to help stop the snacking.

2. Eat breakfast – slow-burning carbohydrates like porridge or brown toast will stop cravings.

3. If you work, make your lunch at home – apples, rice cakes and nuts are good.

4. During coffee breaks, crunch on a couple of carrot sticks – the vitamins will help to repair the damage done by smoking.

5. Beware eating out – a glass wine and you may weaken. Also order fruit salad.

6. Drink water – every diet will tell you this.


ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: These will repair damaged hair and skin, which can dry out when smoking. Found in: Nuts, seeds and fish.

B VITAMINS: Your nervous system will benefit from these as B vitamins are used when you are stressed – if you are suffering from a nicotine craving, vitamin B will help sooth you. Found in: whole grains, turkey, cabbage, wheat germ, peppers, bananas.

CHROMIUM: This helps stabilise blood sugar levels to help stop the cravings.  Found in: Nuts, mushrooms, chicken.

ZINC: Supplies of zinc are depleted when you’re smoking, so stock up on these after you’ve given up. Found in: Pumpkin seeds, lentils and eggs.

ANTIOXIDANTS: You should eat lots of these anyway, but they’re good for ex- smokers as they repair the damage caused by the toxins in cigarettes. Found in: All brightly coloured foods – tomatoes, shellfish, leafy vegetables, eggs, dairy, broccoli

Stop smoking without gaining weight

Mr Creosote 

A two-month nutritional/lifestyle plan to quit without gaining weight

This plan works on the principle of stabilising blood sugar and hormone levels. Withdrawal effects from nicotine are a direct effect of its action on your blood sugar, so follow some basic nutritional principles: 1. Combine carbohydrate and protein foods – salmon and rice with salad, chicken stir fry with noodles, and so on.2. Eat 3 meals per day plus 2 healthy snacks.3. Eat foods rich in B vitamins (fish, green vegetables, wholegrains, mushrooms, eggs) and Vitamin C (peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, kiwi fruit, oranges, tomatoes).4. Eat foods rich in magnesium (almonds, cashew nuts, green vegetables), calcium (cheese, almonds, seeds, green vegetables, prunes), zinc (lamb, seafood, nuts, fish, egg yolk, wholegrains) and iron (pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashew nuts, raisins, pork).5. Avoid refined/processed/sugary foods.6. Avoid other stimulants like coffee and tea if you can – drink more water, fruit and herbal teas. 

Stage 1: Breaking The Associated Habits 

It’s important to understand your smoking first – do you smoke when you are tired, hungry, upset, after a meal, with a drink? Keep a diary for 1 week (don’t attempt to change smoking habits at this stage), note every situation when you smoke – how do you feel before and after each cigarette? At the end of the week add up how many cigarettes you have smoked associated with each situation, forexample: After a meal – 6 cigarettesWith alcohol – 5 cigarettes If you spot smoking triggers write down how you could deal with them if you were to stop smoking – agood way to break a habit is to replace it with a new one. For another couple of weeks smoke as much as you like – but not with the associated habit – and continue until all you do is smoke without the associated habits. For example, if you normally smoke straight after a meal, wait at least 30 minutes until you have a cigarette. 

Stage 2: Reducing Your Nicotine Load – It can help to reduce your nicotine load slowly. 

Take supplements of 1,000mg of Vitamin C and 200mcg of chromium/50mg B3 daily (to help reduce cravings). Also to help reduce cravings – eat a diet high in fruit, vegetables and seeds. Whenever you feel a craving for a cigarette, first eat some fruit – this will raise a low blood sugar level, which is often the trigger for the craving.  Regular exercise can also help – exercise can reduce stress and is mood boosting. Now reduce the number of cigarettes to no more than 5 a day, each with a nicotine content of 2mg or less, or have nicotine gum (two strengths – 4mg and 2mg). You want to be down to a maximum of 10mg of nicotine a day before quitting. Although gradually cutting down works for some people, if this does not work for you it may be best to commit to a quit date and then give up completely. 

Stage 3: Time to Quit 

Giving up smoking is easier if you have support, even if it’s just encouragement from your friends and family.Your chances of successfully quitting are better still if you take nicotine replacement products, or prescription-only medicine. For people who commit to a quit date, these can be prescribed by GPs. Smokers who get professional help, including medicines, are four times more likely to successfully quit than people who try with willpower alone. 

Coping with difficult situations 

As smoking may have been part of your normal routine for so long, there will be occasions when it is especially difficult to resist cigarettes. Some tips to help you are listed below.

For a while after you quit, try to avoid places where lots of other people smoke or that you associate with smoking, such as pubs. Smoking is often associated with drinking alcohol.

If people offer cigarettes, ask them not to. Remind yourself that most smokers also wish they could stop. Say “No thanks, I am not a smoker”.

Avoid situations that you associate with smoking. For example, if you usually smoke after dinner, leave the table and do something else instead.

If you do have a lapse, don’t use it as an excuse to start smoking regularly. Many ex-smokers make the odd mistake, but remain smoke-free. 

BUPA’s Health Information Team, Penny Williams, Nutritional Therapist, LifeFirst, 2005,