Smoking cigarette

Simple Science Behind Smoking and Weight [Updated 2019]

Smoking has long been acknowledged as an appetite suppressant. In fact, ‘Tobacco smoking was associated with appetite suppression among Pre-Columbian indigenous Americans and Old World Europeans. For decades, tobacco companies have employed these connections between slimness and smoking in their advertisements, mainly in brands and advertisements targeting women.’ Today, we all know that smoking is bad for our health. It’s estimated that nearly one in every five deaths (of adults aged over 35 in England) is connected to smoking. Yet despite the fact that it’s common knowledge that smoking makes you more likely to develop several different cancers, heart disease, have a stroke or heart attack and even cataracts, the fear of piling on the pounds prevents some smokers from kicking the habit. With that in mind, we’re taking a deeper look at the simple science behind smoking and weight.

Does quitting smoking really make you pile on the weight?

The worry that quitting smoking will make your scales groan is so high that the NHS has even offered guidance on it. Stopping smoking without putting on weight is completely possible providing that we watch what we eat and you don’t necessarily have to spend hour upon hour in the gym. Making little changes like going for a walk at lunch time rather than staying at your desk or starting a new sporty hobby can have a huge positive impact on how you feel as well as keeping your body healthy. 

Therefore, despite how worried you might be about putting on weight after you quit smoking, you shouldn’t let the potential for that to happen prevent you from making the decision to live a smoke-free life. @SmokefreeUs say that ‘while many smokers gain some weight after they quit, it is better for your health if you quit as soon as possible.’  We know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health, so if you quit smoking, you know you’re doing your body a huge favour!

But what causes people to put on weight when they quit smoking? The truth is that there are a few triggers for weight gain.

Increased Appetite

Smoking really does make you feel less hungry. This is because of the nicotine in cigarettes. ‘Nicotine activates a pathway in the brain that suppresses appetite, according to a study in the journal Science’. As a result, when you quit smoking, your appetite is likely to increase. To avoid putting on weight, try to snack on healthy foods. Always keep a handy stock of fruit, veg and nuts with you, so that you have something healthy to keep hunger at bay. Drinking plenty of water is also good advice, as dehydration can sometimes lead to excessive hunger. 

Smoking increases your metabolism

The nicotine in cigarettes increases your heart rate, keeping your metabolism piqued. Did you know that the ‘metabolism of a smoker compares to the metabolism of a person with a 100-degree F fever’? This means that when you quit smoking, your body’s metabolism will slow down a lot. There are ways to compensate for the slowing down of your metabolism after stopping smoking, such as exercising. Taking up running is extremely popular amongst people who have stopped smoking. Joining a running club might also give you exactly the support you need to give up smoking and stop for good. 

Eating becomes a substitute

If you’ve been smoking for years, then it’s not just an addiction, it is also a hand-to-mouth habit, just like eating. That’s another reason people put on weight after smoking cessation. The habit of popping some food into your mouth is similar to putting a cigarette to your mouth, so another way to avoid packing on the pounds after quitting smoking is to find something else to do with your hands, such as knitting, for example. The Knit to Quit program might be just the thing your idle hands are looking for! 

Emotional habit

Many of us turn to food for comfort when we’re feeling stressed and it is exactly the same for smokers and cigarettes. Instead of turning to a bar of chocolate the next time you’re feeling a little frazzled, try practicing some mindfulness techniques. Studies have shown that people who combine mindfulness with stopping smoking are more likely to still be smoke-free in four months’ time

It’s reassuring to know that there’s a scientific link between putting on weight and smoking. But don’t let that put you off quitting. The health benefits of giving up cigarettes far outweigh the downfalls of quitting. Do you have a top tip for giving up smoking that really worked for you?


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