Quitting without gaining weight

Latrobe Community Health Service dietitians Emily Orchard and Natalie Caprara.  
photograph hayley mills

Latrobe Community Health Service dietitians Emily Orchard and Natalie Caprara. photograph hayley mills

So you want to quit, but you're concerned about gaining weight?

A little weight gain is common when people first quit smoking - but there are steps you can take to avoid or minimise this.

Going smokefree is the best thing you can do for your body and mind, so don't allow worries about weight to hold you back.

It can be helpful to know why you can gain weight when you first quit - and it's not because all your willpower has been exhausted resisting the urge for a smoke.

Weight gain can occur because your appetite does tend to increase when you first quit.

The other reason is that the nicotine in cigarettes was speeding up your metabolism when you smoked, allowing your body to burn kilojoules faster.

Most quitters only gain three to five kilograms, but it can be a difficult adjustment.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to maintain a healthy weight and help you feel better about your body.

Here are some tips to keep your weight in check while quitting smoking:

Eat a good-sized, healthy breakfast to kick-start your metabolism for the day. Toast, muesli and fruit or eggs are all good options. If you find it difficult to eat first thing in the morning, see if you can stomach a smoothie or a piece of fruit, then have a bigger breakfast at morning tea time.

Eat regular small meals, particularly in the first half of the day. Healthy food can boost your energy levels and mood, which can help you to better tackle cigarette cravings when they strike.

Use rewards other than food to reward yourself for not smoking. Treat yourself to a trip to the cinema, a bunch of flowers, some new clothes or a magazine instead.

Make the most of your healthier smokefree lungs and do some physical activity - this can help with your weight and also boost your mood.

Try not to use food (instead of cigarettes) as a way to cope with boredom or stress. A walk around the block, having a herbal tea or a healthy snack, or playing a game on your phone are all ways to take your mind off cravings and create new, healthier habits.

Don't forget that for the cost of a local call, Quit Specialists can offer personalised, non-judgmental coaching and advice on understanding individual smoking triggers and setting a tailored quitting plan.

For more information visit www.quit.org.au or phone 13 78 48.

* Emily Orchard is a dietician with the Latrobe Community Health Service.

Next week: Beating stress and boredom without cigarettes

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