Many smokers worry that kicking the habit will see them gain weight, and some have even given this as a reason for continuing to smoke. However, with just a few small steps, you can ensure that giving up for good doesn't have to mean piling on the pounds.
Why do some smokers gain weight after quitting?
Firstly, it is important to point out that this doesn't happen to every smoker when they quit, so you shouldn't let this put you off. However, many smokers can gain as much as 5kg in the first year after giving up. That said, there are far more health benefits to giving up smoking than the negatives of gaining a little weight. Taking part in more exercise is a good way of avoiding the problem, as is ensuring that any extra food you are eating is low-fat, low-sugar and high in fibre.
Some smokers are more likely to put on weight than others. Those most at risk are generally already overweight, heavy drinkers or heavy smokers.
Tips to avoiding weight gain
Regular exercise can prevent around half of the weight you would expect to gain in the first year. It is a two-pronged attack for anybody attempting to quit though as it helps burn off calories and can also help reduce cigarette cravings.
Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week should be your target, which can be achieved through brisk walking, swimming or cycling. A moderate level of aerobic exercise will leave you breathing more heavily than normal, and you will also feel slightly warmer than normal too. Of course, the more exercise you take part in, the more calories you will burn.
Your choice of stop-smoking medication can also help prevent weight gain, especially in the first few months. Nicotine replacement therapy and prescription tablets can make your effort to quit twice as likely to be successful than willpower alone.
The three pillars of effective weight management
Start a calorie-reduced but balanced diet : this means basing your diet on plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates together with lean sources of protein, regular healthy fats and at least five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.
At the same time you should minimise your intake of foods high in saturated fats and sugars. It may not produce headlines - but it will reduce waistlines!
It's not miracle science, just common sense, and finding a range of foods that suit your taste and meet these guidelines.
Make time each day for some form of physical activity : walking is an excellent and convenient option that can usually be worked into a daily routine without too much of a problem.
You could start by taking the stairs at work, walking up or down an escalator, working some walking into your journey to or from work and parking at the far end of the car park instead of cruising around for the closest spot.
It may not sound like much but it all adds up to your 30 minutes a day and you can always start adding in some regular, structured exercise that you enjoy.
Appreciate the benefits of small amounts of weight loss : take heart - there's plenty of credible scientific evidence that losing five to ten percent of your weight and keeping it off can significantly benefit your health as well as increasing your energy and concentration levels.