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Are you afraid of putting on weight when you stop smoking? It is a problem for some people, especially women, because of the pressure to be thin. The good news in that not everyone does put on weight when they stop and for those who do, the average increase after a year is quite small.If you are concerned about weight gain though, this site is for you. It contains practical tips to help you stay in shape while you quit. Front Cover

Some key questions:

Q. Should I give up and go on a diet at the same time?
A. The evidence suggests that it is better to tackle smoking as your first priority and then tackle the issue of weight gain if you need to.
Q. Will I put on weight if I give up smoking?
A. Not necessarily. Some people do gain weight, some stay the same and some even lose weight. Those who do put on weight usually only put on a few pounds and lose them within a matter of months.
Q. Does it matter?
A. Ask yourself how much it matters if you put on a little weight. People come in all shapes and sizes. You may be a slim leggy model or muscular sportsman, but the likelihood is that you (like most of us) are not. If you are comfortable with the way you look and the way you eat, you will probably find it easier to control your weight.
Q. Why do some people put on weight when they give up smoking?
A. Smoking can reduce appetite; food may taste better, so you eat more; some people smoke at the end of a meal, so a cigarette is replaced by a second helping; some ex-smokers find that they want to eat more sweet things.
A further reason is due to physical changes in the body. Smoking causes the body to waste some of the energy in food. When you give up smoking the body returns to its normal state and needs less food energy. 
Q. Does this mean that I’ll have to eat less than before?
A. Not necessarily, but if you continue to eat exactly what you ate before you stopped smoking then you should not put on much weight. But everyone can control their weight through exercise and good diet. It may mean eating differently – not less.  
Q. Isn’t being fat as bad for my health as smoking?
A. No. Smokers suffer from many diseases and about one half of all smokers die early, directly as a result of smoking. The risks to your health of being a little overweight are small compared to the risk of smoking.  

Enjoying food without it becoming a fad

There is no need for a special diet when you stop smoking just use your common sense. If you eat chocolates instead of smoking then you are very likely to gain weight! Just be extra aware of what you are eating , the following guidelines should help.

Think positive

  • The money you save on cigarettes can be used to buy better quality foods
  • Food will now probably taste better. This is a good opportunity to try new recipes and foods.
  • You don’t need to eat less food to take in fewer calories. Missing meals or starving yourself is not a good way of losing weight in the long run. If you deprive your body of nourishment for long periods it slows down. When you eat normally again you may put on weight even more easily. A much better way of avoiding weight gain is to change a few of the kinds of food that you eat and the way you cook them.

General Tips

  • The most concentrated source of energy in food is fat. Replace fatty foods with low fat foods.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and beans. They are low in calories and as they are full of fibre they will fill you up without filling you out!
  • Try wholemeal bread. It contains about the same calories as white bread but is more filling.
  • Cut thicker slices of bread and spread butter or margarine thinly.
  • Some meats contain a lot of fat. If you buy meat choose a lean cut and cut off the fatty bits.
  • Replace meat, sausages and bacon with chicken or white fish.
  • Dairy products are also high in fat. Check cheese for fat content. There are now many delicious low fat dairy products in the shops. Try some.
  • If you take sugar in tea or coffee try cutting down, or replace sugar with an artificial sweetner.
  • Go easy on soft drinks, salad dressings and rich sauces. They contain a surprising amount of calories. Look for “diet” versions.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. It is also quite calorific and stimulates your appetite.
  • Have fewer fry-ups. Grill food instead.
A fatty food like butter or margarine has ten times as many calories as a starchy food like potatoes.

How to avoid putting on weight.

You put on weight when you take in more energy than you use up. The extra energy in food ends up as fat. There are two ways in which you can control your weight – change what you eat so that you don’t take in so much energy or use up more energy by exercising. It’s probably best to do a bit of both. If you burn more energy than you eat – you will lose weight.

Snacking and Nibbling

You may find you want to eat all the time when you first give up smoking. Don’t panic! This urge will settle down after a few weeks. But you may wonder whether it is a good idea at first to eat snacks or nibbles instead of smoking. Some people find that in the long run, it is best to eat nothing in place of smoking, so that eating between meals doesn’t become a habit. Other people find that it helps. You will have to decide which is easiest for you.

Snacking or nibbling isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you don’t end up eating more calories as a result. Some people prefer to eat snacks between meals and less at mealtimes.

Ideas for snacks

  • Two portions of any fruit.
  • Natural yoghurt with fresh fruit, or “low fat” yoghurt.
  • A cereal bar (but check the calories).
  • Wholemeal bread, toast or crispbread sandwich.
  • Bowl of wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk.
  • Low calorie sandwich fillings. Cottage cheese and pineapple, banana, marmite and lettuce, a slice of lean meat or grated low fat cheese and tomato.

Ideas for Nibbles

If you continue to eat normally at meals and nibble all day, then you will be in trouble. Drink plenty and try to avoid high calorie temptations like biscuits, crisps, chocolate and sweets.


  • Fruit
  • Sugar free chewing gum or pastilles
  • Tea and coffee with skimmed milk
  • Raw vegetables, e.g. carrots, celery, red and green peppers.
  • Low calorie canned drinks and squash and mineral water.

Some more dependent smokers may avoid or reduce weight gain when stopping by using nicotine replacement products but ask for advice first from our doctor or pharmacist.

What about exercise?

Most people would benefit by becoming more active. This could mean taking up a sport, or it could mean just walking more, or cycling. Whatever the exercise is, it burns up calories.

Here are some ideas

  • Use the stairs rather than lifts or escalators.
  • Walk instead of taking the bus or car on short journeys.
  • Use a bicycle.
  • Housework and gardening can be good exercise.
  • Some keep fit exercises can be done at home or with others.
  • Join in with your children’s energetic games.

To benefit most from exercise you need to do it regularly. Choose something which can become part of your routine. Build up gradually. It is better to do a little exercise regularly than over do it and give up! Don’t attempt competitive games like squash until you are quite fit, otherwise you could do more harm than good. If you have a medical condition it is wise to see your doctor before doing anything strenuous. With the money you are saving from not smoking you could go swimming, buy a keep fit video or even get an exercise bike.

Climbing stairs for 5 minutes
Walking briskly for 10 minutes
Cycling steadily for 22 minutes
Washing dishes for 30 minutes

If you want to find out more about quitting, where to find a stop smoking group or just need a friendly and supportive ear to listen, then call the smokers’ QUITLINE on 0800 00 22 00. Please feel free to call us as often as you like.