My rather attractive research assistant began working on this article around her second week without a cigarette and as she watched dozens of Youtube vlogs and perused hundreds of anecdotal reports on forums she became increasingly alarmed that it seemed like almost everybody who quits smoking gets (at least a little) fat!
None of the choices seemingly presented were appealing…
Quit smoking and lose her thin, girlish figure
Continue smoking, stay thin but eventually suffer for years with a disease like lung cancer or emphysema.
A kind of depressing dichotomy, especially so if you’ve been smoking for years or decades!
Her dilemma makes me thankful that I was born and raised in the very health conscious state of Colorado where smoking cigarettes kind of makes you a social pariah (a little bit of social ostracization sure works well to incentivize good health decisions!) As opposed to one of the countries I’ve lived in where NOT smoking makes you the social pariah!
The good news…
Is that you don’t have to get fat as a side effect of quit smoking! This article will thoroughly explain several biohacks and lifehacks that will make your metabolism great again, if you’re willing to apply a modicum of discipline and attention for a period of 3-6 months you can avoid the undesirable weight gain while kicking this most kickworthy of bad habits.
Why you get fat when you quit smoking
If you eat the same as you did when you were smoking, your body will end up using less and storing more (as fat) of the food.
- Nicotine suppresses the appetite and causes the liver to release glycogen, which raises blood sugar slightly.
- With nicotine out of your system, you may feel hungry more often.
- Smoking artificially elevates heart rate and increases metabolism.
- When you stop smoking, your body has to readjust to a lower metabolic rate.
- Smoking dulls the taste buds. Food begins to taste better to new nonsmokers; this can increase food intake.
- And maybe there’s oral fixation… Unless you’re a workaholic pornstar you may find yourself eating and snacking all day compulsively just to fill the void left after quitting cigarettes (which sounds like a really bad joke but – I used to hang out with pornstars and they all smoked! So… oral fixation… Might be a real thing!)
Most of the weight gain happens as a result of going off Nicotine, so don’t go off the Nicotine! You don’t have to smoke to get Nicotine, you can supplement Nicotine with…
- Nicotine lozenges
- Nicotine patches
- Little Nicotine spray bottle
- Liquid Nicotine USP drops
- Nicotine gum
It sure doesn’t taste pleasant but Nicotine is actually a real smart drug that powerfully stimulates creativity and focus.
Scientists debate whether Nicotine itself is actually carcinogenic, it’s likely that the hundreds of other toxic chemicals being burnt in cigarettes and tobacco that cause cancer.
If Nicotine is carcinogenic, it’s a lower health risk than obesity.
You probably know that if you go cold turkey off Nicotine you’ll likely have lifelong nicotine cravings anytime you see anyone light up that will make almost every social evening an exercise in will power for you. If that doesn’t sound fun, it would be a really good idea for you to reprogram your serotonin pathway by getting your Nicotine from an alternative source for 2-6 months.
If you notice that you’re still gaining undesirable weight despite Nicotine supplementation, you could try switching to vaping.
You can’t really say that vaping is “healthy” but it’s certainly better than smoking cigarettes or being obese (and cheaper than lung cancer!) It can be an effective way to taper down your Nicotine intake while you instill other positive habits.
If you fail to plan a healthy lifestyle changes concurrently you can plan on failing in quitting smoking.
If you hope to successfully quit smoking you need to be very strict about your diet and fitness for 3-6 months.
A couple of gym rats on Bodybuilding.com have some insights…
I began both my workouts, clean eating and quit smoking on the same day. I am down from 233 to 209 in the past 2 months. You will have much better strength and will see pretty good improvements with your cardio in a couple of weeks after you quit. I never saw a weight gain as I started a very healthy diet of whole foods, veggies, fruits, poultry and fish.
I have quit smoking, well, numerous times but this time is it. I have been smoke free for 9 weeks and have not gained any weight. You just have to have it in your head that when you want that food when you have a craving, just don’t do it. Keep yourself busy and take some deep breaths because the cravings go away faster than you think they will.;
Not everyone who quits gains weight, some lose weight…
I don’t have any personal experience but from what I’ve seen with my friends who quit…
Those who watched what they ate, stayed the same or lost weight. Those who didn’t, gained…
I am quitting smoking, I am on the patches, but I really dont gain weight, I been losing weight. I just decided to change the way that I eat overall. I try to eat clean foods and think that, what I eat, is what I am. When I smoke, its putting nasty toxins into my body and makes me feel nasty. Dont get me wrong I still have one from time to time.
I normally bring something to munch on with me to work during the day, I dont take breaks and go outside anymore, instead I eat carrots or something healthy.;
Snack healthily (and frequently!)
Ive been trying to quit smoking for months now…
i have noticed that it makes it easier to lose fat/ put on muscle if you eat cleanly. I dont know if its the fact that i can breath better and therefor do more cardio wise or if my body just functions more efficiently or what. I think that people just eat a lot more in place of smoking and thats why its commonly thought to cause weight gain. I find that i snack rather than smoking, but i keep my food really clean so it ends up working for me.
Caveat snacking is double edged sword when quitting; snacking can relieve some of those cravings but snacking can result in weight gain.
If you’re going to snack, you need to commit to burning those calories. Get on the exercise bike, hit the weights, try bikram yoga or take a cardio class.
Snacking on junk food is an absolute no-no while quitting. It’s crucial to plan your snacking as opposed to just impulsively purchasing snacks at a gas station or grocery store checkout. Pickup a week’s supply of…
- Raw or whole nuts
- Raw coconut
- >80% cocoa dark chocolate
Sorry, tasty dried fruit is not a healthy snack (it has way too much fructose – it’s not much healthier than a Snickers bar!) Actually any “healthy snack” that contains much sugar is NOT so check those nutrition facts diligently.
Some more insights from successful quitters:
20 minutes of cardio can really help!
October 11 will be my one year anniversary as a non smoker, after 15 years of 2 packs a day…. did not gain a pound!!!! If you increase your cardio by 20 minutes, it makes up for the loss of metabolism (smoking increases your metabolism by 7%, so an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill will make up for this)… if you do this, you wont’ gain weight.. unless you go nuts eating, but with the extra cardio, you help to curb your appetite as well… ;
A three-pronged strategy:
Smoking reduces metabolism by about 10% – for a few months. It’s not permanent, though. During those few months you can do three things guranteed to raise metabolism to compensate for that 10% – possibly even push you over that.
1) Lift weights. You want lean muscle. It takes approx 50 calories to feed a lb of muscle. Muscle’s favourite food? Your body fat. BTW, it takes about 7 calories to feed a lb of fat.
2) Eat frequent smaller meals. It’s called TEF; the Termogenic Effect of Food. Digesting food takes energy. The very act of eating keeps metabolism raised.
3) Drink / take green tea. 7-10 cups of green tea (caffinated) or one extract pill equivalent will raise metabolism by 4% over 24 hours. It’s also a powerful antioxidant, an antifungal and possess anti carcinogenic properties. The extract must be standardized, however, to 60% polyphenols to be effective.;
My advice to you is that you do need to stay focused on your smoking cessation and do what you gotta do to stay quit, first and foremost. The best way to counteract the effects of quitting is to increase your exercise and try to build some muscle with weight training.
This woman found that chewing gum can actually take the place of food:
I havn’t had a cigarette since January 11. In the beginning I substituted food and gained 20 lbs…
My [new] substitute for nicotine now is sugerless gum…
I did feel really hungry at first, but that feeling soon went away.
This guy strongly recommends cardio exercise:
I started running again and slowly started losing the weight I gained too. Now I’m back to my “smoker’s” weight but without the heavy lungs. Running/Jogging+ a healthy diet is your best bet at losing the weight.
I’m going to disagree with this guy’s approach just a bit, running and jogging is in my view an unacceptably risky way to burn calories. When you inevitably sprain your ankle or injure your knees and then you’ll be stuck on couch for weeks or months plumbing up. It’s a lot safer to ride a bike, go swimming or practice yoga.
Green Tea and Cinnamon
This is the beverage of quitters! There’s good anecdotal and clinical evidence that drinking several cups of this daily will really help in your endeavor to improve your health.
In a Brazilian clinical trial after 4 weeks on an adaptive diet, 36 obese women took part and were divided into four groups
- Green tea
- Green tea plus resistance training
- Placebo plus resistance training
The study was double-blinded and placebo-controlled. The purpose was to evaluate the effects of green tea consumption and resistance training on body composition and resting metabolic rate in overweight or obese women. The results were that green tea combined with resistance training maximized loss of body fat, waist circumference, and triacylglyceride levels along with increasing lean body mass and muscle strength.
In a Taiwanese study from 2016 the objective was to assess the effect and safety of high-dose green tea extract at a daily dosage on weight reduction and changes of lipid profile and obesity-related hormone peptides in women with central obesity.
A total of 115 women were examined and for 12 weeks were randomly assigned to either a high-dose green tea group or placebo group. After the treatment finished researchers concluded that high-dose green tea extract resulted in significant weight loss, reduced waist circumference, and a consistent decrease in total cholesterol and LDL plasma levels without any side effects or adverse effects in women with central obesity.
A Pakistani clinical study examined whether cinnamon improves blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Sixty adult people were divided randomly in 6 groups. Three of those groups were given cinnamon and three received placebo.
The results indicated that the patients who supplemented cinnamon had their blood sugar improved and insulin spikes reduced which is implicated in weight loss.
This British randomized crossover trial evaluated a group of people who took 5 grams of cinnamon 2 hours before the oral glucose tolerance test. The researchers concluded that cinnamon may be useful for control of blood sugar as well as improving insulin sensitivity. They also mentioned that the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar were immediate and appeared to be sustainable for up to 12 hours. Yet another study that supports the use of cinnamon for weight loss!
A Swedish study published in 2009 assessed the effect of consuming 1 and 3 grams of cinnamon and the effect it had on post-meal blood glucose and insulin release. The researchers found that there was a relation between the amount of cinnamon consumed and the level of insulin reduction after a meal.
Users on johnstonfitness.com talked about cinnamon’s effect on their body:
This concoction I’ll try!
I started drinking a glass of green tea with 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp honey, 7-10 drops of lemon juice. I also think I ate more crappy foods this week than normal.
I’ve lost 5.5 pounds this week as opposed to 3 per week.
Cinnamon green tea also helped this guy lose weight
I started drinking green tea over the past week (mostly plain, a few times with cinnamon). I didn’t change my eating/exercise plan at all, yet I lost more weight this week than the past 3 weeks! Maybe there really are some weight loss benefits associated with drinking green tea.
Yet another woman found cinnamon extinguished her food cravings:
Just reporting on my weight loss from taking Cinnamon. I lost another one-half pound yesterday. I’ve only been doing this for two days now, but it really seems to be working. Also it seems to be helping me concentrate better. I really believe this will help all of us on this diet. I have not craved any sweetes at all, which is amazing.
Cinnamon green tea is a total no brainer if you’re a quitter trying to stay skinny, there’s two ways to drink it…
- Boil some water and add the green tea packet along with a pinch or two of cinnamon. Let it sit and cool for 3 minutes before drinking.
- Fill a glass bottle with water before bed and add some cinnamon, then leave it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning you’ll have some nice chilled tea to enjoy. I reuse a fancy VOSS water bottle for this which just makes me feel rich.
Personally, I’ve drank copious amounts of green tea daily for the past 6 years. I’ve drank plenty of the fancy organic stuff and plenty of the cheap stuff and I really can’t tell any difference.
Reducing Caloric Intake
One of the most consistent and effective ways to mitigate weight gain is (unsurprisingly!) eating less. I’ll share some lifehacks for making calorie restriction less a whole lot less arduous, but first the science…
An American 12-month randomized, controlled trial conducted from 2005 to 2009 examined the effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition.
- Totalling 439 women who were post-menopausal and had overweight-to-obese body type.
- The dietary intervention was evaluated by weight loss, and monitoring frequency of session attendance.
- Exercise participants tracked their activities in a daily exercise log that was reviewed on a weekly basis by the exercise physiologists.
In the end of the study, researchers observed significant improvement in the women’s lifestyle, as well as weight loss.
In many ways life is a stark choice between two options…
Temporary discomfort for yourself now.
Arduous, long term suffering later for yourself and those closest to you.
Oddly, the majority of people choose suffering later over a little discomfort now.
If you’re in the minority who are smart enough to choose discomfort now caloric restriction is for you.
Lifehacking Caloric Restriction
In this article I share a lot of anecdotes of quitters who address their cravings by eating a lot or snacking frequently. This clearly works for some people but unless you’re going to do a lot of exercise it’s probably not a great idea, most people should try to eat less, especially when quitting smoking.
Fasting is a health practice that is increasingly found by researchers and biohacking practitioners to be seriously beneficial to health. It’s also the best way to decrease caloric intake, there’s two fasting strategies you’ll want to implement
Intermittent daily fasting – The goal here is to everyday do all your eating within an 8 hour window. The other 16 hours of the day you don’t eat. Most biohackers skip breakfast, eat a late lunch and big filling dinner. At first you’ll really miss breakfast but after a little while you wont and you’ll love the time and money saved.
24 hour fasting – About once a month go 24 hours without a meal or food. Drink a lot of water, tea or juice. It’s easiest to fast from lunch to lunch. The first time you do this you’ll get quite uncomfortable and hungry but subsequent 24 hour fasts are a walk in the park.
This Brit on longecity.com found resistant starch crucial in fighting weight gain after quitting smoking:
I think resistant starch is a big part of making me feel full, and I sometimes add some spoonfuls of pectin, bran, or whatever, before my big meal, which is breakfast. I have systematically trained myself to want only one proper meal a day–at lunch and “tea” I do not have very much…
Good, filling, satisfying foods for me are potatoes, eggs, vegetables, “fruit” vegetables (green beans, peppers, tomatoes), mushrooms, dried fruit, oats…
I can feel as if I am eating quite a lot by piecing my intake together from the above types of foods, and by taking spoonfuls of resistant starch and fibres…
An American found that meals of satiating foods mitigate cravings:
What worked for me is large, satiating meals of low-calorie density foods (so your stomach stretch sensors go off with a lesser calorie load)…
Stuff yourself with what initially appear to be insane amounts low-caloric density fruits, salads, vegetables, and soup (but no drinking calories, fatty dressings, creamy soups, or avocado/nut binges), and you’ll simply feel full long before you can tackle any diet breakers…
I would NOT recommend stuffing yourself with nutritionally vapid foods BUT it’s better than relapsing and smoking a cigarette OR chowing on junk food.
A much smarter way to deal with food cravings is consuming natural appetite suppressants like…
I’m a big fan of Bulletproof style coffee with butter mixed in it; blending high quality butter with your coffee feeds your body just what it needs to enter a fat burning ketogenic state.
- But even none-buttered black coffee will distract you from wanting to eat.
- Quality really matters with coffee; it’s better to not drink it if you can’t get the really good stuff in your cup.
- If you add a bunch of sugary additives to coffee it’s destroys the nutritional benefit. Drink it black.
- If you’re stimulant or caffeine sensitive decaf coffee is also an effective appetite suppressant.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Add a bit of this very tangy cider to your tea or beverages to mitigate food cravings.
A 12-week double-blind placebo controlled study, conducted in Japan recently investigated the effects of vinegar intake on the reduction of body fat mass in obese people. They were randomly divided into 3 groups of similar body weight. Two of them took vinegar and the third one administered placebo. Researchers concluded that daily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.
Appetite suppressants certainly worked for this Philadelphian:
I like appetite suppressants. Coffee can be useful as a low-calorie drink that might provide a little appetite suppression…
I lost a quarter of my body weight over several years, and now seem to have no problem keeping it off.
The anti-aging supplement Resveratrol might help, this guy reported that it suppresses acute hunger:
I figured out that I could use resveratrol as a hunger control tool. Now, instead of taking 1g in the morning on an empty stomach, I just get up and eat my monomeal for the day. Then later, when hunger comes, I take my resveratrol. Today, I took 1g during intense hunger around 2pm. It killed my hunger in minutes, replacing it with that slighly nauseous feeling that you get when you overeat. I went from dreaming about bread-and-butter the way that most guys dream about porn stars to “hmm, let’s lift weights and get to work.”
Resveratrol also seemed to work in weight loss for this lady on longecity.com:
I’ve been on resveratrol a week now. With it, I’ve lost 2 lbs last week which is fast for me!
Resveratrol… has a very, very strong and fast effect on appetite with little or no downside (that I’ve yet found) I started taking it for life extension reasons (as well as for its anti-cancer and adaptogenic properties) and soon noticed that my hunger and appetite had shifted.
In a 2011 Dutch randomized double-blind crossover trial 11 healthy obese men were treated with placebo and 150 milligrams daily of resveratrol for 30 days. Resveratrol significantly reduced sleeping and resting metabolic rate. Eventually, it turned out that resveratrol supplementation induces metabolic changes in obese humans, mimicking the effects of calorie restriction.
Resveratrol has about the same effect on your body as the fasting strategies I mentioned earlier, if you’re not going to fast resveratrol is not a bad idea but Resveratrol counteracts the effects of exercise. You wouldn’t want to exercise and take Resveratrol within 24 hours.
Supplement Vitamin C and a B Vitamin Complex
These two vitamins balance out common deficiencies that underlie dysfunctional metabolism.
Some people on bodybuilding.com reported:
I also bought liquid B complex and Vitamin C this morning. After I took both I felt a million times better. It totally makes sense to me now. If smoking takes away your vitamin C then adding some may help you to feel better. As for the B complex it aids in energy metabolism, fatigue, etc. so if when quitting your metabolism drops a bit and your blood sugar levels get lower then the B complex should help to regulate things a bit. I think that’s what did it for me. I still feel a little bloated but not as bad as yesterday. I think I will try to add an extra day of cardio in to get rid of some of this water weight. ;
I was a smoker for almost 30 years and smoked a pack and a half a day. I quit cold turkey. I didn’t want to gain any weight so that’s when I first joined a gym and started lifting.Before that I was just working out at home and walking. The first two weeks or so were hard but then the cravings stopped and it got better. I found it helped to have a piece of gum after meals or anytime I wanted a cigarette really. I only gained about 4 pounds the whole first year I quit. That was 13 years ago. Your metabolism does slow down when you first quit smoking. However, if you keep working out and eating right, the weight will come back off…
- Supplement Nicotine from an alternative source.
- Plan to change your diet for 3-6 months.
- Fast to decrease your caloric intake.
- Consume appetite suppressing beverages (like green tea with cinnamon!)
- Pick up a week’s supply of a couple different healthy snacks.
- Exercise consistently, lift weights, sweat and get in about 20 minutes of cardio at least a couple times a week.
- Supplement Vitamin C and a B Vitamin Complex.
This is a follow up to another article 7 Nootropics that make quitting smoking a breeze, which you will definitely want to checkout if your really struggling with willpower while trying to quit.