Weight control and smoking are connected closely. Young girls usually start smoking because they believe that cigarettes keep them slim. In some respect it is true, because when smokers quit the habit, they gain extra pounds. However, it is a well-known fact that the additional weight is a temporary event and the majority of ex-smokers get back in shape after six months.
Primarily weight gain happens not because nicotine controls weight, but because ex-smokers have withdrawal symptoms when they give up cigarettes. The main rules of the quitting diet are high intake of fruits and vegetables, reduced fat and carbohydrates, control of snacks.
One of the main problems all ex-smokers have that they miss having something in their mouth, so they chew some snacks. In this case crackers, chips and other high calorie food made out of carbohydrates are not the right choice. It is good to stay on vegetable snacks like carrots, celery sticks and fruits. Little 100 calorie cookies or pretzels would do well too.
It is not hard to control fat intake because many products in grocery stores have labels which determine the amount of fat in them. It is always important to check the nutrition facts before buying something, because some foods contain more hidden fat than people think.
Thirst is another withdrawal symptom: nicotine dries out the mouth trying to bring the smoker back to cigarettes. Ice-cold water or ice-cubes would be the best solutions if this problem arose. If the person wants to keep the weight low, he or she should not drink sweet carbonated beverages. Reducing the amount of salt in food also helps to drink less. Sodium information is usually given on food packages reflecting the amount of salt in them. A lot of drinking does not only add calories if the beverage has sugar in it, but also causes water retention which affects body mass. This is mainly a problem for ladies, because men’s bodies do not hold liquid as much as women’s.
Ex-smokers tend to eat sweet food. Some agree that they might have never had sweet tooth, but after they quit smoking their interest in desserts and sweet snacks increased. It is a real problem for weight, if the person cannot resist the desire to eat something sweet. However, there is a way out even in this situation: the ex-smoker can try sugar-free snacks which contain fewer calories or satisfy the craving with fruits, which provide a lot of vitamins and minimum of calories.
For some people eating and smoking is a matter of calming stress down. In this case ex-smokers have to eat more because they cannot have a cigarette after a meal as they used to. Overeating results in upset stomach and additional weight. There are other ways to deal with stress: trying to make hands busy right after a meal with some handcrafts, reading a book to concentrate the mind on different problems, etc. A good way to control the amount of food taken is to keep a Diet Diary where the person can keep notes about all meals and snacks. After the taken food and calories are written down and calculated, the ex-smoker can decide where they can be cut down in the least hurtful way.
It is really not hard to keep the weight low after quitting smoking: the main factor is to have it under control for a few months till the withdrawal symptoms fade away. Besides, as it has been mentioned above, for the majority of ex-smokers body mass comes back to normal after six months of non-smoking.
Jackie Hogan, MS, RD is a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She is a member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND-LAD) and the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Jackie has been featured on Women’s Health, Fitness Magazine, Women’s Fitness, and Men’s Fitness magazine.