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Maintaining Weight Once You've Quit Smoking

People sometimes gain weight when they stop smoking. But you can reduce your chances of adding extra pounds. You just need to take steps to prevent it. Your best bet? Be aware of the times when you may be tempted to substitute food for a cigarette. And think of ways to cope when that happens.

The following tips can help you maintain your weight after you stop smoking.

Exercise regularly

Taking a walk, riding a bike, dancing, or doing any other aerobic activity you enjoy is an important part of a weight-control program. Try to exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week. If 30 minutes seems too much for you, start with 10 minutes. Now that you've stopped smoking, physical activity may be easier and more enjoyable.  

Eat less fat

Decrease your fat intake by eating lower-fat foods instead of high-fat ones. Drink skim milk instead of whole milk. Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. And have a baked potato instead of French fries.

Drink plenty of water

Water can help fill you up. You can also try some low-calorie drink choices. These include diet soft drinks, coffee, tea, skim milk or 1% milk, and fresh fruit (fruit is high in water content). It's easy to mistake hunger for thirst. So drink water when you're tempted to eat between meals. Many smokers associate smoking with caffeine. If you're one of them, don't have caffeinated drinks.

Snack on high-fiber foods

High-fiber snacks include air-popped popcorn and whole-grain crackers and cereals. Other choices are carrot sticks, celery sticks, raisins, apples, and grapes. These foods will fill you up without adding a lot of calories or fat.

Slow down

When you have a meal, eat it slowly. Also limit distractions by eating at your dinner table and turning off your phone and computer. This can help keep you from overeating. Also watch your portion sizes and try cutting your food into very small pieces. Or putting your fork down after each bite.

Use healthy alternatives

Keep low-calorie substitutes for cigarettes in your desk, pocket, or purse. Keep carrot sticks, bread sticks, or low-fat, low-salt pretzels on hand. Those are better for your diet than a high-fat candy bar, a doughnut, or a bag of chips.

Chew sugarless gum

Sugarless gum is helpful when an oral craving hits. Or you can suck on sugarless mints or low-calorie hard candies. Suck on 1 piece of candy at a time and let it melt slowly.

Skip dessert

Brush your teeth or suck on a breath mint as soon as you're done eating your main course. This will make you less likely to have dessert.

Get busy

Do something else when a craving for a cigarette or food hits. Try calling a friend, taking a walk, reading a book, or working on a project.

Find a hobby

Find things to do with your hands that aren't food related. Think about starting a hobby. You could try woodworking, gardening, or doing crossword puzzles. You can also squeeze a hand grip or a small rubber ball, or play with a pen. Or handle some other small object, such as a pebble, key chain, or coin.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
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