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Smoking And Weight: Questions And Answers

From a certain point of view, it is true that smoking “makes you lose weight”, as we often hear. Nicotine, in fact, is an anorectic substance as its mechanism of action stimulates the satiety center and inhibits the hunger center, both present in the hypothalamus of our brain, which is why it can promote weight loss. This is why, when you stop smoking, you very often gain a few pounds, but it doesn’t always happen and, above all, it can be avoided.

However, weight gain must not be a justification for not giving up the habit of smoking, we must also consider the initially “not visible” damage that cigarette smoking causes on our body: lung cancer, leukemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) , stroke, heart disease and heart attack , just to name a few of the most important. If you quit smoking, is it certain that you will gain weight? Is it possible to lose weight instead? What happens to your heart and lungs when you stop smoking? What do you have to do to not gain weight? Continue reading the article to know the answers to all your doubts about smoking and weight.

I Will Stop Smoking. Will I Definitely Gain Weight?

No , not everyone gains weight after quitting smoking. In fact, many studies show that, although the majority of people gain weight after quitting smoking, the number of extra kilograms on the scale is very variable : it can range from +1 kg to extreme cases, but cases in which you gain more than 10 kilos.

  • On average, men gain about 3 kg of weight , while women gain about 4 kg.
  • Weight gain generally occurs in the first 1-3 years after quitting smoking and is followed by significant weight loss , until reaching the body weight you had 7 years before quitting.
  • Not everyone gains weight after giving up cigarettes: 16-21% of smokers lose weight, rather than gain weight, after quitting smoking!

Why Do Some People Gain Weight And Others Lose Weight?

The reasons for the great variability in weight observed among those who quit smoking are due to the different mechanisms that come into play once the pack of cigarettes has been abandoned. As mentioned, nicotine is considered an anorectic substance, but it is unclear whether this is due to its direct effects on the central nervous system. Nicotine inhalation is associated with a reduction in appetite and weight, but the true mechanism that produces this effect is still unclear.

  • Some studies suggest that the reduction in appetite is due to an effect of nicotine on certain substances involved in appetite regulation, including neuropeptide Y and pro-opiomelanocortin. The first is produced by the hypothalamus and intervenes in the regulation of food intake and fat accumulation ; the second, however, is a precursor of other substances that act in regulating appetite.
  • The effects of nicotine on metabolism are also quite controversial and unclear. It is often thought that nicotine increases the metabolism and therefore the calories we burn: in reality, weight gain after losing the smoking habit depends above all on ourselves. The absence of nicotine allows you to rediscover the flavors and smells of food and therefore increases the desire for it. Furthermore, many people tend to confuse the desire for nicotine with hunger and/or replace the gesture of bringing the cigarette to the mouth with that of bringing food to the mouth. It is no coincidence that the person who, when he stops smoking, begins to regularly practice physical activity and follow a balanced diet is the person who is least likely to start smoking again.

Overweight Isn’t It A Cardiovascular Risk Factor Anyway?

Many people ask themselves: “ But if by quitting smoking I were to gain weight, isn’t being overweight still a risk factor for your health? You might as well keep smoking!”. NO! Both smoking and being overweight are risk factors for many cardiovascular diseases, however, scientific studies have shown that the benefits of quitting smoking are greater than the risks associated with weight gain . In fact, those who stop smoking have a significant reduction in the risk of death , regardless of the change in weight after giving up cigarettes.

  • Quitting smoking significantly reduces the risk of mortality from all causes , especially from cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. Remember that even just one cigarette a day increases the risk of heart attack by 50% !
  • Quitting smoking reduces the risk of blood clotting (formation of blood clots that can cause thrombosis, stroke, heart attack or other ischemic problems).
  • It reduces the physiological progression of atherosclerosis , the disease of the arterial vessels which reduces their width, thus causing heart attack or stroke or other ischemic problems.
  • Reduces the risk of arrhythmias and sudden death.
  • At the lung level, quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer, chronic bronchopneumopathy and lung infections.
  • Reduces the risk of 12 types of cancer : acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer), bowel cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, colon and rectal cancer (intestine), esophagus cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, to the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx and stomach.
  • When you stop smoking, after 20 minutes you will be able to feel your heart rate reduce , after a few days your skin will be shinier and your teeth whiter . After 2-4 weeks, your circulation improves and you will feel your lungs breathing more deeply , you will see your coughing and shortness of breath reduce ; after one year, the risk of heart attack is drastically reduced , after 5 years the risk of cancer in the oral cavity and throat is reduced by 50%

How Can I Avoid Gaining Weight After Quitting Smoking?

The craving for a cigarette usually lasts 3-5 minutes. So, you only need to be able to last a few minutes! During this time, you can drink small sips of water or chew gum without added sugar (only if you do not suffer from digestive problems such as reflux or meteorism and without abusing it). Here’s what you can do to quit smoking:

  • Dedicate time to healthy physical activity to replace the time you would use for smoking (e.g. go for a walk, go for errands by bike, etc.).
  • Plan your shopping in advance: make a list of healthy and nutritious foods and buy only those listed, such as seasonal fruit and vegetables , legumes , fresh fish , lean meats , milk and cheeses such as Grana Padano DOP. This cheese, in addition to being the richest in calcium among those commonly consumed, provides many proteins with high biological value (which contain the 9 essential amino acids), fundamental vitamins such as B2 and B12 and also antioxidants , such as vitamin A, zinc and selenium , which help you fight the damage of free radicals released by cigarette smoke. Sign up for the Anti-Aging Diet if you want to receive free seasonal menus rich in antioxidants and protective foods to help you eliminate smoking toxins.
  • Don’t arrive hungry at meals, always have two snacks during the day.
  • Sleep well: Lack of sleep causes weight gain.
  • Pay attention to what you drink: wine, beer, spirits , sugary drinks such as cola, orange soda, iced teas and fruit juices , if taken in excessive quantities, turn into extra kilos!
  • Eat for the calories you actually consume. Do you know how many calories you should be eating every day? Respecting your energy balance is important to avoid gaining weight. If you want to calculate your daily calories and get 4 tasty menus designed for you for free , sign up to Calories & Health Menus . You will also find a physical activity plan, which accompanies the diet, suited to your abilities and possibilities.

Also Read: Tea That Helps You Lose Weight: Discover The Benefits And How To Incorporate It Into Your Routine

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