We all know the negative effects of smoking on the health of you and those around you. There’s a reason that smoking rates have dropped to an all-time low in the UK: because people are finally waking up to just how bad smoking is for you!
But finding the motivation to quit smoking is still a very difficult challenge. It doesn’t help that you often gain weight once you’ve given up smoking, so we’re here to support you in your commitment to better health.
Tobacco addiction can take control over many parts of your life. The ritual of taking a cigarette break or having that after-dinner smoke are ingrained in you, increasing your urges to smoke through reinforced behaviours. That is why it helps to shake up your lifestyle alongside chucking your habit. Exercise and food consciousness are essential parts of that. It’s also important to bear in mind that the latest research shows an e-cigarette (an option we’ll get onto later) could help you keep off the weight, as well as the tobacco.
Why Quitting Makes You Gain Weight
There are a number of reasons why quitting smoking makes us gain weight. Fortunately, all of them can be easily combatted with just a few minor lifestyle changes:
- Smoking speeds up your metabolism, which means your body burns more calories, at a faster rate. When you quit, you actually need fewer calories than when you smoked
- Smoking can suppress your appetite
- You often crave sugary foods, because smoking inhibits your taste buds
- Your nicotine cravings can easily be mistaken for feeling hungry
- The “hand-to-mouth” action you have spent years perfecting often gets replaced with snacking, aided by muscle memory
- It’s also important to remember that with any addiction, you’ve become accustomed to its comforting routine. We want to either break that routine (harder) or replace it with something healthier and more fulfilling (easier)
Light to Moderate Exercise
Don’t worry, this isn’t a gruelling new fitness regime (unless you want it to be…), but no-one can realistically claim they have a healthy lifestyle without some exercise. This really isn’t a major commitment, we’re only suggesting around 90-180 minutes of light to moderate exercise a week. This type of exercise can vary from brisk walking to running, swimming to spin classes. The important thing is to be honest with yourself. 60 minutes of walking a week really isn’t going to cut it. So try and plan ahead to make sure you keep to your targets.
We’d really recommend investing in a gym membership, or buying a run of classes at the least. This gives you a solid commitment to your goal of staying healthy. Having a friend or family member who is keen to join you helps, too. This way, when you aren’t feeling “up to it,” you’ll feel less inclined to miss out, as you’re not only letting yourself down, but also someone else.
Going to the gym with friends or family is also a fantastic way to distract you from your nicotine cravings. It’s going to be nearly impossible to ignore them completely, but staying busy and active is a really positive way to avoid it affecting you too much.
Understand the Food You Eat
Strong nutrition is the second essential component of having a healthier lifestyle. This isn’t a diet; we’re aiming for long-term changes, not quick fixes. But realistically, those nicotine cravings are going to make it difficult at first to eat healthily. The hand-to-mouth habit is a strong urge, so instead of resisting it, we’re going to give in to it. Snacks are the order of the day!
Because many quick foods or snacks are high in saturated fats or sugar, we’ve got to be prudent shoppers. Always check the labels; avoid anything that’s high in sugars, salt or saturated fats. Most dairy products have low-fat alternatives these days and the range of healthier crisp choices has improved drastically in recent years. Always carry some sort of food around with you in case of emergencies. Mixed dried fruit and nuts is always a winner, or even just some sugar-free gum.
Try an E-Cigarette
Everyone knows what an e-cigarette is by now. It’s highly likely that you know more than one person who likes to vape. But did you know that the NHS recommends an e-cigarette to help you live a healthier, smoke-free life? Or that as many as one million people claim to have used an e-cigarette to help them quit?
The other great thing about an e-cigarette is that it is a direct replacement for tobacco cigarettes. You can still go outside to have a smoking break and it fulfils your hand-to-mouth urges, so you don’t have to rely on your snacks as much. Because of this, you don’t feel the need to replace your old habit with eating, so it helps keep the weight off.
Above all, it’s very important to stay motivated. Quitting smoking can be an incredibly difficult task. It’s easy to lose sight of your goals when you’re really craving nicotine. Remember to take baby steps to achieve your healthier lifestyle. Increase your exercise regime in increments, else you might burn out and then stop altogether.
Don’t reduce your diet; you still need to eat as much as you were before you quit smoking. But we want to be eating less sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. A balanced diet will bring you all the same enjoyment from eating as it did before – and it’s that much more satisfying once you’ve really got into it.
This content was originally published here.