Quitting Smoking: Dealing With Weight Gain

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Quitting Smoking: Dealing With Weight Gain


Many people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. Some people don't gain any weight, while others do. But keep your focus on quitting. After you are confident of not relapsing, you can deal with losing any weight you may have gained.

If you do start to gain weight, there are steps you can take.

The important thing is to quit smoking. The minute you quit, you'll be starting a much healthier life.

  • Smoking is much worse for your health than gaining a few pounds.
  • If you try to lose weight at the same time that you try to quit smoking, you will probably have a harder time quitting. So deal with quitting first. Then deal with weight gain later.
  • While you are trying to quit, focus on eating healthy foods and being more active.

There are several reasons why people may gain weight when they quit smoking.

  • Nicotine curbs your appetite. It also perks you up when your energy is low because of hunger. When you quit smoking, you may feel hungry more often and eat more as a result.
  • Nicotine dulls your taste buds. So when you quit smoking, food tastes better and you may want to eat more.
  • Without cigarettes, you may turn to food as a replacement. You may need something to do with your hands and mouth at certain times of the day when you used to smoke.
  • Nicotine makes your body burn calories faster. So when you quit, your body isn't burning calories as fast as it used to.

Studies show that the more cigarettes you smoke, the more likely you are to gain weight when you quit.1

Test Your Knowledge

People gain weight when they quit smoking because nicotine curbs your appetite and dulls your taste buds.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Without nicotine, many people have a better appetite and find that food tastes better.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Without nicotine, many people have a better appetite and find that food tastes better.


Continue to Why?


First of all, not everyone gains weight. Some people are able to keep their weight down when they quit smoking.

And if you do gain a little weight, it's still better than smoking:

  • A few extra pounds can be lost later. Continuing to smoke increases your risk for many serious health problems.
  • As soon as you quit smoking, you lower your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke.
  • After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of getting lung cancer are much lower.
  • By quitting, you lower your chances of getting cancers of the voice box, mouth, throat, esophagus, intestine, bladder, kidney, and pancreas.
  • When you quit, you get rid of the secondhand smoke that may be putting the health of your family in danger.
  • When you quit, you stop smelling like a smoker. You'll have fresher-smelling clothes and fresh breath.
  • With the money you save by quitting, you can buy other things that you want.

Test Your Knowledge

Smoking is far worse for your health than gaining a few pounds.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Exactly right. Continuing to smoke increases your risk for many serious health problems.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Smoking is a lot worse. Continuing to smoke increases your risk for many serious health problems.


Which of the following are reasons to quit smoking even if it makes you gain weight?

Continue to How?


Be aware

Knowledge is a powerful thing. Now that you know that quitting smoking can make you want to eat more, or eat more often, you can be ready for it.

  • Remember that the secret to weight control—whether you smoke or not—is eating healthy food and becoming more active.
  • Don't try to diet when you quit smoking. Most people who try to lose weight at the same time they are trying to stop smoking have an even harder time of stopping smoking. Instead, eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. And learn more about Click here to view an Actionset.healthy fats.
  • Find ways to get more active. Take the stairs. Park farther away. Take walks. Start a program at the gym, or take up a new sport.

Have a plan

Keeping control of your weight will be easier if you have a plan. Before your quit day:

  • Know what activities will tempt you to smoke or eat, and avoid them. It may help to keep a journal of the times when you're most tempted.
  • Think about how you will fill the time when you usually smoke. For example, if you love that after-meal cigarette, don't replace that cigarette with more food. Get up and brush your teeth, go for a walk, or wash the dishes.
  • Make a list of healthy foods that you especially like. Try some new low-calorie snacks and drinks. Stock up on the ones you like.
  • Think about how you can work more exercise into your life. Besides helping you stay away from cigarettes, exercise burns calories. Plan to take short walks or do some stretches at times when you would ordinarily smoke.

Tips for avoiding weight gain

Think positive, and keep temptation away:

  • Don't quit smoking during holiday periods. You're more likely to eat more then.
  • Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol drinks have a lot of calories, so avoiding them will help you control your weight. And drinking can weaken your willpower, especially if you usually smoke when you drink.
  • Eat at least 3 healthy meals a day so you don't get hungry. For some people, eating smaller healthy meals more than 3 times a day works better. And eat more whole-grain foods. They stay with you longer and help keep you from getting hungry.
  • Consider getting professional help. Nutritionists, fitness instructors, and therapists can all help you control your weight when you quit smoking.
  • Make regular activity part of your life. Walking is a great exercise that most people enjoy and can do. It may help to walk or exercise with a partner or group.
  • Weigh yourself at least once a week. Keep a pencil and paper near the scales, and write your weight down. That way the extra pounds won't "sneak up" on you.
  • Remind yourself every day of how much healthier you are for having quit smoking.

Remember, looking good is much more important than how much you weigh. Smelling clean and smoke-free, having fresh breath, having fingers and teeth free of yellow tobacco stains, and feeling healthier all make you more attractive.

Food and cigarettes

A big reason people gain weight is that they reach for food instead of a cigarette after they quit.

  • When you have a craving for a cigarette or food, remember that cravings usually last only a few minutes. Do something else to occupy your time for those few minutes.
  • Rather than eating candy or other food to replace the cigarettes, try chewing on a drinking straw, toothpick, or coffee stirrer.
  • If you must have something sweet in your mouth, eat fruit or try sugar-free gum or candy.
  • Come up with something else to keep your hands busy so you don't use them to eat. For example, take up knitting, beading, doing crossword puzzles, or just doodling.
  • People often turn to food at times of tension or stress. Find other ways to deal with those times. Go for a walk. Vacuum the floor.

Test Your Knowledge

The best way to control your weight when you quit smoking is to go on a diet.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You should focus instead on eating healthy food and getting more exercise. It's hard enough to quit smoking. To go on a diet at the same time could lower your chances of success.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    It's hard enough to quit smoking. To go on a diet at the same time could lower your chances of success. Focus instead on eating healthy food and getting more exercise.


Continue to Where?


Talk with your doctor

If you have questions about this information, make an appointment with your doctor and take the information with you. Your doctor may have more ideas on how to help you quit smoking and control your weight.

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to control your weight as you quit smoking.

If you would like more information on quitting smoking, the following resources are available:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Smoking and Tobacco Use
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA  30333
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
TDD: 1-888-232-6348
Email: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Web Address: www.cdc.gov/tobacco

This website provides resources for quitting smoking and tobacco prevention, including information for children, teens, researchers, and scientists. There are also reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fact sheets, a publications catalog, a smoking and health resource library, and other materials, such as buttons, calendars, and eCards.

This is also the location for the State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System.

National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines
Phone: 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUITNOW

The toll-free number is a single access point to the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines. Callers are automatically routed to a state-run quitline, if one exists in their area. If there is no state-run quitline, callers are routed to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) quitline, where they may receive help with quitting smoking, informational materials, and referrals to other resources.

Phone: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
TDD: 1-800-332-8615
Email: NCISmokeFreeTeam@mail.nih.gov
Web Address: www.smokefree.gov

This website provides free information and professional assistance to help support people who are trying to quit smoking. The information provided is for both the immediate and long-term needs of people who are trying to quit and for friends and family who care about them.

This website includes an online guide to quitting smoking, local and state telephone quitlines, the National Cancer Institute's national telephone quitline and instant messaging service, and publications that can be ordered or downloaded and printed. There is also a link to women.smokefree.gov, which has more resources for women who want to quit smoking.

Return to topic:



  1. Eisenberg D, Quinn BC (2006). Estimating the effect of smoking cessation on weight gain: An instrumental variable approach. Health Services Research, 41(6): 2255–2266.

Other Works Consulted

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2010). You Can Control Your Weight as You Quit Smoking (NIH Publication No. 03-4159). Bethesda, MD: Weight-Control Information Network. Also available online: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/smoking.htm.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Cardiovascular diseases. In How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General, chap. 6. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also available online: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/tobaccosmoke/report/index.html.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
Last RevisedJuly 6, 2011

Last Revised: July 6, 2011

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