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Maintaining a healthy weight after you quit smoking

Many people gain weight when they quit smoking. A few simple strategies can help control this side effect.

You may be concerned about gaining weight after you quit smoking.

It's true that your body uses food more slowly after you first stop smoking, and you may eat more when you quit. But if you watch what you eat and stay active, you can keep your weight in check. These pointers from the American Heart Association can help you stay within a healthful weight range.

At mealtime

Pass up rich desserts. Choose fruit, low-fat or nonfat frozen yogurt, angelfood cake, or dates and raisins instead.

Think fresh. As soon as you finish a meal, brush your teeth as a signal to yourself that you aren't going to eat any more.

Between meals

Plan for the munchies. Keep nutritious, low-calorie foods on hand. A few ideas:

  • Fresh fruit such as bananas, oranges, apples, grapes or watermelon.
  • Raw veggies such as carrot or celery sticks, green pepper strips, tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes, cauliflower buds, broccoli florets, and cucumber slices. Tip: Wash and prepare fresh fruits and veggies in advance. That way they'll be handy when you're hungry.
  • Whole grain bread, dry cereal, pretzels or air-popped popcorn without the butter.
  • If you crave sweets, chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy.

Put healthful snacks in front. Store high-calorie snacks at the back of the cupboard or refrigerator, where they're harder to see, and healthier snacks in front.

Throughout the day

Stay active. Make time to exercise every day. If you're starting a new fitness program, talk with your doctor first. Start with as little as 10 minutes per day and gradually build up to longer periods of time. Eventually, you should try for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

In addition to helping you burn calories and control your weight, exercise can:

  • Distract you from smoking.
  • Calm you and improve your mood.
  • Help control your appetite.
  • Lower the stress that makes you crave a cigarette.
  • Help build muscle (and since muscle is denser than fat, your clothes may fit more loosely even if you weigh more).

Be creative. Find ways to keep your hands busy that don't involve food.

Drink up. It's especially important to drink lots of water. Beware of alcohol, though; it adds calories and may reduce your resolve to quit smoking. Instead, opt for juice or tea.

First things first

The weight gain that may happen after quitting smoking is generally small—usually less than 10 pounds, according to the American Cancer Society.

Even if you do gain a few pounds after quitting, your health will still be better off than when you were smoking. In fact, you'd have to gain a lot of weight to offset the health rewards of quitting.

So don't let weight gain distract you from your primary goal—quitting smoking. You are more likely to quit successfully if you deal with the smoking first, then lose weight later if need be.

reviewed 11/1/2019

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