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How Much Weight is Gained After People Quit Smoking

Quit smoking

If you still smoke and want to quit but are afraid you'll gain weight, chances are you will put on a few pounds. Even though a new study found that the amount of weight gained after people quit smoking is more than previously believed, hopefully you won't let that possibility stop you, because there are ways to beat the pounds--and some people even lose weight.

Quit smoking and gain health benefits

It's widely known that people who quit smoking will gain weight. According to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the average weight gain is less than 10 pounds, and not everyone who quits smoking gains weight. However, about 10 percent put on as much as 30 pounds.

Authors of the new study noted that smoking cessation advice leaflets typically say 2.9 kg (6.4 lb) is the average amount of weight gained after people quit smoking. Before attempting to quit, many female smokers report they will not tolerate more than a 2.3 kg (5.0 lb) weight gain.

The health benefits gained, however, far outweigh weight gain. People who quit smoking experience an immediate improvement in heart rate and blood pressure, and carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal within 12 hours. You can expect to have more energy, whiter teeth, fresher breath, and healthier skin--and don't forget the extra money in our pocket.

Within the first year of quitting, circulation and lung function improve, excess risk of coronary heart disease drops 50 percent that of a smoker, shortness of breath declines, and the risk of lung infection is reduced. Beyond a year, the risk of cancer of the throat, esophagus, mouth, cervix, and bladder significantly decline, as does the risk of stroke, according to the American Cancer Society.

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All these benefits and more should be kept in mind as you review the findings of the new study, published on the BMJ website. The meta-analysis of 62 studies, which evaluated weight changes after one year among people who successfully quit smoking, found that:

  • Among untreated (no nicotine replacement therapy) quitters, the average amount of weight gain was 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) at one month, 2.3 kg (5.0 lb) at two months, 2.9 kg (6.4 lb) at three months, 4.2 kg (9.2 lb) at six months, and 4.7 kg (10.3 lb) at one year.
  • About 16 to 21 percent of quitters lost weight
  • 13 percent gained more than 22 pounds after one year
  • Most of the weight gain occurred within the first three months of quitting
  • Estimates of weight gain among people who used nicotine replacement therapy were similar to those who did not

The study's authors stress that their weight gain findings surpass those of previous studies, and therefore "These data suggest that doctors might usefully give patients a range of expected weight gain."

How to limit or avoid weight gain
To help limit or stop weight gain after you quit smoking, WIN offers the following suggestions:

  • Accept yourself. Be proud that you have taken a significant step toward improving your health and that of your family
  • Be physically active. Regular exercise that you enjoy can take the edge of wanting to eat. Identify several fun ways to be physical: walk or swim with a friend, take a yoga or tai chi class, exercise to music, join an aerobics class or walking group
  • Limit snacking and alcohol use. Eating between meals and drinking alcohol can add lots of extra calories. If you need to snack, try raw vegetables, unbuttered popcorn, fresh fruit, fat-free yogurt, and seltzer water with lemon.
  • Consider using medication to help you quit. Nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray, and lozenges do not need a prescription.
  • Consider consulting an expert about weight control. You might talk to a nutritionist, dietician, personal trainer, or your healthcare provider.

Another way to help prevent weight gain is to seek help from support groups, either in person, online, or both. Today's advanced technology allows you to tap into help just about anytime, anywhere through your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and television. Explore apps for weight loss help, chat rooms, forums, video conferencing.

The results of this new study suggest people may gain more weight than previously believed. However, quitting smoking is still one of the most positive steps anyone can take for their health.

American Cancer Society
Aubin H-J et al. Weight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345: e4439
Weight-control Information Network

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