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How Exercise Can Help With Weight Gain

One of the scary things about quitting smoking (aside from going insane with nicotine withdrawals) is the fear of gaining weight. According to studies, the average smoker gains about 8 pounds after quitting. However, weight gain isn't inevitable! If you approach quitting the right way, you can use exercise to avoid gaining weight and help you quit for good.

Quitting and Gaining

One of the reasons for weight gain is because nicotine speeds up your metabolism. When you quit, your metabolism slows down and you might gain weight even if you're not eating more. Of course, lots of people DO end up eating more after quitting. When you stop smoking, you'll typically feel hungrier and food will taste better. You'll also need something to replace cigarettes and some folks turn to food. The combination of eating more calories while burning less results in weight gain. Before you give up on quitting, there is something you can do to avoid extra pounds.

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How Exercise Can Help

Exercise is an obvious way to help avoid gaining weight after you quit. Studies show that smokers have an easier time quitting when they add exercise to their smoking cessation plan. There are some other benefits of exercise including:

  • stress reduction (you'll need that as you battle with the urge to smoke!)
  • reduced depression
  • improved mood
  • reduced craving for nicotine and an alternative idea for smokers who don't want to use nicotine replacement therapy
  • improved confidence and motivation
  • improved physical conditioning and performance (no more huffing and puffing!)

It's a good idea to add something to your life as you're taking the cigarettes away. Exercise will not only help you control your weight, it's a reinforcement for your commitment to be healthy and smoke free. Try walking if you've never worked out before or opt for something gentle, like yoga.

Why Your Diet Is Crucial

Taking some short walks or doing other exercises is easy. Avoiding sweets and other fatty foods after you quit is much more difficult. We often turn our cravings for nicotine into cravings for food, thus satisfying that oral gratification we're not getting. Again, this is where exercise can be a big help in avoiding those extra calories. Also, if you're going to nibble on things to get through your cravings, consider these ideas:

  • sugarless gum
  • carrots, celery or other vegetables you can eat tons of without worrying as much about calories
  • air-popped popcorn
  • dried fruit and nuts
  • avoid fast food restaurants at all costs!
  • drink tons of water. It will fill you up and keep you hydrated so you don't feel as tired

The best thing you can do to stay smoke-free is to prepare yourself long before your quit date. Plan exactly how you'll get through cravings by making a list of everything you can do when a craving hits (walk, clean the house, organize your desk, call a friend, etc.). Decide what you'll do to avoid sugary and fatty foods and make sure your fridge is stocked with healthy alternatives before the big day hits. If you plan, prepare and put all your energy into your new healthy life, you can quit smoking without gaining weight.

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Updated August 2018