It's an urban myth that ex-smokers always gain weight as soon as they quit. Only a small number actually gain more than a couple of pounds and this usually occurs during the first few months of quitting. This is largely because smokers generally weigh less than non-smokers, although the reasons for this are not clear. It is known that nicotine speeds up the metabolism by about 10% which would cause a smoker to burn around 200 calories per day more on average than someone who doesn't smoke. Smoke also damages the taste buds which makes food less enjoyable and a cigarette distracts the smoker from eating and therefore ingesting calories.
A few tiny changes in your diet and lifestyle will keep the flab at bay while you're quitting. Try choosing fruit or yoghurt instead of crisps or chocolate; cut down alcohol to one or two small drinks per week and use low fat spread on your toast instead of butter. You could also swap your usual mints for sugar free ones too and nibble on fruit or carrot sticks instead of boiled sweets.
Some people experience an increased appetite when they quit smoking, probably because their sense of taste and smell gets better. It can also be tempting to replace your usual after dinner cigarette with extra nibbles or polish off left overs. The best way to fend off hunger pangs is to eat little and often. Stick to three main meals each day but make sure you have a piece of fruit or yoghurt to hand for mid-morning and afternoon snacking. Never go shopping on an empty stomach – it's virtually impossible to walk past the sweetie display at the checkout without picking up something sweet and full of calories!
Despite what many diet books would have us believe, it's actually easier to keep your weight stable if 55 to 60% of your daily food intake consists of complex, unrefined carbohydrates. Examples of complex carbs are; fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wholemeal bread, rice, pasta and porridge.
Exercise is great for helping you quit as well as keeping your weight under control. And did you know that the greater your muscle mass, the more calories you will burn as your metabolism increases? Exercise also reduces any stress you may be feeling while you're going through the process of quitting and will treble your sense of achievement and motivation. After all, not only are you winning the war against the dreaded ciggies, you're also getting yourself fit and losing weight! Win, win win!
And even if you do put on a couple of pounds, always remember that quitting cigarettes is the best move you can make for your health so never let a small setback like that deflect you from your ultimate goal. Even if you did put on two stone in weight (which you won't), your future health would be far less compromised than it would be if you continued smoking.