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Midland SmokefreeDirector on smoking, quitting & weight gain

31 August 2011

Midland Regional Smokefree Director on smoking, quitting, and weight gain

For many smokers, the fear of gaining weight when they stop smoking is enough to put them off trying to quit. It can feel like a choice between giving up smoking or staying slim. However, according to a number of recent studies, it doesn’t need to be that way.

“Many smokers, especially women, avoid giving up simply because they’re concerned about gaining weight - it’s one of the most common fears. Gaining weight after quitting is common, but it’s not inevitable for everyone,” says Veronica Butterworth, the Midland Regional Smokefree Director.

The key, apparently, lies in understanding what your body goes through as you quit smoking. Veronica Butterworth acknowledges the commonly offered explanations but highlights some lesser-known facts as well.

“Nicotine from tobacco smoke suppresses your appetite, so when you stop smoking your appetite begins to return. That part is healthy,” she adds.

“Part of the problem though is the sort of food we crave. People quitting smoking often crave sweet sugary foods, which are typically high in calories” says Veronica.

She suggests that this can be fairly simply managed by anticipating these effects and making sure you’ve got some health snacks on hand – such as fruit or vegetables. It’s also an area where nicotine therapies can be a great help.

“Many people aren’t aware that nicotine therapies (such as patches, gum and lozenges) not only double your chances of quitting, they also reduce the potential for weight gain associated with quitting.”

“Using nicotine therapies such as gum, or lozenges allows you to deal with one thing at a time – by taking the edge off the craving for cigarettes and lessening weight gain, they give you a chance to deal with stopping smoking first - then you can make any additional changes in your lifestyle and nutrition,” Veronica goes on to explain.

Veronica supports the advice of keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly, but the real key lies in knowing what to expect and preparing for those situations.

“It doesn’t need to be a choice between quitting smoking or staying slim. You can have both, and with all the support available, there really has never been a better time to quit,” says the Midland Regional Smokefree Director.

• Several studies have confirmed nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) have a limiting effect on weight gain when quitting smoking. For a key example, refer to: Ferguson S G, Shiffman S, Rohay J M, Gitchell J G, Garvey A J. (2010). Effect of compliance with nicotine gum dosing on weight gained during a quit attempt, in Addiction. Society for the Study of Addiction.
• The research also suggests those more likely to gain weight are usually more dependant smokers, people with lower levels of physical activity prior to quitting, and people who are already overweight or obese.
• Professionals also advise those quitting smoking to avoid drinking excessive alcohol as this is also high in calories and lowers resistance to cravings - to both sugar and nicotine.
• Physical exercise can help alleviate cravings and burns fat at the same time – it also releases endorphins which promote a optimistic state of mind. People who quit smoking commonly experience an increase in their endurance for and enjoyment of exercise.
• Specific advice and support to quit smoking is available from your GP, or freephone services such as Quitline (0800 778 778) – each of whom can provide more information about nicotine replacement therapies or other options to assist people to quit.


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