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Quitting Smoking: Dealing With Weight Gain


Many people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. Most people gain some weight at first after they quit, but many lose this weight over time. But keep your focus on quitting. After you are confident of not relapsing, you can deal with losing any weight you may have gained.

If you do start to gain weight, there are steps you can take.

The important thing is to quit smoking. The minute you quit, you'll be starting a much healthier life.

  • Smoking is much worse for your health than gaining a few pounds.
  • If you try to lose weight at the same time that you try to quit smoking, you will probably have a harder time quitting. So deal with quitting first. Then deal with weight gain later.
  • While you are trying to quit, focus on eating healthy foods and being more active.
  • A stop-smoking medicine can help you gain less weight while you take it.

How can you deal with weight gain when you quit smoking?

Be aware

Knowledge is a powerful thing. Now that you know that quitting smoking can make you want to eat more, or eat more often, you can be ready for it.

  • Remember that the secret to weight control—whether you smoke or not—is eating healthy food and becoming more active.
  • Don't try to diet when you quit smoking. Most people who try to lose weight at the same time they are trying to stop smoking have an even harder time of stopping smoking. Instead, eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. And learn more about healthy fats.
  • A stop-smoking medicine can help you gain less weight while you take it.
  • Find ways to get more active. Take the stairs. Park farther away. Take walks. Start a program at the gym, or take up a new sport.

Have a plan

Keeping control of your weight will be easier if you have a plan. Before your quit day:

  • Know what activities will tempt you to smoke or eat, and avoid them. It may help to keep a journal of the times when you're most tempted.
  • Think about how you will fill the time when you usually smoke. For example, if you love that after-meal cigarette, don't replace that cigarette with more food. Get up and brush your teeth, go for a walk, or wash the dishes.
  • Make a list of healthy foods that you especially like. Try some new low-calorie snacks and drinks. Stock up on the ones you like.
  • Think about how you can work more exercise into your life. Besides helping you stay away from cigarettes, exercise burns calories. Plan to take short walks or do some stretches at times when you would ordinarily smoke.
  • Consider using a smoking cessation medicine.

Tips for avoiding weight gain

Think positive, and keep temptation away:

  • Don't quit smoking during holiday periods. You're more likely to eat more then.
  • Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol drinks have a lot of calories, so avoiding them will help you control your weight. And drinking can weaken your willpower, especially if you usually smoke when you drink.
  • Eat at least 3 healthy meals a day so you don't get hungry. For some people, eating smaller healthy meals more than 3 times a day works better. And eat more whole-grain foods. They stay with you longer and help keep you from getting hungry.
  • Consider getting professional help. Registered dietitians, fitness instructors, and therapists can all help you control your weight after you quit smoking.
  • Make regular activity part of your life. Walking is a great exercise that most people enjoy and can do. It may help to walk or exercise with a partner or group.
  • Weigh yourself at least once a week. Keep a pencil and paper near the scales, and write your weight down. That way the extra pounds won't "sneak up" on you.
  • Remind yourself every day of how much healthier you are for having quit smoking.

Remember, looking good is much more important than how much you weigh. Smelling clean and smoke-free, having fresh breath, having fingers and teeth free of yellow tobacco stains, and feeling healthier all make you more attractive.

Food and cigarettes

A big reason people gain weight is that they reach for food instead of a cigarette after they quit.

  • When you have a craving for a cigarette or food, remember that cravings usually last only a few minutes. Do something else to occupy your time for those few minutes.
  • Rather than eating candy or other food to replace the cigarettes, try chewing on a drinking straw, toothpick, or coffee stirrer.
  • If you must have something sweet in your mouth, eat fruit or try sugar-free gum or candy.
  • Come up with something else to keep your hands busy so you don't use them to eat. For example, take up knitting, beading, doing crossword puzzles, or just doodling.
  • People often turn to food at times of tension or stress. Find other ways to deal with those times. Go for a walk. Vacuum the floor.


Other Works Consulted

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2010). You Can Control Your Weight as You Quit Smoking (NIH Publication No. 03-4159). Bethesda, MD: Weight-Control Information Network. Also available online:
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Cardiovascular diseases. In How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General, chap. 6. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also available online:


Current as of: February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health