Smoking and Weight Loss: What Happens to Your Weight After You Quit Smoking?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on January 15, 2020

Maybe, you are one of those who grab a stick of cigarette when you start craving for an afternoon snack. It is magical when your hunger disappears after you smoke even without eating a single food. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why, on average, smokers tend to be skinnier than nonsmokers. 

Smoking is not only known to make you lose weight. It is the top cause of preventable deaths in the US and other countries, causing chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and much worse lung cancer. Anyway, this article will just focus on how smoking can affect your weight. 

What Smoking Does to Your Weight?

It was claimed that smoking could make you lose weight over time. A study tested the association between body weight and tobacco consumption among smokers. And it was found out that high tobacco consumption can lead to lower body weight (1)

Another research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has found that people who smoke weight around 5 pounds less than those who never smoked. And the main reason for weight loss is tobacco. 

Perhaps, the active ingredient found in tobacco is the main culprit of suppressing your appetite when you smoke. A new study found out that nicotine works in the brain to affect your appetite. The study also points out the need for drugs for weight loss and nicotine withdrawal (2)

There are 15 subunits of nicotine receptors in the brain. These subunits can combine in many ways to establish various receptors, each with different roles. Nicotine then binds to every combination, leading to different events such as addiction to smoking cigarettes, feeling of relaxation, and an increase in blood pressure. 

Scientists have concluded that the reason for the loss of appetite when smoking cigarettes is due to the association of nicotine and the brain’s receptors related to behavior and reward reinforcement. Well, the brain perceives both food and cigarettes as rewards. 

Another study has shown how cigarette smoking can affect your metabolism. If you smoke, your metabolic rate will slightly increase as your heart beats faster. Once you inhale the cigarette, your heart can beat up to 10 to 20 times more every minute within a certain period. And this beyond normal heartbeat can lead to stress on the heart, which can also result in various heart diseases that may contribute to mortality (3)

Just come to imagine if you are smoking around 20 cigarettes every day. Smoking may result in the same amount of stress on your heart as if you were more than 40 kg overweight. But if you quit smoking, your heart rate will eventually slow down and cause your metabolism to slow down as well. 

There are already lots of assumptions about why people smoke cigarettes. Public health experts always conclude that people smoke a lot because of the addictive properties of nicotine. But a study has found out that 30 percent of boys and 46 percent of girls who smoke frequently say that they smoke because they want to control their weight (4)

But then, smoking is not the right means of losing weight. There are many natural and healthy ways to lose weight. So if you want to lose weight, don’t just start smoking. It will not only make you addicted to it, but it can also lead to some detrimental effects on your entire well-being. 

What Will Happen Once You Stop Smoking and Why?

Maybe, you are in doubt whether or not to quit smoking, given its probable effects in your body, such as nicotine withdrawal and cravings. But the good news is that your body has amazing healing abilities which can help you recover quickly. 

20 minutes

After you quit smoking, your body feels different in as little as 20 minutes. Your blood pressure and your pulse begin to drop back to normal. Your circulation begins to improve. Your feet and your hands also return to their normal temperature.

8 hours

Within 8 hours, the amount of carbon monoxide and nicotine in your blood decreases. Carbon monoxide is very dangerous to your body as it can deprive your brain and your muscles from the oxygen that they need. But if you stop smoking, the amount of these chemicals drops, which makes the oxygen level in your body normal. 

During this time, you may feel like craving for food. But don’t worry because this is just normal and it will not last long. You can find ways to shift your attention until you get through your cravings. You can chew gum, sip water, or even make a craving playlist. 

12 hours

Carbon monoxide is just one of the toxins produced by cigarettes. This gas can be detrimental to your health, especially that it enters your blood and lungs. When you inhale excess doses of this gas, you will most likely experience suffocation. 

Just after 12 hours, the carbon monoxide in your body returns to normal. Your body cleanses the carbon monoxide from smoking, which makes your heart will become less stressful because it no longer needs to pump harder just to give you enough oxygen.  

24 hours

Do you know that smoking makes you twice exposed to a heart attack? If you pass a day without smoking, you are less likely to get a heart attack. Smoking can make you at risk of having coronary heart disease. It also increases your risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, and eventually, a stroke.

After a day passes without smoking, your blood pressure becomes normal. The level of oxygen in your body also rises, which make it easier for you to perform various physical activities and exercises.  

48 hours

Within 48 hours, you already have sharper senses of smell and taste. This is the best sign that you are healing. This is the best time when you can give yourself a treat. 

Furthermore, your body is busy cleaning up. Your lungs start to withdraw mucus as well as other gunk left from cigarette smoking. According to a study, smoking cigarettes can lead to the overproduction of mucus, which is an indication of chronic bronchitis (5)

From this point in time, you may experience the toughest withdrawal symptoms. You might feel dizzy, hungry, anxious, or tired. You may feel depressed or bored or get headaches. It may be hard, but it is normal.

If you have asthma, you may be feeling worse. But remember that these symptoms will not last much longer. Then again, just try to shift your attention so that you will not be tempted to smoke. You can also seek help from an expert to keep your condition in check. This time, there is no more nicotine left in your body. 

3 days

After 3 days, you will have more energy, and you can breathe much easier. Your lungs are already recovering during these times.

2 weeks to 3 months

Within 2 to 12 weeks, your lungs are clearer and stronger, and your blood flow also improves. You can now exercise without getting tired easily. And you will also have a lower risk of a heart attack. During these times, you may be triggered to smoke. But make a firm decision of sticking to your plan.  

3 to 9 months

During this period, you will feel a clearer and deeper breath. You may be coughing at times, but it is a useful way to clear your body. It can help you prevent colds and other illnesses. During these times, you will experience more energy.

1 year 

After a year of quitting smoke, your risk of heart disease is lower by half as it was a year ago. 

5 years

After 5 years, your risk of cervical cancer and stroke is similar to a nonsmoker. Just come to imagine the time if you are still smoking, you are more likely to be prone to cancer of the bladder, esophagus, throat, or mouth. 

10 years

After 10 years, your risk of mortality from lung cancer now decreases. Your chances of getting pancreas and larynx cancer also drop. 

15 years

After 15 years, the chances of getting heart diseases are similar to nonsmokers. Without even knowing it, your body has already done a lot of healing and recovery. 

From the beginning, it seems like it takes a long time to heal and recover. But the discomforts and headaches are just part of your hazy memory. You can get through it as long as you are dedicated to doing the same. If you quit smoking, you will experience a real and clear reward (6)

How to Overcome Weight Gain After You Stop Smoking

It is normal to gain weight after you quit smoking, especially during the first few months. Smoking is known to increase your metabolism and to suppress your appetite. But if you stop smoking, your metabolism and appetite return to normal, and that means that you will be eating more food and burning fewer calories. 

Moreover, your senses of taste and smell are already improving. You will be craving more food now and then. And if that happens, then you will be tempted to eat more. If you used to substitute smoking for your snacking, then doing otherwise can eventually lead to weight gain.

Here are the ways to overcome weight gain after you quit smoking (7):

  • Be active

You already know that being physically active can help you burn calories. Engaging in exercise can help you shift your attention from your cravings, which can prevent you from eating unhealthy foods as well as smoking cigarettes. It can also help in removing the nicotine from your body. 

  • Buy healthy food

Before you go to a grocery store, you need to make a list of the things that you need to buy. Include healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables, and stick to your grocery list. This will help you avoid eating unhealthy food in case your cravings are on while at home. 

You can store low-calorie finger foods such as baby carrots, sliced apples, and unsalted nuts. You can even stock up on sugar-free gum to keep your mouth busy. In this way, you eat without making your teeth prone to sugar and added calories. 

  • Establish healthy eating habits

Before cravings hit you, you should already have a healthy meal plan. In that way, you can avoid eating unhealthy food. In that case, it will be easy to say no to unhealthy foods if you are already looking forward to healthy food for lunch or dinner. 

  • Don’t  allow yourself to get hungry

It is normal to feel hungry at times. But letting yourself very hungry can make you eat a lot of foods right away. If that happens, then you won’t be able to think about your diet. You cannot even control your food consumption. That is the reason why it is best not to allow yourself to become very hungry before taking food. 

  • Get a good sleep

Do you know that lack of sleep can affect your weight? Even if you already consumed a lot of foods, you will most likely feel hungry. It is because the hormone responsible for regulating your appetite is affected if you lack sleep. 

Moreover, it can lead to increased fat storage. If you lack sleep, the ability of your body to metabolize carbs will be affected, leading your blood sugar levels to increase. If that happens, then your body’s production of insulin will be increased, leading to increased fat storage (8).

  • Control your beverage intake

Sugary soda, alcohol, and sweetened juice can lead to weight gain. Beverages like coffee, green tea, and high-protein drinks are shown to increase metabolism, decrease hunger, and promote fullness, which can encourage weight loss (9)

Conclusion

People who quit smoking will most likely gain weight. It was shown that people who give up smoking could gain around 5 to 10 pounds. Your body will become less likely to burn food without cigarettes. Since cigarettes can help reduce your appetite, you will feel hungrier when you quit smoking. And if you quit smoking, you will most likely crave for high-calorie foods. 

You may be worried that you will gain weight if you quit smoking. But opting not to smoke is one of the best things that you can do to your overall health. Just take note of the things that you have to do when you stop smoking to manage your weight. 

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/44/2/540/752977
  2. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/06/why-smokers-are-skinny
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/smoking-and-metabolism-2825347
  4. https://www.futurity.org/teenagers-smoking-weight-loss-1270332-2/
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217125129.htm
  6. https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/what-happens-body-quit-smoking#2
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000811.htm
  8. https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/sleep-weight-loss#1
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/weight-loss-drinks

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