Gaining weight after quitting smoking is a common and dreaded experience. Fear of weight gain often discourages people from trying to take the first steps toward giving up the smoking habit. What is the reason for this unwelcome “side-effect”? Perhaps most importantly, smoking raises the heart rate substantially.
While smoking a cigarette, the heart rate increases 10-20 more beats per minute. (This can lead to heart diseases in the future.) This elevated pulse boosts the metabolism because of the energy it takes to keep the body functioning at this high rate. When a smoker quits smoking, the heart rate will return to its normal, natural rate. This will cause a decrease in the metabolism. However, there are several ways to boost your metabolism after smoking cessation to avoid the weight gain that often occurs.
1. Portion Control
Naturally, food will taste better after quitting smoking. This is because cigarette tar is not clogging the taste buds on the tongue. When there is no cigarette tar on the tongue, food will be a lot more flavorful. This can tempt many smokers to eat more than they normally would, a sure way to pack on the pounds. A careful eye on portion control should be a high priority when quitting smoking. On the other hand, avoid “crash dieting” after quitting smoking. Not only do these types of diets have bad long-term effects on the body, but if weight is lost through this method, it is very likely the weight will be gained right back once the diet is over. During crash diets the metabolism often slows as well, which is what you are trying to avoid in the first place.
2. Meal Spacing
Spacing meals out to about five or six small meals throughout the day will help keep the metabolism in full gear all day. This should boost your average daily metabolism since you are preventing it from dropping as would occur if there are long intervals between meals. As your momma told you, it is important to eat breakfast for this reason. Studies have shown that those who eat breakfast tend to consume less calories per day than those who skip this important meal. Eating frequent meals will also recreate the hand-to-mouth action that smokers often form a positive association with.
Another way of saying this is that it is relaxing to perform this ritual-like motion over and over again. Persistence of this habit is yet another reason why ex-smokers tend to have cravings more frequently than they did when they smoked. Eating five or six small meals spaced out through the day will satisfy food cravings and provide an outlet for the soothing physical habits that had to be given up. It is important not go over your calorie limit when eating throughout the day. This is a common mistake made when following the “small frequent meal plan”. Meals should be snack-size. The trick is to find a portion size that is low in calories but provides enough to keep you satisfied until the next meal.
3. Stay Hydrated
All dieters know that drinking water helps keep you feeling full. It is recommended that after quitting smoking, the average person should try to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This should not be too hard as this is the amount of water that experts recommend a healthy person should drink per day anyway. Ingesting too much sugar in your drinks however, will backfire on you. A bottle of soda can contain one and a half the total adult daily allowance for sugar . Fruit drinks also contain lots of sugar calories even if there are more vitamins per serving than soda. You may end up gaining weight instead of losing it. Low calorie or zero calorie sports drinks are okay, but it’s best to stick with the all-natural source of hydration – water.
4. Spicy Flavor
Not only do spicy foods add flavor to a meal, but they can also provide a helpful jolt to your effort to quit smoking. Spicy foods contain a chemical compound known as capsaisin that generates an increase in metabolism for a short period of time. According to researchers at Laval University in Canada, consuming capsaisin will put a spike in a person’s metabolism by activating the stress hormones in the body. Although this effect is brief, it can still help in the effort to prevent weight gain.
Cigarette smoke itself is actually stimulating to the nerves in the lips and mouth. Smokers can actually find this soothing and miss the sensation when trying to stop. Capsaisin provides a good substitute for this nerve stimulation helping to wean the smoker from another harmful addiction. When quitting, smokers should consider adding spicy foods to their diet on a regular basis. One important limiting factor is that not everyone can tolerate spicy food due to stomach upset.
5. Avoid Fatty or Sugary Foods
Fatty foods should definitely be avoided after quitting smoking. Fatty foods are known to slow down the metabolism. This helps explain why fatty foods cause so much weight gain even beyond their high calorie content. Fatty foods and sugary foods can also increase the urge for nicotine. The sugar and fat we eat also affect blood levels of the nutrients glucose and fatty acids. Sugary foods cause a sudden rise, followed by a rapid fall, in the blood sugar. The result is a craving for more sugar to combat the stress caused by falling blood sugar levels. Nicotine can settle these cravings as research published in the 1960’s showed that nicotine itself increases blood sugar.
This is why many ex-smokers crave a cigarette shortly after consuming sugary foods. Nicotine also causes a rise in fatty acids in the blood mimicking the effect of consuming a meal with lots of fat. This is a pleasant and familiar sensation for the smoker. Therefore eating fatty foods serves as a subconscious reminder of the smoking experience. Not only do fatty foods slow down the metabolism but they recreate the smoking sensation leading to the craving for a cigarette.
6. Protein is the Key
Eating protein-rich foods will help to speed up a person’s metabolism and increase the amount of calories burned throughout the day. It is still important to avoid fatty foods even if they are rich in protein. Fatty protein-rich foods such as deli meats will do more harm than good and they will usually cause weight gain instead of helping the weight loss effort.
The best way to lose weight any time is through exercise. In fact, it is suggested that the average person get at least 2 ½ hours of exercise per week. Joining a gym and sweating for an hour per session is not necessary to achieve your exercise goal. A 15 minute walk still counts toward your exercise quota. Although dreaded by many people, exercise will boost the metabolism, burn calories, shed pounds, and decrease the urge to smoke all in one.
This is the reason why exercise is the number one way to prevent weight gain and boost the metabolism after quitting smoking. Don’t wait for the urge to exercise to get started or you may be waiting for a long, long time. Set an easy and convenient schedule for yourself. Be specific and structured. For example, to start you may choose 4 days per week, 20 minutes of steady walking per session. This will avoid psychological barriers we tend to raise for ourselves.
Weigh Out The Options
Smoking is extremely harmful to all parts of the body and is extremely addictive both physically and mentally even as it boosts the metabolism. Despite the desire to remain thin, you must weigh out the pros and cons of smoking. If you quit, you could gain a few extra pounds, but this can easily be lost by following these 7 simple tips. Also, the average amount of weight gain is slight; the average person only gains between five to ten pounds after quitting smoking. You must realize that smoking is doing more harm than those few extra pounds do to the body. Do not let the risk of gaining weight discourage you from laying down that cigarette for good.