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Keep the Weight off When You Quit Smoking

En Español (Spanish Version)

Many people are concerned about gaining weight when they quit smoking. But, with a healthy diet and regular exercise, this weight gain can be prevented. Also, adopting these healthy lifestyle factors will make you feel better. Feeling better overall may help you keep from smoking again.


All of us should strive for a healthy diet, whatever our specific goals are. But, when you are quitting smoking, it is especially important. A healthy diet can help prevent weight gain while your body recovers from the damage of smoking. Adapting your eating habits also gives you something to focus on other than smoking.

Evidence shows that taking on a weight management program helps keep weight gain from happening over a long period of time. When you quit, you may see an increase in your appetite, so plan the right choices when you feel hungry. Here are some tips that may help you:

  • Plan ahead and space your meals every 3-4 hours.
  • Avoid coffee if possible, and drink more water.
  • Eat a balanced diet withgood carbohydrates and proteins.
  • Know your smoking triggers. If certain foods make you want to smoke, avoid them and change to something else.
  • To avoid after meal cravings, eat a small healthy dessert like fruit, angel food cake, or something sugar-free.
  • Keep healthy snack options like carrots or popcorn, readily available.

When you eat better, you will feel better. This helps reinforce the good thing that you are doing for your body. A healthy diet is not the only good thing you can do. Exercise has its benefits as well.


Regular exercise is an important way to keep those pounds from creeping on. If you need to lose weight, exercise is even more essential.. Even a quick bout of physical activity can improve your mood and that can be very helpful in early stages of quitting. Also, by exercising regularly, you may be less likely to start smoking again.

If you do not have a regular physical activity routine, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. Here are some things to remember:

  • Find something you enjoy doing
  • Go slowly and build yourself up each day
  • Start with walking
  • Go for short walks during coffee breaks

The key is to get into a routine of exercising regularly. Start with 3-4 days per week, even if you only do 10-20 minutes of exercise each day. Gradually build your routine to increase the time and intensity of your activity. Remember, the longer you are smoke-free, the easier it will be to breathe when you exercise.

Many Other Benefits

There are so many other benefits of being smoke-free. Try to focus on the positives of quitting rather than the negatives. Some of the changes you will notice right away, some take time. When you quit, you will see improvements in:

  • Energy
  • Appearance
  • Ability to breathe

Quitting will also add years to your life. You can lower the risk of cancer or death the longer you remain smoke-free.

There are many ways to quit smoking. Look into the ones that will work for you. Do not be afraid that you will gain weight if you quit. It can be avoided by if you eat right and exercise.


American Lung Association



Canadian Lung Association



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A Quit Smoking Guide. Smokefree. gov website. Available at: http://women.smokefree.gov/pubs/508_accessible_CLEAR_HORIZONS.pdf. Accessed November 26, 2012.

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Choose a Healthier Lifestyle. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442466235&terms=quitting+smoking. Accessed November 26, 2012.

Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health website. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation. Accessed November 26, 2012.

Taylor AH, Ussher MH, Faulkner G. The acute effects of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, affect and smoking behaviour: a systematic review. Addiction. 2007;102(4):534-543.

Tobacco Use Disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2012.

Weight Control Information Network. You can control your weight as you quit smoking. Weight Control Information Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/smoking.htm. Updated February 2010. Accessed November 26, 2012..

Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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