It’s a long-ingrained and somewhat data-supported belief that to quit smoking means to gain weight. The reasons for this are many, mostly because one bad habit is often replaced with stress-induced binges. However, the latest study from the Fairfield University shows that the reasons go much deeper and that there is a solution to this problem.
The most important outtake from this scientific discovery is that smokers have inherently less healthy diet that are calorie-dense. This is one of the reasons why cigarettes are so dangerous to one’s health. This also offers a rather simple strategy of weight management for those who are trying to quit.
Smoking for Weight Loss: Origins of the False Belief
The belief that smoking helps lose weight is based on two important and statistically-correct facts:
- Average smokers are generally thinner than non-smokers.
- Nicotine is an appetite suppressant.
The problems with these facts are that statistically, heavy smokers are more likely to be obese than non-smokers (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). That happens because smoking breeds insulin resistance, which causes a metabolic disorder. This is why those cigarettes are so bad for cardiovascular health and are a major risk for type 2 diabetes.
While it’s true that nicotine has an appetite-suppressing effect, that’s not the only effect of this drug. One also needs to remember that tar and other additions to cigarettes are much more dangerous than the actual nicotine. That’s one of the major reasons why vaping is now considered a less risky smoking option for one’s health.
The appetite-suppressing effects of nicotine are also quite mild. Therefore, it cannot compare to specialized pills that contain dedicated elements for appetite control. Phentermine is one of the most popular options used for weight loss today and its efficiency far exceeds that of nicotine. It also doesn’t have with the extremely high lung cancer development risk that cigarettes have.
What Does the New Study Say About Smokers Diets?
The study from the Fairfield University that examined 5293 participants (all of them US adults) has determined that smokers on average consume about 200 calories a day more than non-smokers. It must be noted that the addition in caloric intake comes not from bigger portions. Statistically, smokers tend to consume more energy-dense foods.
The problem is that despite increased energy-density, these are not nutritionally-dense foods. In fact, the average smoker’s diet contains fewer fruits and vegetables. This means they miss out on many essential vitamins.
It’s also important to understand that ex-smokers also have a higher calorie consumption rate, but it’s lower than in current smokers. The researchers explain that this is part of the reason why quitting is associated with weight gain.
What Does This Mean for Those Who Try to Quit Smoking?
Due to the popularized stereotype that ‘quitting makes one gain weight’ many people shy away from dropping this bad habit. This is one of the contributing factors to the epidemic of obesity and other metabolic disorders that the USA suffers from today.
However, this new study explains the reason and provides one with a simple tool of preventing the unwanted weight gain. In the end, it’s as simple as revising the quitting person’s diet and replacing energy-dense foods with nutrient-dense ones.
The purpose of the method is to decrease the person’s intake of calories per gram of food and enrich their bodies with essential nutrients in the meantime. This switch to a healthier diet will be beneficial for the person as a whole as it boosts one’s wellbeing by default.
As to the psychological component of ‘post-smoking weight gain’ one should try to manage it through counseling. It will also help to store up some light and healthy snacks to binge on when the stress of quitting gets too much. However, one shouldn’t forget that eating too much always results in weight gain, no matter how healthy the food.
Another great method of fighting the cravings that appear when one quits smoking is exercise. Regular workouts make one healthier and literally happier as exercise releases endorphin into the bloodstream. Recent research shows that physical activity alone isn’t a great contributor to weight loss. However, combining it with a well-balanced diet is the best formula for burning off excess fat and preventing its accumulation.
Regular exercise will also help undo some of the damage to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems dealt by smoking. As far as coping mechanisms go, this one is definitely one of the best for managing the stress of quitting the smoking habit and preventing the associated weight gain.