Stoptober - the struggles of quitting smoking and losing weight

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 26 Oct, 2013

You may or may not have heard about 'Stoptober' – a campaign from the NHS to quit smoking for the month of October. Statistics have found that if you quit smoking for 28 days, you're 5 times more likely to be a non smoker long term, which is the idea behind it. Over 240,000 people have taken part this year, and we bet a lot of them are trying to lose weight too!

Many smokers worry that by giving up the cigs, their weight will balloon (believe me – I thought this too before I quit!). Although, it is shown that you may gain weight after quitting, there are ways you can manage your weight, and hopefully continue to lose while doing so.

We recently asked a number of Nutracheck members about their experience of quitting smoking and the effect it had on their weight. In our survey, 73% admitted to eating more after stopping, and as a result, an average weight gain was 2 stone. But don't let that put you off – I remember when I quit, my appetite did increase, however my weight didn't (and that was thanks to logging what I was eating in my Food Diary and changing my habits!)

Our survey produced some great ideas to replace the habit of smoking. I remember the first thing I did was join the gym (a very daunting time having not exercised in almost a year!) Over 50% of Nutracheck members also spent their time exercising rather than smoking, which not only makes you remember why kicking the habit was a good idea (spinning classes & smoking don't go!), but also helps the weight loss AND you becoming fitter – an offer hard to refuse.

Some other tips were chewing gum, painting your nails, reading a book, taking up knitting, playing games on your phone, as well as using Nutracheck of course! Logging what you eat really does help as it shows you exactly how much you're having and if you're going over your calorie allowance each day which is what causes the gain in weight. Keeping an eye on what you put in, will help you not put on!

Try mixing your food 'routines' up too – we're creatures of habit and many of us will eat the same types of food at the same time of day, and not actually listen to whether we need something to eat or not. Changing what you eat, the time of day, and the situation you eat it will really help.

Tips on breaking the habit (without breaking the diet):

  • If you always have a cigarette after dinner, eat your dinner slightly later so by the time you've finished and put everything away, it's time to do the next thing you usually do.
  • Keep some healthy snacks in your car / handbag / office drawer to beat the cravings when you're out and about. Whether you normally smoke while driving, or while walking to catch the bus, some pre-prepared snacks will be really handy to have. Try carrot sticks, some grapes, low calorie crisps, a hard boiled sweet, crisp breads, cereal bars and so on. Just make sure you log them in your Food Diary!
  • Shave a few calories off your lunch / dinner so you can have a desert after you've eaten instead of a cigarette.
  • If you normally walk a certain way, go to a certain place on your lunch etc, take an alternative route – believe me this one works! Noticing different houses, shops and people distracted me no end. Also, by the time I'd gotten to my destination, I followed my normal routine and it was as if I could have smoked, only I hadn't.
  • If you normally go straight home, go to the gym, for a walk, on a bike ride, for a swim etc instead. It's hard at first but while you're working up a sweat, the last thing you'll want to do is inhale smoky air!
  • If you find smoking and alcohol come hand in hand, try avoiding drinking for a while. If you automatically associate a glass of wine with a cigarette, eliminating the wine will help. I did this – still went out, went to the pub, to bars etc, but had a soft drink instead. You may think it's not as fun, but its amusement in itself watching others get giddy (and you don't have a hangover the next day!)

If you're considering quitting smoking, now is DEFINITELY the right time to do it. With it becoming colder, darker, wetter and more miserable outside, the last thing you want to do is stand in it when everyone else is inside warm (and smelling nice!)

And don't just take our word for it, here are a few words of encouragement from fellow Nutracheck members who have quit in the past...

"Do it. Even if you put on a bit of weight at first it is worth it. There's always an excuse – I wasn't on Nutracheck at the time, but if I was it might have been a different story!"

"Replace smoking with exercise / something new that is healthy – anything to take your mind off smoking. My case, I took up hill walking and cycling. I found as I got fitter and faster, smoking was the last thing on my mind."

"Best thing I've done. And don't be defeated if you do put on a bit of weight – I'm losing it now with NC."

"You can do it – you are stronger than you think. Save your life"

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.