Cigarette smoking has long been associated with serious, life-threatening health conditions — one of which is Type 2 Diabetes. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, current and former smokers have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes at 57% and 17%, respectively. Tobacco in cigarettes has previously been associated with nicotine-induced insulin resistance, but for former smokers, weight gain post-quitting smoking can partially explain the increased type 2 diabetes risk. In this post, we’ll explain the correlation between quitting smoking and weight gain and how you can minimize this:
Why do people overeat when they quit smoking?
First, to understand why people tend to gain weight by overeating when they quit smoking, it’s important to understand the effect smoking has on the body. In particular, nicotine “helps” reduce body weight by suppressing your appetite and, subsequently, your food consumption. Nicotine also plays a role in raising the resting metabolic rate and burning fats in the body.
On the other hand, quitting smoking negates the effects of nicotine on the body. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlighted that an increased appetite is one of the most common and lasting symptoms of tobacco withdrawal post-quitting. As the effects of nicotine in the brain are reversed, the body experiences increased hunger and food intake. This leads the brain’s reward system to seek foods high in fat and sugar, like nicotine.
This strong correlation between quitting smoking and weight gain has become a primary deterrent for smokers to quit, fearing the health consequences of sudden weight gain while dealing with smoking withdrawal symptoms. However, there are some things we can do to try to minimize this particular effect of smoking cessation:
How to reduce replacing tobacco with food
Certain lifestyle changes, in addition to quitting smoking, can help prevent overeating and weight gain. Engaging in regular physical exercise and practicing mindfulness are some ways to keep yourself fit and healthy. Below are two tips to help minimize the temptation to replace tobacco with food:
Use smoking cessation aids
Quitting smoking by going cold turkey may not work well for everyone. In that case, smoking cessation aids can help ease the habit, preventing sudden metabolic changes in our bodies. The most effective smoking cessation aids are nicotine pouches, gum, and lozenges. The VELO nicotine pouches featured on Prilla provide a 100% tobacco-free experience at three different nicotine strengths, allowing users to adjust according to their preferences. These pouches also come in refreshing flavors like citrus and mint that can leave you with fresh breath for hours. They are also easy to travel with and dispose of as they come packed in handy tin cans, making them popular for users who need a discreet alternative.
Today, many startups have entered the smoking cessation products market to help combat the harmful impact of smoking and tobacco. Other smoking cessation products like nicotine gum and lozenges can also help avoid abrupt quitting and quell withdrawal symptoms. Products such as ZYN lozenges and Lucy gums are also flavored nicotine alternatives that are often sugar-free, assisting users in reducing nicotine intake over time while not contributing to post-cessation weight gain.
Avoid processed foods
Lastly, avoiding overeating after quitting smoking has much to do with your dietary habits. Reducing the consumption of processed and highly processed foods can help prevent weight gain. In a previous post on processed foods, writer James Wilkey emphasizes that processed foods make you eat more without feeling full. They are also often high in fats, sugar, or carbohydrates, contributing to greater weight gain than healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eating higher ultra-processed foods can also affect you psychologically. In another International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study, high-stress levels are associated with increased odds of higher ultra-processed food consumption, resulting in unhealthy behavior such as emotional and overeating and, most importantly, a return to smoking.