I Quit Smoking and Gained Weight. Help!

Client Question: I used to smoke and found it effortless to maintain my weight. Several years ago I kicked the habit, but I have put on 20 lbs. that I just can’t shake. Help!

Trainer Gina’s Answer:

The habit of smoking can make it easier to control weight by a few mechanisms, but by realizing how to counteract these effects, you can achieve your ideal weight while kicking the nasty habit.

Smoking cigarettes increases the metabolic rate by forcing the heart to beat faster. When a cigarette is inhaled, the heart may beat 10 to 20 times more per minute for a period of time. This causes extra stress on the heart and plays a role in heart disease, the most common cause of smoking-related death. When a smoker quits, heart rate slows down somewhat, causing metabolism to dip a bit as well.

When giving up smoking many also substitute snacking at times when they would have reached to light up. Snacking on pleasurable foods not only fulfills the oral fixation many smokers have, but it also calms nerves and the food triggers feel-good chemicals to be released in the body, to partly replace the effects of smoking.

While shifts in metabolism along with dietary changes can signal a slight weight gain, it is possible to take steps to build our metabolic rate back up in ways that benefit our health rather than destroy it, as smoking does. Use the tips below to help you keep your weight stable as you recover from nicotine addiction.

Using Exercise to Boost Metabolism and Minimize Weight Gain

• Exercise burns calories and boosts metabolism for up to 24 hours after working out.

• Nicotine use triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Exercise also releases this same brain chemical, but in a healthy way that allows us to enjoy the pleasant effects of dopamine without risking our health to do it.

• Exercise breaks down fat and releases it into the bloodstream. This works to curb feelings of hunger.

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