Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cigarettes & Weight Reduction

How much truth is there to the belief that cigarettes can be used for weight loss? Evidence shows that smokers weigh less on average and quitters often gain weight. The issue isn't black and white, though. Weight can always be controlled with proper diet and exercise. Smoking only offers a quick fix for losing pounds, which gives some an excuse to disregard health risks.

How Smoking Affects Weight

Cigarette smokers often weigh an average of 4 to 10 pounds less than non-smoking peers. Smoking increases metabolism, causing the body to burn more calories. This is related to a faster heart beat after smoking a cigarette, which can also cause heart problems later in life. Smokers are more likely to light up after dinner rather than eat dessert. Their senses of taste and smell are not as acute as non-smokers, so their appetites are often depressed.

However, cigarette smoking is not a healthy way to keep weight off. Also, smoking one pack of cigarettes per day is equal to the health risk of being 125 pounds overweight. While evidence shows that smokers are slightly thinner, the trade-off may not be so appealing.


Smokers often cite fear of weight gain as a reason not to quit. On the flip side, some people, most commonly young women, pick up smoking to lose weight.

Women are more often subscribers to the belief that the weight loss is worth the risk, but they are also subject to more health risks from smoking. It increases the chances of osteoporosis and giving birth to premature babies, to name a few problems. In addition, smokers may have more wrinkles, teeth that are yellow and an odor that may repel others.

Though smoking might be one of the fastest ways to drop pounds, the best way to lose weight is still plain old diet and exercise. Most ex-smokers find exercise more enjoyable after quitting, since more oxygen is able to reach the heart and the muscles.

Quitting and Weight Gain

After quitting, four out of five smokers experience some weight gain in the first six months. On average, the weight gain is between 4 and 10 pounds--the same amount that smokers usually weigh less than non-smokers. This may mean that this would be a smoker's normal weight if he or she didn't smoke.

However, after the first six months, most start to see their body adjust to being a non-smoker and some of the pounds will drop off. Because your metabolism and heart rate slow down right after quitting, weight gain is easier. For heavy smokers, weight gain is more likely. This will normalize after several months, allowing the body to maintain a healthy weight or lose some weight.

Other Reasons for Weight Gain

Aside from what's going on inside the body, other factors cause ex-smokers to gain weight after quitting.

People who quit may find that their appetites have increased or that their taste in food has changed. Since quitting smoking improves the senses of taste and smell, some foods may seem more appealing.

Quitters may find themselves snacking more often in place of smoking. Eating snacks gives the ex-smoker a hand-to-mouth activity that comforts in times of boredom or stress, as cigarettes did. Studies also have shown that the desire for sweets or alcohol often increases when smokers quit.

Fighting Weight Gain

Not all smokers who quit gain weight. Eating more healthily and exercising helps keep off extra pounds that could result from quitting. Dieting and quitting at the same time may be too stressful. It may be easier to become accustomed to a health plan prior to quitting. Chewing sugar-free gum is one way to combat snacking and cravings while satisfying the need to occupy the mouth.

An exercise plan is a healthy way to keep off the weight that smoking did before. Cardiovascular activity burns extra calories as smoking would by raising the heart rate and metabolism. Exercise also serves as a stress-reliever and an appetite-suppressant, as cigarettes can for smokers.

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